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Indentureship vs Slavery

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This assignment is based on the comparison of African slavery as against East Indian indentureship. It includes the position with which I have taken and evidence to prove my point.


It is my view to argue that East Indian indentureship was not similar to African slavery. I take this view for several reasons;
(1) Voluntary Decision and Forceful Will
(2) Different Treatment
(3) Payment

It can be safely argued that the Africans were enslaved for life and they did not have a choice to work on the plantations, they were forced to. Only few were free because of manumission which is the buying of their freedom or successful escapes. African children were born enslaved and there was no possibility of repatriation to Africa. On 5th May, 1838 Indian Arrival had begun. The indentured Indians were under a labour contract of five years. They had a choice to choose whether or not to work on the plantations for that given period of time. An ex-indentured Indian was legally free. Children who came from India and locally born children were not indentured. Indians also had the right to repatriation. Isn’t the fact that the East Indians made a voluntary decision and the Africans came by a forceful will evidence to prove that their circumstances were different? The treatment of slaves and the Indian indentures were different. There were no laws on how the slave master could punish his slaves. They were brutally punished and beaten.

Slave women were raped and no efforts were made to prevent it. On the other hand, this punishment was restricted for the Indian Immigrants. Some of them were abused, yes, but the law had forbidden it, they were protected from any kind of neglection or abuse. The slaves lived with the worst inhumane treatment where protection was not provided while the indentures, however, were backed up against mistreatment. Was there any similarity of how the two were treated? The fact that the immigrants were paid is a significant difference from the slaves. Slaves were seen as property, not human beings in the eyes of the white planters. They did not get a cent out of their labour. The slaves worked for nothing. The planters enjoyed free labour for 400 years. Payments were granted to the East Indian immigrants. They worked and earned money to take care of their family and themselves. Therefore, East Indian Indentureship was not similar to African slavery. Based on the historical evidence contained above, I therefore conclude that there are differences between African slavery and East Indian Indentureship, which are clearly mentioned.


This assignment has been provided with all the evidence needed to support my opinion and I have learnt a lot from it.



R. Greenwood, S. Hamber, Emancipation to Emigration 2nd Edition (2008), p. 94-95

Patrick Taylor, Nation Dance: Religion, Identity, and Cultural Difference in the Caribbean (2001), p.186

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