Student Question

Compare the forms of slavery in British, Spanish, and French colonies.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In the Spanish, British, and French colonies, slavery existed as plantation, chattel slavery, in which mostly African people were brutally enslaved and forced to work for the gain of the colonial governments and capitalist individuals. In the Spanish colonies, such as Mexico, the Caribbean Islands, and South America, indigenous peoples were originally enslaved and forced to work on mostly sugar plantations and in silver and gold mines. However, many indigenous people were able to escape and fight back because they understood the land so well. As a response, the Spanish colonies began heavily engaging in the horrific Atlantic Slave Trade, in which millions of African people were stolen and forced to labor under slavery in the Spanish colonies. Brazil enslaved more than two million African people and was particularly known for its brutality. Because the stolen African people were unfamiliar with the landscape, climate, and surrounding villages of free indigenous peoples, it was much harder for them to escape into the surrounding countryside. There was slightly less outlawing of African culture in the Spanish colonies and less intensive forced conversion into Christianity. As a result, there is still much more traditional African culture, religion, and language mixed into the cultures of, especially, Brazil and the Caribbean Islands, as compared to the United States.

In the southern British colonies, African people were brutally enslaved and forced to work on mostly tobacco plantations, sugar cane plantations, cotton plantations, and peanut plantations. In northern British colonies, enslaved African people were forced to work in textile industries and in ports. Additionally, there were high instances of wealthy households enslaving African people to perform domestic labor for them. The slave system of the British colonies particularly focused on outlawing African cultures, languages, and traditions. Slave codes were brutally enforced. There was an intense push to forcibly convert enslaved African folks into christianity.

In the French colonies of Louisiana, Martinique, French Guiana, and Haiti, plantation slavery existed and was just as brutal as the Spanish and British forms of slavery. The French were the third largest participators in the Atlantic Slave Trade because of the sheer, staggering amount of enslaved African peoples that they stole from West Africa and brought to Haiti to labor. In 1791, a powerful slave uprising led to the Haitian Revolution, in which enslaved African people successfully overthrew their rulers and declared Haiti an independent nation in 1804. This slave uprising was one of the most powerful and successful slave uprisings in history and should be greatly admired and learned from as an example of a group of people who so powerfully liberated themselves from their oppressors.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial