Notes to the Indentured Servitude Histories


The largest export crops were tobacco, cotton, and sugar.

Eric Williams, Capitalism & Slavery, 1994; Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press; page 19. Throughout the 1600s, Africans who were kidnapped and forced into slavery gradually replaced the European indentured servants in greater and greater numbers until, by 1700, slave labor was the primary source of labor that produced America’s wealth.

Joint stock companies were private commercial ventures which raised money by selling stock to wealthy investors. Today’s capitalist corporations are descended from joint stock companies. (, 2013; “Joint-Stock Companies,” U.S. History Online Textbook, at

Some examples of early battles between the colonial powers:
<>In the war between the Dutch and English from 1665 to 1667, the English initially gained control of New York, but then lost it again to the Dutch in the next war.
<>In King William’s War, a series of battles between the French and English from 1688 to 1697, the English were mostly routed and failed in their attempt to take over French Acadian territories.
<>In Queen Anne’s War from 1702 to 1713, the English fought both the Spanish and the French in a series of battles from Florida to Newfoundland. The result was losses and gains for all three colonial powers, however, the clearest losers were the Apalachee and Timucua people of Florida who were nearly exterminated by the English during the Apalachee Massacre of 1704.
<>In King George’s War from 1744 to 1748, the English and French fought over territory in New York, New England, and Nova Scotia. The war resulted mostly in heavy losses to the English.
<>In the French and Indian War from 1754 to 1763, the size of the English colonial military had grown considerably, with the result that the French lost all their territories in North America, and Britain become the colonial owner of most of eastern Canada and America.

James J. Horn, 2000; “Leaving England: The social background of indentured servants in the seventeenth century. Jamestown Interpretive Essays,” Virtual Jamestown, at

Encyclopædia Britannica, 2013; “England in 1603: Economy and society,” Encyclopædia Britannica’s Guide to Shakespeare, at

Howard Zinn, 2005; A people’s history of the United States; New York: Harper Perennial; page 42.

Three centuries later in America — not long after Emancipation — blacks were similarly criminalized, controlled, and bound into forced labor through “Black Code” laws that were passed throughout the South. The new type of racialized “criminal” was the “vagrant” and new vagrancy laws resulted in large numbers of black people being arrested for a range of newly criminalized offenses, including “loitering,” traveling without permission from an employer, and refusing to sign forced labor contracts. Once arrested, they were leased out to plantations, mines, factories, etc. and forced back into slave-like conditions.

David W. Galenson, 1984; “The rise and fall of indentured servitude in the Americas: An economic analysis,” The Journal of Economic History, 44(1), pages 1-26. Retrieved from

Russell R. Menard, 1991; “Indentured servitude,” in Eric Foner & John A. Garraty (Editors) The reader’s companion to American history (pages 542-543); Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company; page 542.

George Novack (Editor), 1976; America’s Revolutionary Heritage. New York: Pathfinder Press.

Redemptioners were another form of indentured servants who would contract with the ship’s captain to pay him back upon arrival or within a specified period of time. If payment wasn’t made upon arrival, the person would be sold to the highest bidder.

Van Diemen’s Land is the island off Australia later renamed Tasmania.

Wikipedia contributors, “Penal transportation,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (October 2, 2013).

For example, in the 1700s, large numbers of German immigrants came to America as indentured servants. Then, in the 1800s, railroad companies in the American West and plantation owners in Hawaii made use of indentured servants from China. From 1840 to 1882, 350,000 Chinese laborers were brought to the U.S. mainland as indentured servants; most of them had been forced or tricked into their labor contracts. (Martha A. Sherwood, 2012, “Indentured servitude,” Immigration in America,

Maryland was one of the first colonies to pass such laws: In 1664, the Maryland Assembly passed a law stating that “all negroes or other slaves already within the Province, and all negroes and other slaves to be hereafter imported into the Province shall serve durante vita [for the duration of their lives]. And all children born of any negro or other slave shall be slaves as their fathers were for the term of their lives.” The “other slaves” were most likely Native Americans. (Wikipedia contributors, “History of slavery in Maryland,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia,; October 15, 2013.

Michelle Alexander, 2012, The new Jim Crow: Mass incarceration in the age of colorblindness. New York: The New Press.

The English also tried to control the colonies’ trade and economy. In 1621, the Tobacco Act was passed limiting the sale of Virginia tobacco to the English market only. Then in 1698, the Wool Act was passed to protect the English wool industry by prohibiting the American colonies from exporting finished woolen goods; only raw wool was allowed to be exported. The Wool Act was followed by the Hat Act in 1732, the Molasses Act in 1733, the Iron Acts in 1750, and the Sugar Act in 1764, all of which were aimed at limiting the export and sale of American-made goods. (Henry J. Sage, 2012; “America and the British empire,” Sage American History,