Indentured Servitude

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Between the nineteenth and twentieth century, the growth of the plantation industry and the need for additional labor caused a mass importation of foreigners as indentured servers. Although the conditions of service seem fair and reasonable according to the contract, the actual conditions may not have been as good.

Most of the additional labor, which caused importation of indentured servers, was primarily male. Over the 16-year period from 1835-1851, the number of Asian Indian immigrants to Mauritius as published by the British Government in 1949 clearly shows a pattern of male dominance. The number of former male slaves outnumbered the females each year. [D6] Although the number of former slaves decreased over time, there were always more male than female slaves. Comparatively, the number of Asian Indian immigrants into Mauritius increased over time, but there still more males than female immigrants.

Although the indentured servants were led by a desire to better their conditions, they were treated more like slaves in their new country. “…They are not slaves, seized by violence, brought over in fetters, and working under the lash. They have been raised, not without effort, like recruits for the military service” [D1]. Herman Merivale, a British Undersecretary of the Colonies, profits from the indentured servitude and thus feels that they are treated fairly. “I am overworked and the wages paid me is not sufficient.” [D8]. Ramana, an indentured servant to T.T. Poynton states that the conditions are deplorable. He doesn’t get enough time to eat his meals, and when he misses a day he doesn’t get paid and has to make up the work missed.

The mass importation of indentured servants was recruited labor from Western Europe for North America. The principal overseas indentured migrations, 1834-1919 shows migration patterns going from Africa, Japan and China towards the islands between North and South America. [D3] According to David Northrup, author of...
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