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on 15 December 2011
This is the story of the 300,000 plus British and Irish citizens who were either forcibly deported or went as indentured servants to slavery at the tobacco or sugar plantations of Maryland,Virginia or the Caribbean Islands in the 17 and 18 centurys.
Those forcibly deported included unwanted children,nerdowells,criminals,the Irish and the kidnapped to become chattels to be sold at will by their masters.Most suffered extreme cruelty and died at an early age.The system stopped after the American War of Independence in 1776.
Well written and researched with a few illustrations plus good notes and bibliography.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 19 March 2015
White Cargo is the interesting and revealing story of Britain's White
Slaves and indentured servants who were shipped to the American
colonies prior to the birth of the USA.

Written by Don Jordan (tv producer and director) and Michael Walsh
who used to be a reporter-presenter on World in Action for ITV, who
have brought together source material from diaries, journals, court
and government records to create this forgotten history, which was
never taught in UK schools.

From the 17th century, over a time period which spanned 170 years
more than 300,000 men, women and children were sent in conditions
of bondage, to work the land of unscrupulous plantation owners with
the full knowledge and acquiescence of the government of Britain.
Street children, orphans and the like were rounded up and shipped
away. Prostitutes were seized from brothels to breed babies which
would increase the populace in Virginia and other colonies.
Some were offered passage as "indentured servants" who believed
that they would be paid for their labour and then return home,
but few, if any, survived the harsh whippings and other punishments
with many dying of heatstroke and disease.

320 pages, with full source notes, select bibliography and indexed.
Published in 2007.
Definitely an eye-opener.
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on 24 May 2008
Table of Contents
Introduction: In the Shadow of the Myth

Chapter 1: A Place for the Unwanted: Elizabethan adventurers dreamed of an American empire that would give them gold and glory. Others saw the New World as a dumping ground for England's unwanted poor.

Chapter 2: The Judge's Dream: A highwayman who became Lord Chief Justice planned to colonise American with criminals. He began to empty England's gaols and set a precedent.

Chapter 3: The Merchant Prince: The mastermind behind the first successful English colony in America was reputedly Britain's richest man. He kept a fledging Virginia going and paved the way for the first white slaves.

Chapter 4: Children of the City: The Virginia Company wanted youngsters to work in the tobacco fields. The burghers of London wanted rid of street children. So a bargain was struck and hundreds of children were transported.

Chapter 5: The Jagged Edge: The New World was a magnet for the poor. To get there, they had to mortgage their labour in advance. They were not to know that they had contracted into slavery and might die in bondage.

Chapter 6: `They are not Dogs': Virginia was run by planters who pushed through laws that relegated "servants" and "apprentices" to the status of livestock. Notionally they had rights but planters were literally allowed to get away with murder.

Chapter 7: The People Trade: IN the 1603s, almost 80,000 people left England for the Chesapeake, New England and the Caribbean, most of them indentured servants. A ruthless trade in people developed in which even a small investor could make money.

Chapter 8: Spirited Away: Untold numbers were kidnapped or duped onto America-bound ships and sold as servants. The "spiriting" business became as insidious and organized as the cocaine racket today. Even magistrates took a cut of the proceeds.

Chapter 9: Foreigners in Their Own Land: Ethnic and religious cleansing in Ireland became a model for Native Americans being cleared from the Chesapeake. During the Cromwell era, still more were displaced and Ireland became a major source of slaves for the New World.

Chapter 10: Dissent in the North: During the 1650s, Scotland fought shy of transporting its unwanted to any English colony. Then religious and political dissent wer made punishable by transportation to the Americas. Sometimes more died on the way than ever reached the New World.
Chapter 11: The Planter from Angola: The idea that Africans were Virginia's first slaves is revealed as a myth through the story of one who became a planter himself and went on to own whites as well as blacks.

Chapter 12: 'Barbadosed': In the 1640s, Barbados became the boom economy of the New World. The tiny island's sugar industry would outperform all its rivals in profits - and in its ruthless use of slave labour.

Chapter 13: The Grandees: A planter aristocracy emerged in the Chesapeake. Its members dealt in men, land and influence, creating dynasties that dominated America for centuries. But stories of brutality deterred would be settlers from emigrating.

Chapter 14: Bacon's Rebellion: The planters' nightmare of a combined uprising by blacks and whites came true when a charismatic young aristocrat turned an Indian war into a campaign against his own class, the English grandees. Swearing never again, the grandees set out to divide the races.

Chapter 15: Queen Anne's Golden Book: Bogus promises of free land persuaded hordes of Europeans to sel up and leave for America. They began a nightmare journey that left some so impoverished they sold their children to pay the fare. But some outfoxed their exploiters.

Chapter 16: Disunity in the Union: Scottish clansmen were sold as servants in the Americas while their chieftains were allowed a comfortable exile in France - two different fates for Jacobites after 1715. Merchants made fortunes selling clansmen in six different colonies.

Chapter 17: Lost and Found: The tide of kidnapping continued under the Hanoverians. In two famous instances, victims returned, as if from the dead, to denounce their abductors. One claimed to be heir to an earldom, kidnapped by the man who stole his birthright.

Chapter 18: 'His Majesty's Seven-Year Passengers': After 1718, England subsidised the convict trade and America was deluged with British jailbirds. Paranoia grew, with soaring crime rates and epidemic blamed on convicts. Only employers were happy: a convict servant was half the price of an African slave.

Chapter 19: The Last Hurrah: Having won their liberty in the War of Independence, Americans had no intention of allowing their country to serve as a penal colony ever again. Britain had other plans and an astonishing plot was born.

Notes 283
Select Bibliography 301
Index 313

It is significant that two journalists wrote this extremely important book. Many professional historians don't want much attention paid to white slavery for fear that it will take something away from black slavery or make whites feel less compassion for black slaves. That is foolish. People must realize that anyone could (and still can) fall into bondage under whatever name if the circumstances are right. Other books that covered similar subject matter (but received little attention) are:

1) The Forgotten Cause of the Civil War: A New Look at the Slavery Issue by Lawrence R. Tenzer. Shows that white slavery was present in the antebellum American South and played an important role in increasing the tensions between North and South that led to the American Civil War.

2) The Legal History of the Color Line by Frank W. Sweet. Shows that American slave status was not truly based on "race" but on maternal descent from a female slave, regardless of race or color.

3) Whiteness of a Different Color: European Immigrants and the Alchemy of Race by Matthew Frye Jacobson. Shows how ruling planters created anti-black racism and white supremacy in order to divide the labor force and secure the help of lower class whites in putting down slave rebellions and fighting Indians.
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on 10 June 2013
This is an unusual book which tackles an overlooked aspect of British history. It should be compulsory reading for all who wish to understand not just British but New World history too
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on 13 May 2007
White Cargo is an eye-opener and rivetting. I give it five stars first because it has an astonishing new take on slavery that is unbelievable at first but becomes more and more credible as the story unfolds. My second reason is that it is also a real page turner that I couldn't put down. The main claims are that the first slaves in America were white, not black, that white slavery existed in fact though not in name for the entite colonial period and that whites outnumbered blacks in the slave gangs for much of the time. This knocks on the head the accepted story that slavery began with a shipload of Africanms in 1618. Apparently these Africans joined white men, women and children from England who were already enslaved and all were treated with equal brutality. Only much later were larege numbers of blacks brought in and enslaved.

It is a book that may well cause outrage among the politically correct by equating white with black suffering. We are schooled to think only of black bodies whipped and branded and treated as chattels in the New World, not of it happeninhg to hundreds of thousands of whites. However Jordan and Walsh havw unearthed a wealth of evidence that English paupers, orphans, vagrants and convicts were also shipped to Virginia in chains to be auctioned like cattle and treated no better than the Africans. Why have we never heard of this grim chapter in the history of American slavery? Is it more shameful to enslave your own race than another's?
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on 12 February 2010
Two journalists, Don Jordan and Michael Walsh, have written an account of what they call "The Forgotten History of Britain's White Slaves in America". "Forgotten" is over-stating the case somewhat as a number of books on Colonial-era America and indeed on Slavery have previously covered this subject. Indeed the lengthy and decent bibliography at the end of the book is testament to this, including such books as Edmund Morgan's American Slavery, American Freedom and Peter Kolchin's American Slavery. What is perhaps novel about Jordan and Walsh's book is that its audience is the general reader, and it covers this issue, as far as possible, separately from the issue of African slavery in the Americas.

At heart, the reasons for slavery, in it's purest form (African slavery) and in the form it took with regard to white Britons (Bondage, indentured servitude) was the requirement of those who plundered the land from it's Natives for labour. Without a source of labour the landlords of the New World would have been unable to turn a profit, and in the initial stages of colonization this labour was generally that of white Britons. "Recruitment" came in a manner of forms, labourers were persuaded to indenture them-selves for a period to pay for their voyage, children were kidnapped, and prisoners were offered transportation to the colonies in lieu of the hangman's noose. Another source was Ireland, Cromwell in particular loosened up the new world labour market with infusions of Irishmen and woman during his bloody conquest of that ill-starred Isle. An interesting point that the authors touch on tangentially is the fact that those Britons who were put into bondage in the New World were viewed by the elites of the time as an almost separate race, a feeling that went furthest in the case of the catholic Irish peasants. Their inferior nature is made crystal clear by the rhetoric ("Scum" "Dregs" etc) applied to them.

The book focuses primarily on the experience of Virginia and Barbados, though not to the exclusion of other parts of the new world. Unsurprisingly given that the book is written by journalists, there is ample anecdotal material, but not to the exclusion of more general observations and historical background. The experience of those dislocated was horrific: the voyage from Britain was generally a grotesque ordeal. Beatings, abuse and murder were not unusual, their labour was extracted in the most brutal conditions. Those who had indentured themselves for a period of years were often cheated out of their freedom when their "contracts" expired, and almost certainly out of whatever their dues should have been in terms of land and money. It wasn't until the later 17th century that their position began to improve with the exception of those transported for "crimes". Slavery and bondage at that point became to be strongly associated with race and Africa the chief source of it's supply.

I had a few doubts about this book before I read it, but there is no attempt on the author's behalf to minimize the plight of African slaves who after all probably out numbered the variety of Britons in bondage by a ratio of about 50 to 1, had far less chance of becoming free and carried the burden of slavery well beyond the point when they were formally freed in 1863. In short, a more than competent but less than comprehensive history, that touches upon many issues regarding coerced white labour in the Britain's North American Colonies in the context of a general account of that era.
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on 7 July 2013
This is a sensational expose of what really happened to those most unfortunate early
immigrants/early settlers to the new world. Instead of a land of opportunity, it was a life of slavery of the worst kind. This is a "must read" for anybody researching ancestors of
this period. Ship loads of unfortunates carried to the New World, to a life of miserable slavery and very early death.
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on 28 December 2014
We are taught about black slavery and the shameful part Britain played in that but I never heard a word about the white slavery that went on.

Maybe it is simply not PC to learn about the British inhumanity to the white working classes.

I think the concern was for non-Christians as many people believe that you get into heaven with some sort of points system whereby you gain points by saving souls. White slaves would have been christened when they were babies but black people from Africa were not so saving those peoples souls gained points.

I think the book was well written for the general public. There are other books aimed at scholars but they pay little heed to white slaves and indentured servants. Maybe a more scholastic book is needed but that could take 20 years and more to write so I am very glad to have come across this book.
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on 9 April 2009
Table of Contents
Introduction: In the Shadow of the Myth

Chapter 1: A Place for the Unwanted: Elizabethan adventurers dreamed of an American empire that would give them gold and glory. Others saw the New World as a dumping ground for England's unwanted poor.

Chapter 2: The Judge's Dream: A highwayman who became Lord Chief Justice planned to colonise American with criminals. He began to empty England's gaols and set a precedent.

Chapter 3: The Merchant Prince: The mastermind behind the first successful English colony in America was reputedly Britain's richest man. He kept a fledgling Virginia going and paved the way for the first white slaves.

Chapter 4: Children of the City: The Virginia Company wanted youngsters to work in the tobacco fields. The burghers of London wanted rid of street children. So a bargain was struck and hundreds of children were transported.

Chapter 5: The Jagged Edge: The New World was a magnet for the poor. To get there, they had to mortgage their labour in advance. They were not to know that they had contracted into slavery and might die in bondage.

Chapter 6: `They are not Dogs': Virginia was run by planters who pushed through laws that relegated "servants" and "apprentices" to the status of livestock. Notionally they had rights but planters were literally allowed to get away with murder.

Chapter 7: The People Trade: IN the 1603s, almost 80,000 people left England for the Chesapeake, New England and the Caribbean, most of them indentured servants. A ruthless trade in people developed in which even a small investor could make money.

Chapter 8: Spirited Away: Untold numbers were kidnapped or duped onto America-bound ships and sold as servants. The "spiriting" business became as insidious and organized as the cocaine racket today. Even magistrates took a cut of the proceeds.

Chapter 9: Foreigners in Their Own Land: Ethnic and religious cleansing in Ireland became a model for Native Americans being cleared from the Chesapeake. During the Cromwell era, still more were displaced and Ireland became a major source of slaves for the New World.

Chapter 10: Dissent in the North: During the 1650s, Scotland fought shy of transporting its unwanted to any English colony. Then religious and political dissent were made punishable by transportation to the Americas. Sometimes more died on the way than ever reached the New World.
Chapter 11: The Planter from Angola: The idea that Africans were Virginia's first slaves is revealed as a myth through the story of one who became a planter himself and went on to own whites as well as blacks.

Chapter 12: 'Barbadosed': In the 1640s, Barbados became the boom economy of the New World. The tiny island's sugar industry would outperform all its rivals in profits - and in its ruthless use of slave labour.

Chapter 13: The Grandees: A planter aristocracy emerged in the Chesapeake. Its members dealt in men, land and influence, creating dynasties that dominated America for centuries. But stories of brutality deterred would be settlers from emigrating.

Chapter 14: Bacon's Rebellion: The planters' nightmare of a combined uprising by blacks and whites came true when a charismatic young aristocrat turned an Indian war into a campaign against his own class, the English grandees. Swearing never again, the grandees set out to divide the races.

Chapter 15: Queen Anne's Golden Book: Bogus promises of free land persuaded hordes of Europeans to sel up and leave for America. They began a nightmare journey that left some so impoverished they sold their children to pay the fare. But some outfoxed their exploiters.

Chapter 16: Disunity in the Union: Scottish clansmen were sold as servants in the Americas while their chieftains were allowed a comfortable exile in France - two different fates for Jacobites after 1715. Merchants made fortunes selling clansmen in six different colonies.

Chapter 17: Lost and Found: The tide of kidnaping continued under the Hanoverians. In two famous instances, victims returned, as if from the dead, to denounce their abductors. One claimed to be heir to an earldom, kidnapped by the man who stole his birthright.

Chapter 18: 'His Majesty's Seven-Year Passengers': After 1718, England subsidised the convict trade and America was deluged with British jailbirds. Paranoia grew, with soaring crime rates and epidemic blamed on convicts. Only employers were happy: a convict servant was half the price of an African slave.

Chapter 19: The Last Hurrah: Having won their liberty in the War of Independence, Americans had no intention of allowing their country to serve as a penal colony ever again. Britain had other plans and an astonishing plot was born.

It is significant that two journalists wrote this extremely important book. Many professional historians don't want much attention paid to white slavery for fear that it will take something away from black slavery or make whites feel less compassion for black slaves. That is foolish. People must realize that anyone could (and still can) fall into bondage under whatever name if the circumstances are right. Other books that covered similar subject matter (but received little attention) are:

1) The Forgotten Cause of the Civil War: A New Look at the Slavery Issue by Lawrence R. Tenzer. Shows that white slavery was present in the antebellum American South and played an important role in increasing the tensions between North and South that led to the American Civil War.

2) Legal History of the Color Line: The Rise and Triumph of the One-Drop Rule by Frank W. Sweet. Shows that American slave status was not truly based on "race" but on maternal descent from a female slave, regardless of race or color.

3) Whiteness of a Different Color: European Immigrants and the Alchemy of Race by Matthew Frye Jacobson. Shows how ruling planters created anti-black racism and white supremacy in order to divide the labor force and secure the help of lower class whites in putting down slave rebellions and fighting Indians.
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on 10 October 2013
To people who know there history will already know about this. A lot of black people are aware of this happening i am aware. The reason they used black slaves was because they believed they were stonger. So i am told.
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