Sample History Case Study on Slavery Vs Indentured Servitude

Slavery in the British colonies in the mainland of North America developed for economic and cultural reasons. At first, the colonial economy largely depended on indentured servants rather than slaves. However, at the end of the 17th century, the number of indentured servants had reduced significantly, leading to the emergence of slavery (Corbett et al., 2017). Slavery developed in those colonies because the English economy had improved implying that prospects of the poorer British individuals had improved as well. As such, fewer people were willing to sell themselves as indentured servants (Schneider & Schneider, 2014). Moreover, slave trade restrictions had been removed hence many British companies and individuals decided to bring slaves to America and sold them. The decision significantly increased the supply of slaves across the British colonies. Besides, most of the indentured servants were British and the planter elites felt that the servitudes had rights unlike Africans. Thus, they decided to invest in slave trade to acquire free labour.

The practice of slavery was quite different in many colonies in British North America. Some colonies needed slave labour for farming and cultivating of tobacco. Cultivation of tobacco was labour intensive and the whites in those colonies believed that African could offer such labour. Some colonies needed slaves to work in plantations and tend crops and livestock. Other colonies needed slave labour in urban settings and households. Both slaves and indentured servants were subjected to oppression and harsh treatment in various colonies in British North America. However, their working conditions were different. Indentured servants worked under contracts with an agreement that they would become citizens hence they would be granted freedom (Snyder, 2007). Contrarily, slaves were treated as property for better part of their lives and were not granted freedom.



Corbett, P. S., Janssen, V., Lund, J. M., Pfannestiel, T. J., Vickery, P. S., & Roberts, O. (2017). US history. OpenStax, Rice University.

Schneider, D., & Schneider, C. J. (2014). Slavery in America. Infobase Publishing. Retrieved from

Snyder, M. R. (2007). The Education of Indentured Servants in Colonial America. Journal of Technology Studies, 33(2), 65-72. Retrieved from