Article

Labor Systems

Ty M. Reese

in Atlantic History

ISBN: 9780199730414
Published online August 2011 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780199730414-0116
Labor Systems

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  • History of the Americas
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For the vast majority of peoples of the Atlantic world, their place within it was defined by their toil. The most studied labor system of the Atlantic world is that of African slavery, yet African slavery was but one of many labor systems that operated within the Atlantic world. Traditionally, labor within the Atlantic world was divided between free and slave labor, but more recently scholars have argued that these old distinctions are not really clear and that people beyond slaves labored within obligations to someone else. The more recent arguments involve a spectrum of labor systems within the Atlantic world that ranged from slave to free. Studies of laborers and labor systems are important to our understanding of the Atlantic world in that they demonstrate larger changes taking place in Europe, Africa, and the Americas. A relationship existed between the early modern agricultural revolution that occurred within Europe and the rise of indentured servitude in the Americas. Beyond this, the rise of slavery not only related to the economic decision to find the cheapest sources of labor to make the appropriated lands of the Americas productive within a European framework but also related to important cultural and intellectual changes occurring in this period. The rise of wage labor within the late 18th century is often explored within the context of the decline of contracted labor, and the developing abolitionist movement that would slowly dismantle the transatlantic slave trade and transatlantic slavery.

Article.  12516 words. 

Subjects: History of the Americas ; European History ; African History ; History ; Regional and National History

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