"White Cargo" is the forgotten story of the thousands of Britons who lived and died in bondage in Britain's American colonies. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, 300,000 or more people became slaves there in all but name. Urchins were swept up from London's streets to labour in the tobacco fields, where life expectancy was no more than two years. Brothels were raided to provide 'breeders' for Virginia. Hopeful migrants were duped into signing as indentured servants, unaware they'd become chattels who could be bought, sold and even gambled away. Transported convicts were paraded for sale like livestock. Drawing on letters crying for help, diaries, court and government archives, Jordan and Walsh demonstrate that the brutalities usually associated with black slavery alone were perpetrated on whites throughout British rule. The trade ended with American independence, but the British still tried to sell convicts in their former colonies, which prompted one of the most audacious plots in Anglo-American history. This is a saga of exploitation and cruelty spanning 170 years that has been submerged under the overwhelming memory of black slavery.
"White Cargo" brings the brutal, uncomfortable story to the surface.
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(240mm x 162mm x 30mm)
Publisher: Mainstream Publishing
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US Kirkus Review »
Two British journalists unravel a significant history of indentured servitude in the New World.Before the 18th century, when Southern tobacco grandees and West Indian sugar planters imported Africans for cheap labor, the New World was the forced destination of many of England's unwanted - the rootless, the unemployed, the criminal and the dissident. Jordan and Walsh systematically dispel the creation myth - "in which early American settlers are portrayed as free men and women who created a democratic and egalitarian model society more or less from scratch" - surrounding the arrival of the English settlers by documenting several waves of "victims of empire" who were often treated as savagely as black slaves and toiled alongside them: boatloads of children raked up from the streets of London, forcibly transported to places like Virginia, sold to planters and often dead within a year; vagrants and petty criminals, ranging from beggars to prostitutes; the Irish, dehumanized and deported under Oliver Cromwell's ethnic-cleaning policy; the kidnapped, often young people snatched from the streets by " 'spirits' working to satisfy the colonial hunger for labor"; and the so-called "free-willers," who agreed to become indentured servants in return for free passage and perhaps an illusory plot of land. The authors work chronologically, beginning with England's Vagrancy Act of 1597, under which "persistent rogues" could be banished to the fledging colonies. As the first 100 street children were rounded up and sent off to work the tobacco fields of Virginia by 1618, kidnapping, or "spiriting," became so prevalent and feared that it appeared in the work of Daniel Defoe and Robert Louis Stevenson. The authors conclude with the abject floating British prisons off the coast of newly independent America.An eye-opening work to be read alongside Richard S. Reddie's forthcoming Abolition!: The Struggle to Abolish Slavery in the British Colonies (2008). (Kirkus Reviews)
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Author Biography - Don Jordan
Don Jordan is a television producer and director who has worked on dozens of documentaries and dramas. He also co-produced and co-wrote Love is the Devil, a film about the life of Francis Bacon. Michael Walsh spent twelve years as a reporter and presenter on World in Action and has won six awards for his work. He is now a producer, specialising in political and historical documentaries.