Slavery Developed in All of the English Colonies of North America. Was This Institution the Same in All the Colonies? Did This Form of Labour Have the Same Level of Importance in Each of the Areas? Why or Why Not?

Topics: Atlantic slave trade, Slavery, Thirteen Colonies Pages: 2 (695 words) Published: November 25, 2011
Large-scale African slavery was introduced into the English colonies of North America around the middle of the seventeenth century. Although slavery developed in all of the British colonies, it did not have the same level of importance in each of the areas of settlement. Slavery mainly spread over those areas where there were large plantations of high-value cash crops, such as tobacco, indigo, sugar, rice and coffee. Consequently, in the Chesapeake and the Southern colonies, this form of labour rapidly became the basis of their economies. In New England and the Northern colonies, however, slavery was going to remain peripheral. The settlers´ need for cheap labour to work on their plantations was one of the main reasons why the British colonies began to import enslaved Africans. In the Chesapeake area, successful tobacco cultivation required abundant land (since the crop quickly drained soil of nutrients). Consequently, plantations gradually spread out along the region’s rivers and planters quickly found themselves being land rich but labour poor. At first, indentured servants were used as the needed labour. These servants were mainly young English men who, in exchange for their transportation costs, had to provide four to seven years of free labour in the plantations. Once the period of indenture was over, those servants who managed to survive service were given freedom dues. However, in the 1660s, when the supply of indentured servants began to dry up (partly because the English economy improved and people started having better opportunities there) tobacco cultivators turned to a new source of labour: African slaves. Planters first imported already enslaved Africans from Caribbean sugar islands (the “Atlantic creoles“) but then, they began to purchase slaves directly from Africa. Although this new labour force was usually more expensive than indentured servants, it proved to be highly profitable because slaves, as well as their offspring, meant a lifetime of...
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