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Slavery understood as indentured servitude and chattel slavery are very common institutions in the overseas territories of the Commonwealth.

Indentured Servitude

Indentured servitude is contract that person signs and is bound by indentures to work for another for a specified time especially in return for payment of travel expenses and maintenance. Indentured servitude is common labor system in which people paid for their passage to the New World by working for an employer for a fixed term of years. It was widely employed in the 17th century in the British colonies in North America and elsewhere.

About half of the white immigrants to the American colonies in the 17th and 18th centuries were indentured. During the late 17th and early 18th centuries, children from England and France were kidnapped and sold into indentured labor in the Caribbean for a minimum of five years, but usually their contracts were bought and sold repeatedly and some laborers never obtained their freedom.

From the 17th century until well into the 19th century, transportation to the colonies as a criminal or an indentured servant served as punishment for both major and petty crimes in England and Ireland. During the same period, workhouses employed people whose poverty left them no other alternative than to work under forced labour conditions.

Indentured servitude was a way for the poor in Britain and the German states to obtain passage to the American colonies. After the term expired, they became free to work for themselves. The employer purchased the indenture from the sea captain who brought the people over. Most indentured servants worked as farmers or helpers for farm wives; some were apprenticed to craftsmen. Both sides were legally obligated to comply with the terms, but they were not always enforced by American courts. Runaways were sought out and returned.

Chantel Slavery

Chantel Slaver also called traditional slavery, is so named because people are treated as the chattel (personal property). Slavery in the British Isles existed and was recognised from before the Roman occupation until the 12th century, when chattel slavery virtually disappeared after the Norman Conquest and was replaced by feudalism and serfdom.

British merchants were among the largest participants in the Atlantic slave trade. Ship owners transported enslaved West Africans to the New World to be sold into slave labour. The ships brought commodities back to Britain then exported goods to Africa.

Slavery was important in plantation economies as the ones in (Barbados, Jamaica, Leeward Islands, Bermuda, and Bahamas), Virginia and Maryland, where it provides the manpower for cash crops (tobacco, sugar, cotton, and others).

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