The History Of Indentured Servitude History Essay
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Published: Mon, 5 Dec 2016
To begin with, Indentured Servitude when used in any context is made to bring the meaning of a laborer who is not free. This is to suggest that it is laborer who works under a contract which is specified for a certain amount of time. Such an individual works for another person presumed to be an employer without receiving any pay but instead the individual has to receive accommodation, food and other related essentials or rather a passage to a new country being granted in exchange.
According to research, European settlers in the Caribbean island did so as indentured servants, and this took place in the 16th and 17th century. As a matter of fact England was one of the places in the world with high numbers of indentured servitude and this took place particularly in 1600s. In connection to this point, during the 17th century England established colonies in North America and West Indies. As such, Jamestown Virginia was the first permanent colony that was founded in North America. In the same line of thought, another one settled in Bermuda among other parts of the region.
It is imperative to point that the English economy was largely driven by wool sales which acted as the main source of foreign exchange. In this sense, there was great inflation during the late 16th century; England was forced to respond. In relation to this point, England responded to factors of inflation by means of intensifying wool production of which this affected the domestic economy. This was then followed by merging of dotted fields to larger ones to afford pasture lands for the increasing need for sheep for wool made for sale. This led to many people being left without land and thus they had to engage themselves into other ill and bad activities like prostitution and theft among others. This is the point where the 17th century aspect of indentured servitude in England for the disposed individuals came into play.
Basically, this contract led to the transportation of the dispossessed in England to colonies in America and several others being exchanged for work along with some other criminals being shipped in such a way. Again in this context, the English elites have been pointed out as to have made entities like Virginia Company which controlled large swaths in the American territory (Educational Britannica Educational 169). So to speak, the given business entities were meant to gain from the tobacco which by then was a new commodity which was by then new and had gained popularity in the whole of Europe.
Establishment of Maryland colony was also made along with the Pennsylvania colony among others. To be precise, there were English settlements that were made from the Chesapeake Bay north; Jamestown founded in 1607, Plymouth 1620; Boston which was founded in 1630; St. Mary’s which was founded in 1634 and the New York city which was formerly named New Amsterdam being seized from the Dutch in the year1684. As well, there was also the Philadelphia settlement which was founded in 1681(Educational Britannica Educational 169-170).
At this point, it is imperative to bring out the point that indentured servitudes were given clothing, seeds to plant such as tobacco, land and livestock at times as the payment at the completion of the term agreed to serve. Arguably, indentured servitude was the main solution that was preferred by Virginia settlers in the year 1620 when there was shortage of labor and as such crisis in the colonies. It is also important at this time to state that England was the main source of indentured servitude although later others were solicited from Ireland, Germany and Scotland (Becker 1999). In this relation, immigrants from Europe coming to Virginia came from low socio-economic status in their own countries. The reason why they served as indentured servitudes was that they sought to get established by means of acquiring wealth as well as gaining social status accompanying the given opportunities in America. It has also been pointed out that in spite of the high mortality rate, some due to malaria and other such like catastrophies in the colonies; others still came to the colonies in search of their deemed benefits and opportunities as well.
Following the topic under investigation, much information is required from several credible information sources so as to have solid information to support the investigation. As such, the research will utilize several sources of information which will take in the six sources of which one must be a web source with the other five having at least two books among others. The sources will be provided at the end of the work in the ‘Works Cited’ page.
Research Findings and Discussion
According to Alexander (2010), the onset of indentured servitude proved to be an effective tool for planters owing to the benefits they gained out of cheap labor gained. The indentured servitudes on release, once given land to plant tobacco farms; they proved to be not a great threat to the planters who has previously owned them and thus, the planters enjoyed the benefits accorded to high tobacco planting by then (44). However, the master class in the mid 17th century was threatened by a growing population of indentured servitudes on release who survived owing to reduced rates of death.
In response, the Virginians sought to silence them by ensuring that they depressed gain of profits and thus frustrate their efforts. This was accomplished by means of depressing tobacco prices and thus loss of profits accompanied by lengthening of servant’s indenture. This was as a result of the economic effectiveness of indenture servitudes which was in the long run realized by the master class. At the same time, indentured servitude proved to be a cost-effective source of labor as compared to the cost of slave purchase which was so costly accompanied by high death rates altogether. However, by 1660 things took another turn when slavery replaced indentured servitude (Alexander 44).
Arguably, in the 17th Century South, indentured servitude was the dominant practice in the lives of immigrants who were youth aged between 15-25 years of age. As such, they were promised to get the opportunity of land acquisition in return of 5 to 7 years of service and as such, this promise was rarely honored. This is given to the reason that most of the youths died before completing their years of service. Basically, during the early years of British settlement there was very little demand for slaves.
Fowling this point, demand for labor was in the larger part of it met by the ready supply met by the indentured servitude and thus this relieved the colonists the expense of importing large number of Africans who would then provide such labor. As a matter of fact, about 400, 000 individuals migrated from England to the new world between 16th and 18th centuries whereby they resolved to indentured service as a result of being transported across the Atlantic (Kenneth 11).
Development of economies in this case was based on production of sugar, tobacco and eventually rice of which indentured servitude made it possible. Virginians was mostly composed of settlers from England who developed an economy that was driven by cultivation of tobacco which was then to be exported to Europe. Tobacco cultivation proved to be so much profitable but unfortunately it called for intensive labor. Remarkably, until 1ate 17th century, Chesapeake plantations were served by indentured servitude of servants who escaped from England to New England due to poverty resulting from the depressed economy. Along with this point, the servitudes indentured for a period of four to seven years in exchange for clothes and tools and in the larger perspective, other gained free land whereby they would settle to build their own homesteads.
Interestingly enough, some other indentured slaves were sold by their masters since the contract provided that an indentured servitude was the property of the owner. This brought about income to the English settlers in the New England or in short America and thus, it is arguable that the indentured servitude improved the economy of the New England by providing produce for sale as export to Europe. The economy of the New England and North America colonists was driven by Agriculture which was in turn made possible by the indentured servitudes who relentlessly worked in the fields thus leading to high agricultural productivity (Kenneth 14-15).
Several reasons have been attributed to the immigration of England’s population to New England and North America. As such, between 1520 and 1630 the population in England doubled from 2.3 to 4.8. This led to the adverse effects especially due to inflation which is in other words is the rising of prices. In addition, real wages for the population declined and as a result, the standards of living in the population drop down. Famine and harvest failures as well affected the population and thus this became unbearable to most of the population (Kenneth 10-12). By early 17th century, poverty had overtaken most of the people in the population and as a result, they had to seek for remedy elsewhere.
In America or New England, indenture servitudes provided international labor mobility which is necessary for the growth of the economy. In response to the opportunities perhaps created in America, labor institutions developed to facilitate this factor and as a result, economic growth and development came into play. Needless to speculate, indentured servitudes in the 17th century contributed to the availability of staple export crops such as rice, tobacco and indigo among others which contributed to the expanded scale of production requiring intensive labor from the indentured servitudes.
Fundamentally, the period between 1620 and 1680, was the time when trade in indentured servants peaked. Schultz (2009) puts it that North American European colonists needed labor supply and as England left some other people at home to look at its economic and political interests as they shipped others to their colonists (52). Once indentured servitudes were released after being paid their dues, they too engaged in agriculture and tried their best to compete with their masters. Owing to the small pieces of land gained at the end of their service; Indentured servitudes had little to take care of themselves and their family altogether. In this context, it has been argued that they have high birth rates which led to increased population with little resources. As a result, this to some extent led to the straining of the economy.
From the larger point of view, the colonies in North America or New England were the projects Of England. As such, it is crucial to state that the economic benefits resulting from the agricultural production in the colonies of which it was then exported to European countries, led to England’s economic development. At the same time, the presumed to be-cheap labor from England through servitudes through indentures that were either shipped by force or voluntarily, led to a cost-effective labor mobility which led to increased productivity and high profits. Consequently, this led to improved Economy back in England and thus real wages within England during this era, began to rise. Importantly, the presence of the indenture servitude contributed to the economic growth of England altogether.
From another perspective, indentured servitude has influenced today’s society whereby it is reflected in the context of work under contract. A contracted job or work means that an individual has to work for a certain period of time usually specified. In the same line of thought, the difference occurs since nowadays employers have to be paid. This is to suggest that they are compensated by means of salaries or in simpler words money. There are situation nowadays whereby employees take loans and as a means of repaying, the payment is done within an agreed amount of time which the employee may offer not to take the salary but rather to pay the employer by giving a service. In such a situation, indentured servitude of 1600s is being practiced in some manner.
Another point worth noting is that there are labor laws that have been formulated and even today they are in use. Such laws govern the wages and salaries of the employees as whole at the same time making provision for employees not to be exploited by their employers who seek to be cost-effective by maximizing the use of the employees. There is a lot of exploitation and unfair labor practiced due to discrimination in the workplace based on skin or social status (Healey 113). Virginian law put it that Africans were to be servants for life and thus why they are treated discriminately even at the workplace (Becker 1999).
Indentured Servitude became unpopular at the advent of Trans-Atlantic trade and so to speak, the only difference between slavery and indentured servitude is that slavery is a life time contract whereas indentures are temporary contracts. When slavery came into play, issues of racism surfaced and as such, they have been practiced in the contemporary world. This is given to the reason that Europeans have an attitude of practicing racism or discrimination based on skin color with Africans being black and American Indians being seen as different people and thus Africans are usually seen from the slavery point of view (Healey 113-114). This is to suggest that history and colonialism have greatly influenced the way Africans and American Indians are viewed by the whites.
The effect of indentured servitude on the economy of England in the 1600s in this case has been pointed out as to be taking in several factors. For instance, indentured servitude has been associated with an improved economy of England. This is due to the fact that indentured servitude provided international labor mobility which in turn led to the improved tobacco, sugar and indigo production. As a result, exports increased with the Virginia and Maryland among others’ production being exported to Europe.
The profit received in turn was used for the benefit of the economy of England which was by then receding. In the current world, indentured servitude has been reflected by the society’s structure having the rich and poor or rather high class people and lower socio-economic class. This is an indication of differential in power whereby the society’s elites have high standards of living with others poor being classified as individuals of a low socio-economic class. At the same time, racism has surfaced in the current era due to the fact that American Indians and Black Africans were used as indentured servitude and slaves respectively. This has brought about a perpetuated population with racism; people being judged on the basis of their color along with the society’s structure with low class individuals.
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