The Origins of American Slavery: Freedom and Bondage in the English Colonies
by Betty Wood
Though the English did not begin their colonization of the New World with the intention of enslaving anyone, by the end of the seventeenth century ... Show synopsis Though the English did not begin their colonization of the New World with the intention of enslaving anyone, by the end of the seventeenth century chattel slavery existed in each of England's American colonies. Why? And why did the English enslave West Africans rather than native Americans or Europeans? Historians have usually stressed either racial ideology or determining economic and demographic factors, but Betty Wood suggests that a more complex rationale was at work. In this important new analysis, Wood begins by exploring the meanings of freedom and bondage in sixteenth-century English thought and the ideas that men and women of Tudor England had about Africans and native Americans. She studies their prejudices against non-Christians, their responses to models of slavery in the Spanish and French colonies, and their assessment of their own labor shortages, and in the light of these various factors interprets the decision of the English to resort to slave labor in the colonies. She then follows the spread of slavery through the seventeenth century, from the Caribbean and the Carolinas to Virginia tobacco country and finally among the Puritans and Quakers farther north.