Explain the economic, social, and psychological factors that caused Europeans and Americans to enslave Africans.
Economically speaking, Europeans, especially the English, found African slaves a cheaper alternative to indentured servitude. If we look back at early English settlements in the Americas, we notice that indentured servitude is quite common. Wealthy English landowners in the Americas would pay for passage to the Americas for poorer Englishmen who hoped to start a new life abroad. The indentured servants would then work for the landowners for a set period of time before being granted independence. Sometimes, indentured servants would even be given land upon completing their servitude. There were, however, a few problems that developed with this system. Firstly, indentured servants would sometimes gain significant wealth of their own and challenge the status of the old landowners. The old landowners began to see this as a threat to their own power and status in the New World. Secondly, as more land was purchased in the Americas, more workers were needed. As demand for workers increased, the supply of available workers remained limited. This led to an increase in the price of indentured servants and thus led to the English looking to alternative, lower-priced sources of labor to fill their needs. Through the enslavement of Africans, they not only found a cheaper and renewable source of labor, but they also ensured that their labor would be forced to work for them for life. African slaves would not gain freedom after a certain period of time as indentured servants would. African slaves would also never have the chance to challenge the status of the wealthy landowners because they would not have the freedom to do so.
The social and psychological factors that caused African slavery are closely linked. Socially, there was sense amongst the Europeans that European and Christian society were superior to all other societies. African slaves were seen as inferior due to the fact they were neither European nor Christian. Through this sense of superiority, Europeans were often convinced that they were not abusing African slaves, but rather "civilizing" them. Their view was oftentimes paternalistic, seeing the non-Christian African slaves as unable to care for themselves and in need of saving.
As you can see, it was a combination of these three factors that encouraged the enslavement of Africans by Europeans. Economically, slavery was more beneficial than indentured servitude. Socially and psychologically, slavery was not seen as a wrong because Europeans held the opinion that their African slaves were below them and incapable of being civilized without European influence.
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