Throughout the book, The Origins of Slavery, the author, Betty Woods, depicts how religion and race along with social, economic, and political factors were the key factors in determining the exact timing that the colonist’s labor bases of indentured Europeans would change to involuntary West African servitude. These religion and racial differences along with the economic demand for more labor played the key roles in the formation of slavery in the English colonies. When the Europeans first arrived to the Americas in the late sixteenth century, at the colony of Roanoke, the thought of chattel slavery had neither a clear law nor economic practice with the English. However by the end of that following century, the demand for slaves in the English colonies including the Chesapeake, Barbados, Pennsylvania and the Carolinas was so great and the majority of labor was carried out by West African slaves. The argument of whether Native Americans could also be used as a form of labor for the plantation societies of the English colonies is one that was long disputed between the English. Both Native Americans and West Africans were used as social mirrors. This meant that the English set both groups of people against themselves to emphasize what they conceived of as being completely different qualities of religious, social, and political organization, sexual behavior, and skin color. As Betty Woods explores the meaning of freedom and bondage in this small, yet impactful, five chapter book, she further determines the explanations English colonist used in answering the quest for cheap plantation labor.
The significance of religion and race in English society was so great that its significance is what shaped the colonist idea of their society. The thought that English could not and would not strip their own English of their rights is what led them to believe that slavery must be of people who were non English and non-Christian. The thought that the English themselves would...
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