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Slaves and Englishmen

Human Bondage in the Early Modern Atlantic World

By Michael Guasco

Publication Year: 2014

Technically speaking, slavery was not legal in the English-speaking world before the mid-seventeenth century. But long before race-based slavery was entrenched in law and practice, English men and women were well aware of the various forms of human bondage practiced in other nations and, in less systematic ways, their own country. They understood the legal and philosophic rationale of slavery in different cultural contexts and, for good reason, worried about the possibility of their own enslavement by foreign Catholic or Muslim powers. While opinions about the benefits and ethics of the institution varied widely, the language, imagery, and knowledge of slavery were a great deal more widespread in early modern England than we tend to assume.

In wide-ranging detail, Slaves and Englishmen demonstrates how slavery shaped the ways the English interacted with people and places throughout the Atlantic world. By examining the myriad forms and meanings of human bondage in an international context, Michael Guasco illustrates the significance of slavery in the early modern world before the rise of the plantation system or the emergence of modern racism. As this revealing history shows, the implications of slavery were closely connected to the question of what it meant to be English in the Atlantic world.

Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press

Series: The Early Modern Americas


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pp. C-C

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-vi


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pp. vii-viii

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Introduction. The Problem of Slavery in Pre-Plantation America

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pp. 1-10

Perhaps it is best to begin with the familiar: In 1619, a Flemish privateer called the White Lion dropped anchor off Point Comfort at the eastern extremity of the English settlement in Virginia. Captain Jope and his men had suffered greatly on their return voyage from the West Indies and when the...

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Chapter 1. The Nature of a Slave: Human Bondage in Early Modern England

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pp. 11-40

In late 1583 Sir Francis Walsingham, Queen Elizabeth’s principal secretary, dispatched a thirty- year- old Oxford cleric named Richard Hakluyt to France to search out information that could be used to promote royal support for the development of English colonies abroad. Walsingham, who had been a backer...

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Chapter 2. Slaves the World Over: Early English Encounters with Slavery

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pp. 41-79

En gland stepped purposely onto the global stage during the second half of the sixteenth century as its merchants, sailors, emigrants, bureaucrats, and adventurers fanned out across the globe in search of new lands, new trade routes, and new commodities. The English had not been well represented...

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Chapter 3. Imaginary Allies: Englishmen and Africans in Spain’s Atlantic World

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pp. 80-120

As it made its way down the Atlantic seaboard in the direction of the Canary Islands, the large English naval squadron must have been an impressive sight. The year was 1595 and the 28 ships and roughly 2,500 men sailing under the divided command of two aging knights— John Hawkins and Francis...

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Chapter 4. Englishmen Enslaved: The Specter of Slavery in the Mediterranean and Beyond

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pp. 121-154

Vincent Jukes was born in Shropshire, En gland, during the second decade of the reign of King James I. As a young man of insignificant means, he was bound out as an apprentice for two years before he went to sea as a ship’s cook. In 1636, on only his second voyage, he and his mates were “set upon by...

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Chapter 5. “As Cheap as Those Negroes”?: Transplanting Slavery in Anglo-America

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pp. 155-194

When three English ships unloaded their band of more than a hundred settlers at Jamestown in the spring of 1607, few people involved in the enterprise were thinking about either slavery or Africans. The planting of a Chesapeake settlement was part of a larger English colonial endeavor famously articulated...

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Chapter 6. Slavery before “Slavery” in Pre-Plantation America

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pp. 195-226

Nobody was particularly interested in Jamaica in the 1650s. As a result of high mortality rates among Indians in the aftermath of the conquest, slave raiding, and Spanish indifference, barely 1,500 people could be found on the island at this time and most of them were huddled around the city of St. Jago...

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pp. 227-234

By the dawn of the eighteenth century, race- based plantation slavery would be one of the defining characteristics of the English Empire in the Americas. By that time, tens of thousands of enslaved Africans would be imported into the English colonies, bound into a state of perpetual slavery by labor- starved...


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pp. 235-298


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pp. 299-312


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pp. 313-315

E-ISBN-13: 9780812209884
E-ISBN-10: 0812209885
Print-ISBN-13: 9780812245783

Page Count: 328
Illustrations: 8 illus.
Publication Year: 2014

Series Title: The Early Modern Americas
Series Editor Byline: Peter C. Mancall, Series Editor See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 875446986
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Slaves and Englishmen

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Subject Headings

  • Slavery -- Atlantic Ocean Region -- History.
  • Slavery -- United States -- History -- Colonial period, ca. 1600-1775.
  • Slavery -- Great Britain -- History.
  • Atlantic Ocean Region -- History -- 17th century.
  • United States -- History -- Colonial period, ca. 1600-1775.
  • Great Britain -- Colonies -- America -- History -- 17th century.
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