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American Settlement. Was the situation for indentured servants in Chesapeake characterized more by change or continuity?

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BSGE Zakir Hussain 11-2 10/18/11 Indentured Servants In the Chesapeake All throughout history people migrated to many different places for reasons such as religious tolerance, political freedom, and/or economic opportunity. Many English citizens decided that they could improve their lives by migrating to the Americas. The reason for mass migration from England to America started with the Colombian Exchange. The Colombian Exchange, which occurred due to the Europeans exploring North and South America, led the English citizens to a wide variety of new and wondrous food. Within one and a half centuries the general public of England got bigger since the English people continued to chow down on food being sent from the Columbian Exchange. With all these extra people growing in England, the necessities of life such as food, water, and shelter dwindles. High inflation "coupled with a fall in real wages as the number of workers increased" caused an economic decline (Norton 41). Poverty was now common amongst landless manual workers as well as those who possessed very little property. Property-owners gradually pushed tenants off the property by raising the rent as well "combining small holdings into large units" (Norton 41). ...read more.


Indentured servants thought life in the Americas would be better than the lives they had in England so they sold themselves in order to come to the Americas. The farmers who paid for the voyage of the indentured servants thought "good management would make the process self-perpetuating" (Norton 46B). The population of the Chesapeake was made up of seventy five to eighty five percent indentured servants. The lives of the indentured servants though were a great challenge to them. Indentured servants "worked six days a week, ten to fourteen hours a day, in a climate much warmer than England's (Norton 47). Indentured servants faced much harder challenges in the Americas. The situation for indentured servants in Chesapeake was characterized more by continuity because when the workers arrived from England they carried across with them English thinking and ways of life. The indentured servants were the people who were on the bottom of the economic hierarchy in England and also became the bottom of the economic hierarchy in the Chesapeake. Their new masters didn't treat them any differently. While under their master's reign, their owners "could discipline or sell them, and they faced severe penalties for running away" (Norton 47A). ...read more.


During some of these court battles an indentured servant can be placed to another master or even have the right to be released from their indentures. The Chesapeake wasn't being that great all the time because "Maryland dropped its legal requirements that servants receive land as part of their freedom dues, forcing large number of freed servants to live for years as wage laborers or tenant farmers" (Norton 47A). These changes in America did not however improve the lives of indentured servants greatly as they still were treated as the bottom of the barrel. In conclusion, the situation for indentured servants in the Chesapeake was characterized by both change and continuity. Change was evident but it wasn't enough to make a huge impact on the lives of indentured servants. The probability of an indentured servant having land and bringing in their own indentured servant who would make them wealthy was actually very hard. Like the landless laborers were in England, the indentured servants were still consistent in being the hard workers and bottom of the economic hierarchy in the Chesapeake. The indentured servants faced continuity in their lives from England to the Chesapeake where they continued being poor and simply worked endlessly to somehow become self-sufficient/free in the future. Word Count: 1180 ...read more.

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