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This is a narrative historical account of indentured servitude and convict labor in the American colonies. Genealogists will value the work for both the background information it provides about the conditions that impelled people who were either unable or unwilling to pay the cost of their own passage to travel to the Americas, as well as for the statistical information and lists of sources appended to the work that may lead them to actual indentured or convict laborers.
Colonists in Bondage is divided into three parts. The first part discusses the trade in servants, pointing out, among other things, the process of raising a human cargo for a given voyage and the difference between the older institution of indentured servitude and the 18th-century redemptionist system. Part II focuses on the transportation of convicts, differentiating between convict transportation before and after 1718, in addition to the issues surrounding the transportation of rogues and vagabonds on the one hand and military prisoners on the other. The final portion of the text captures the life of the bonded immigrant in America itself, beginning with the voyage and arrival in America, prevailing customs pertaining to servile labor, conditions of the workplace throughout the colonies, and the path or conditions to freedom. A work of immense scholarship in British and American archives, Colonists in Bondage concludes with a fully referenced Appendix describing the numbers and dispersion of indentured servants both geographically and chronologically, an informative Bibliographical Essay, chapter end notes, and a complete index.