Competing Visions of Empire: Labor, Slavery, and the Origins of the British Atlantic Empire

Research output: Book/ReportBookpeer-review

Abstract

Abigail L. Swingen's "Competing Visions of Empire" examines the debates surrounding the provisioning of labor throughout the British Empire from the middle of the seventeenth until the early eighteenth century. She argues that while in the earlier part of this period English and colonial figures generated contesting projects for supplying labor, most quickly agreed on the value of slave labor and then gradually came to accept a "free trade" for enslaved persons as the preferred means for supplying it.

Swingen shows that different players across the British Empire competed over how to make the empire most productive. Though planters at first opted for labor strategies that encouraged migration of the English as indentured servants, those sources of labor became increasingly difficult to secure from the middle of the seventeenth century on, and planters and merchants increasingly turned to enslaved Africans. By the early 1700s, according to Swingen, a consensus had emerged that enslaved African laborers constituted the best means to increase the material wealth of the empire, and the debates instead turned to questions of how to regulate the slave trade itself.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherYale University Press
StatePublished - Jan 2015

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