Saturday, April 4, 2015

Indentured Servitude

From the sixteenth century to the nineteenth century the popularity of indentured servitude rose and fell and rose again. In the 1600s indentured servants were widely used, but their popularity began to diminish as the slave trade grew. After slavery was somewhat abolished in the eighteenth century, indentured servitude again became a common way to gain cheep labor.

The need for labor was increasing drastically, but without slavery, how would industries and enterprises be run (doc 2)? In a sense, after the success of antislavery movements, indentured servants replaced slaves, often with very similar conditions (doc 5, pic 2). Indentured servitude became so popular in fact, that the amount of indentured servants in a given area made up a significant portion of the population (doc 9)

Few could afford to pay for passage to different lands, thus they often signed contract agreements agreeing to work for a set amount of years in exchange for their passage (doc 7). These terms of service often varied in relation to individual differences (doc 7, “Monthly or Daily Wages or Task Work Rates”), needs, employment or skills, productivity, and ultimately the supply and demand of labor in different locations.

Some commentators have said that indentured servitude was simply a disguised version of slavery, and the conditions often seemed to lend towards this theory. In fact , many laborers were seriously mislead (doc 8) about their roles and their pay, were coerced into coming or even kidnapped; often the “agreements”(doc 7) were not upheld (doc 8). Most of the time indentured servants were socialized to believe one thing “like recruits for a military service” (doc 1) when reality was much different. For example in 1870 indentured servants in Calcutta were often promised 10 annas to 2 rupees, but only received 28 cents, which is not even the equivalent of 10 annas. At the same time unemployed, homeless, poor and societal outcasts were offered a chance to work and eventually freedom in a new land with a fresh start.

South Africa needed laborers since the natives did not want to work big plantation fields. Indentured servants making the voyage from India, as well as elsewhere, endured terrible voyages and harsh working conditions. Most plantations and industries who used indentured servants, much like the Island of Mauritius, holding the largest amount of indentured servants (doc 4), had a greater number of males than females (doc 6). This gender imbalance created problems, just as it had in the case of slavery.

To complete an analysis of the system of indentured servitude some additional documents are needed. Document 3 does not display the amount of Western Europeans who traveled to the Americas in Indentured Servitude in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, thus an additional document illustrating this would be beneficial. Also while document 3 illustrates the immigration of indentured servants within the pacific islanders, no additional statistics about these people are discussed. This would give a fuller picture of indentured servitude. Thus, with these additional documents a fuller picture can be presented and analyzed.

The popularity of indentured servitude rose and fell, indentured servitude continued to provide great opportunities for both servants and masters from the sixteenth century to the eighteenth century. Nonetheless, these opportunities were often exploited, just as they were in slavery. Indentured servitude became a great source of cheep labor to replace slave labor, after the abolition of slavery.