Article

Slavery in British America

Trevor Burnard

in Atlantic History

ISBN: 9780199730414
Published online September 2012 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780199730414-0127
Slavery in British America

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  • History of the Americas
  • European History
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Slavery was the most important institution in colonial British America. Every area of colonial British America before the American Revolution allowed slavery, and in southern and island plantations it was essential to all areas of life. Although all areas of colonial British America allowed African chattel slavery from the mid-17th century onward and although slavery among Native Americans was well established before European arrival and continued and expanded after Europeans arrived, slavery was a dominant institution in only a few colonies. In these colonies––ranging from Maryland in the north to Demerara in South America––slavery was not only the principal source of wealth, but also it shaped every aspect of slavery. Britain relied on slavery and slave-produced products for whatever wealth it got from British America and was heavily involved in slavery as the leading trafficker of slaves across the Atlantic from the mid-17th century until the abolition of the slave trade in 1807. British ships carried millions of slaves to the Americas, where they changed the demographic makeup of European-controlled settlements markedly. Slavery was also a highly significant social institution. It led to the growth of a planter class––the most important and long-lasting elite in British American and American history. It also was important in developing pernicious ideas of race that were used by planters to justify their dominion over enslaved people. And, most importantly, it brought Africans to America. They brought with them their African culture, which was transformed by exposure to other cultural practices and became a distinctive part of the British American experience. Finally, slavery was an institution that relied at bottom on coercion and violence. The application of such coercion met with considerable resistance from those to whom violence was done.

Article.  10305 words. 

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

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