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What is indentured servitude?

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Presentation on theme: "What is indentured servitude?"— Presentation transcript:

1 What is indentured servitude?
A Changing System: Indentured servitude to slavery in the British colonies What is indentured servitude? Why was this the dominant system of labor in the British North American colonies? What events and idea caused a shift to African slavery, rather than indentured work? Special thanks to Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation for this information

2 English origins of indentureship
The Great Chain of Being was a popular idea in Europe of class and order The universe was ordered into hierarchies, with God at the top; each group was also subdivided (i.e., man) Significance of it being a chain, not a ladder? You cannot break a chain without consequences Hard to escape bonds; most were not able to escape their position in society

3 Man is divided into: Kings/monarchs Nobility Gentry Yeoman Farmers Peasantry Larger image:

4 Forms of servitude in England
Virginia’s system of indentured service traces back to three forms: Service in husbandry Apprenticeship Pauper apprenticeship* Service in husbandry Husbandry: care of crops and animals About ½ of all agricultural labor Servants freely contracted with farmers for a year of service (could be renewed) Servants were generally paid wages for their work

5 Apprenticeship Apprenticeship—to learn a trade by being lent out to a master craftsman Originally created by guilds to control competition and ensure proper training Servants agreed to work for the master, who in turn promised to teach and care for the apprentice No social stigma: this was a natural step to becoming a master Once ready, apprentice would become journeyman and secure a position as craftsman

6 Pauper Apprenticeships
Overpopulation, crime, and poor economy led to joblessness in England by the 1600s Statute of Artificers (1563) requires all able-bodied people to work Master and servant bonded by an indenture, or contractual obligation Written consent for specified term Two-way obligation Written release once term was fulfilled for the servant Where does the “pauper” come from? Churches were allowed to “apprentice” orphaned or poor children to masters until age 24 (21 for women) Did not have to give consent This would become the dominant form of indentured servitude for many venturing to the New World

7 By 1607, 25-33% of the entire English population had servants or served under this system.
The “indent” or stamp on the contract

8 Indentured life in Virginia
Issues: What work was needed? Wealthy and indentured experience in the New World was often very different by 1650 Many died before their indenture was complete Servant completely dependant on and to the master for well-being Experiences varied For those living in poverty, indentured servitude in the New World seemed valuable Travel abroad Opportunity for free land and a way out of their situation

9 The Virginia Company of London
Remember, the Virginia Company was traveling to the New World for material resource extraction, not colonization May,1607: founding of Jamestown; 104 men aboard ships : all were part of a joint-stock venture (company) and owed some form of service to the Virginia Company Principle wealth “is in servants”; gold and other exploits did not lead to any profits by 1616

10 A New System Land became the new incentive by 1616
New tobacco brought by John Rolfe became cash crop, but required intensive labor and land Company’s challenge: Recruiting labor Pay for transport Holding labor for extended periods 70-85% of all entering Virginia were indentured servants Company organization changes in order to promote private ownership and incentives for growing tobacco New General Assembly in 1619 gave planters (land owners) the most say in government and operations

11 The Headright Much of the incentive was in headright, which gave a person bringing over several workers 50 acres of land per person Most indentured servants made the contract in England with merchants, but upon arrival in VA, their contract would be sold to planters (no protections granted) Abuses and issues of servants and the system As Virginia was a profit-making venture, planters sought to maximize profit and keep servants under control Servants were not paid, and under law, no distinction made between servants and livestock or possessions

12 East vs. West Economics As freed servants pushed west for land, they often encountered hostile natives Eastern established planters received most of the money as they were closer to transport and acted as “middle-men” at the ports Tobacco depression and low prices reduce opportunities available for freedom Indentured servitude continued into the late 1600s: Slaves double the cost for little difference from servant De facto slavery existed in VA since 1619; early treatment not different from white labor Some Africans were even given freedom (Anthony Johnson) 1648: only 300 slaves in Virginia

13 The rise of slavery The case of Elizabeth Key changes colonial law by 1662 Shift in adoption of slavery: Tobacco economy Less availability of servants Unrest in servant system (Bacon’s Rebellion) 1705: law changes legal status of slaves from personal property to “real estate” property that could be bought and sold Lower death rates by mid-1600s and more jobs in England leaves fewer servants As more countries join in the slave trade, owning a slave is more economical Longer terms (life) of servitude Did not have to treat them humanely (no law protection) Less workforce turnover and less competition English more willing to accept the practice of chattel slavery

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