What was the role of indentured servants and the development of slavery in colonial America?

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Indentured servants were used as an alternative to black slaves in colonial America. The indentured servants could not pay for their passage to the New World so they had to pay for their passage with labor upon arrival. The indentured servants had finite contracts and therefore were not a stable source of labor for the plantations. The indentured servants were mainly poor people from Ireland and England and many of them died due to tropical diseases such as malaria and yellow fever. As conditions in England improved, more people could afford their own passage, and this led to fewer people signing up for servitude.

African slaves proved to be the better long-term solution to plantation labor needs. The African slaves did not catch tropical diseases as often, and one could keep them until they either died or sold to someone else. One could also breed one's African slaves and enslave the offspring. Plantation owners treated the African slaves poorly and justified the bad treatment by...

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Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on December 19, 2019