History Lecture #11: The New World that Slavery Made

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University of California - Berkeley
Mark Peterson

History Lecture #11: The New World that Slavery Made I. The Development, Expansion, and Effects of Slavery in the British New World A. How and why did slavery develop in the colonies of the British New World B. What forms did slavery take in different regions? C. How did slavery shape the development of the colonies themselves D. How did slavery influence and effect the economy and economic devel II. Background: What we already know A. Trans-Atlantic Slave trade » First slaves arrive in Virginia in 1619 B. Labour Problems in the Chesapeake » Supply of masterless men dries up C. Rise of Plantation Agriculture » Tobacco, rice and sugar economies require a lot of man labour D. Emergence of British Presence in the West Indies » Jamaica and Barbados III. Slaves vs. Servants: Degrees of Freedom and Un-Freedom A. Spectrum of Freedom » Slaves were property » Servants still seen as men with an end-point B. Master-Servant rule in British Law » Old concept – governing principle between masters and indentured servants – Dictates terms of relationship – master supposed to provide basic necessities in exchange for servants’ labour – Contract of indenture – End point of service protected by law – Servants before indenture were free men » Re-fashioned to fit new conditions – Slaves do not fall into this category, not given the same treatment as in the Master-Servant rule – No long-standing law, so nothing to base model of slavery on  Different colonists in different colonies would go about slavery in ways different to others, based on their own needs – Master entitled to both the service of slave as well as the slave’s body itself – critical distinction, one that will remain important – As the practice of slavery matures, the stricter the rules regulating slavery, and the larger the distinction between slaves and masters » Slavery becomes more and more defined differently to servitude in law and practice as time goes on » Distinction not based on race at first (it becomes so later on) – Rather, it was that the slaves were not English, whereas the servants were – “Outside” of English society, and therefore not entitled to the same protection – However, in the early days if a slave were to become free, nothing is stopping them from becoming a part of English society (though this was not a common case) » Slavery not developed because of racism, because racism wasn’t a ‘thing’ yet IV. Slave Societies vs. Societies with Slaves A. West Indies » Barbados and Jamaica – Came into play later than the Chesapeake and New England & Middle colonies – Based on sugar production (an incredibly labour intensive process)  Not really easy or safe ≈ Boiling large amounts of sugar is the most dangerous part – splatters everywhere, and burns skin intensely – Slave practice here: Gang-system  Overseer managing group of slaves  Overseer maintains sustained regimented pace without breaks ≈ Makes sugar production efficient ≈ But very cruel for slaves › Little free time (though not necessarily typical of slavery)  Short life expectancy for slaves here – constant cycle of slaves – Most slave-owners were back in England (absentee slave-owners), running things from afar and leaving overseers in control  Overseers had little interest in sustaining lives of slaves  Slave to white people at a 20:1 ratio  Huge slave majority, but although some slaves do try to overthrow the overseers, they are usually too scared to revolt because overseers are physically cruel and also in control of the food supply (West Indies are islands, have to get food from somewhere) B. Low Country » Carolina and Georgia – Marshy along the coast, so it’s good for growing rice – The slave-owners wanted to grow sugar, but this collapses – in fact, it was the slaves that brought the rice economy – Some smaller farms – Some other farmers tended livestock – so slaves in charge of livestock were left largely on their own (this relative freedom was not enjoyed by slaves in the West Indies) – Task-system of slavery  Given list of things to do (tasks)  If tasks were completed, then the free time the slaves had was less regulated ≈ Grow their own food ≈ Hunt ≈ Fish ≈ Produce foods to sell in local market ≈ Started developing own distinct African-American culture ≈ By law, slaves had Sundays off – developed African- American culture and watched it flourish  Still unpleasant experience, still a steady stream of slave imports because slaves were dying more rapidly than they were living  Also had slave majority 2:1  Whites did not leave this region but summers were terrible, so they didn’t like to stay in Carolina  Slave majority made whites nervous ≈ Slaves rose up against the whites in rebellion › Horrified whites ≈ Geography of this region isolated this colony from others › Slaves ran away to New Spain; Spanish not keen on returning slaves to English because of conflict › Maroon colonies  Slave runaways from Carolina to form own colonies  Because of these maroon colonies and relative isolation, there are beginnings of creole culture (black and whites start to mix) ≈ Started passing stricter regulations on slaves C. Chesapeake » Virginia and Maryland – First slaves – First plantations – Slavery officially legalized in Virginia in 1660; before that it was just kind of happening – Made up half the labour force – The more slaves there were, the worse the conditions – Unbalanced sex ratios  Tobacco plantation not seen as a woman’s job  Slave owners preferred to purchase male slaves – Two distinct slave groups: creole and straight from Africa  Creoles highly prized because they speak English (mostly/can speak some) ≈ Sometimes the slaves that were more used to the English way of life could serve as house servants – Slavery system a hybrid of task and gang-system:  Work regimented (tobacco production requires it)  But slaves in Chesapeake sometimes kept small farms, raised livestock and produced foods etc.  Reflected desire of slave owners to be largely self-sustaining  Wanted slaves to be healthier so will hopefully live longer to do slave owner’s bidding
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