Make me work if you can

T.H. Breen

  • Bound for America: The Transportation of British Convicts to the Colonies, 1718-1775 by Roger Ekirch
    Oxford, 277 pp, £25.00, November 1987, ISBN 0 19 820092 7

Not until the 18th century did ordinary Europeans discover America. New World staples flooded into their homes, fibres, sugar, tobacco, affordable consumer items that made their lives a little more pleasant. Production of these goods, of course, required huge numbers of labourers, most of whom had travelled to America as bondsmen, as servants and slaves. About the African migrants, we now know a good deal. But curiously, until quite recently no one paid much attention to the hundreds of thousands of European migrants who crossed the Atlantic as indentured servants.

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