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Slavery and Labour Contracts: Rethinking Their Nexus

  • Ulbe Bosma (a1)


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1 For comparative work within the British Empire, see Douglas Hay and Paul Craven (eds), Masters, Servants, and Magistrates in Britain & the Empire, 1562–1955 (Chapel Hill, NC, 2004). For a review of this book, see Ahuja, Ravi, “Making the Empire a Thinkable Whole: Master and Servant Law in Transterritorial Perspective”, International Review of Social History, 52:2 (2007), pp. 287294 .

2 This term was introduced into the academic literature by Hugh Tinker. See his A New System of Slavery: The Export of Indian Labour Overseas, 1830–1920 (London, 1974).

3 Dipesh Chakrabarty, Provincializing Europe: Postcolonial Thought and Historical Difference, [original] 2000 edition, p. 12, and ibid., Provincializing Europe: Postcolonial Thought and Historical Difference (Princeton, NJ, 2009), p. xiii.

4 See Rice, C. Duncan, “‘Humanity Sold for Sugar!’ The British Abolitionist Response to Free Trade in Slave-Grown Sugar”, The Historical Journal, 13:3 (1970), pp. 402418 .

5 Steinfeld, Robert J., Coercion, Contract, and Free Labor in the Nineteenth Century (Cambridge, 2001), p. 33 .

6 Hay and Craven, Masters, Servants, and Magistrates, p. 5.

7 Yen Ching-hwang, A Social History of the Chinese in Singapore and Malaya, 1800–1911 (Singapore [etc.], 1986), p. 5.

8 Deerr, Noël, The History of Sugar, 2 vols (London, 1949–1950), II, p. 264.

9 See Tinker, A New System of Slavery, and Tinker, Hugh, “A Forgotten Long March: The Indian Exodus from Burma, 1942”, Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, 6:1 (1975), pp. 115 .

10 The first coolie ordonnance in the Dutch East Indies was, not coincidentally, issued in 1868 and was aimed at deceit and coercion during recruitment. See Bosma, Ulbe, “Dutch Imperial Anxieties about Free Labour, Penal Sanctions and the Right to Strike”, in Alessandro Stanziani (ed.), Labour, Coercion, and Economic Growth in Eurasia, 17th—20th Centuries (Leiden [etc.], 2013), pp. 6386, 81 .

11 See Siew Yoong, Ng, “The Chinese Protectorate in Singapore, 1877–1900”, Journal of Southeast Asian History, 2:1 (1961), pp. 7699 .

12 This figure is often cited for the Chinese overseas migrations. See, for example, Hoerder, Dirk, Cultures in Contact: World Migrations in the Second Millennium (Durham, NC [etc.], 2002), p. 377 .

13 Memorandum from Britain’s Ambassador to the Netherlands, National Archive, The Hague, Verbaal 1064, 12 March 1836, no. 14.

14 The Second Slavery concept was coined in 1988 by Dale Tomich to refer to the continuation of slavery after the mid-nineteenth century in Brazil, Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Louisiana after the system had been abolished in the British colonies. See Tomich, Dale, “The ‘Second Slavery’: Bonded Labor and the Transformation of the Nineteenth-Century World Economy”, in Francisco O. Ramirez (ed.), Rethinking the Nineteenth Century: Contradictions and Movements (Westport, CT, 1988), pp. 103117 . For Dale Tomich’s article on this subject, see elsewhere in the present issue. See also, for example, Cooper, Frederick, Plantation Slavery on the East Coast of Africa (New Haven, CT, 1977), pp. 4345 in particular. See also Sheriff, Abdul, Slaves, Spices, & Ivory in Zanzibar: Integration of an East African Commercial Empire into the World Economy, 1770–1873 (Athens, OH, 1987); Warren, James Francis, The Sulu Zone 1768–1898: The Dynamics of External Trade, Slavery, and Ethnicity in the Transformation of a Southeast Asian Maritime State (Singapore, 1981).

15 Austin, Gareth, “Cash Crops and Freedom: Export Agriculture and the Decline of Slavery in Colonial West Africa”, International Review of Social History, 54:1 (2009), pp. 137, 17 ; Warren, The Sulu Zone.

16 Gwyn Campbell, “Children and Forced Labour in the Indian Ocean World, circa 1750–1900”, in Stanziani, Labour, Coercion, and Economic Growth in Eurasia, pp. 87–112, 95.

17 He does this by citing Victor Lieberman, “A Zone of Refuge in Southeast Asia? Reconceptualizing Interior Spaces”, Journal of Global History, 5:2 (2010), pp. 333–346, 339.

18 Warren, The Sulu Zone.

19 See, for example, Bigalke, Terance William, Tana Toraja: A Social History of an Indonesian People (Singapore, 2005). For contemporary sources see van Braam Morris, D.F., “Het Landschap Loehoe, Getrokken uit een Rapport van den Gouverneur van Celebes”, Tijdschrift voor Indische Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde, 32:5 (1889), pp. 498555 , 514-516; [anon.], “De Lampongsche Distrikten op het eiland Sumatra”, Tijdschrift voor Nederlandsch-Indië, 14 (1852), pp. 245–275 and 309–333, 320.

20 See Hopper, Matthew S., “Slaves of One Master: Globalization and the African Diaspora in Arabia in the Age of Empire”, in Robert Harms et al. (eds), Indian Ocean Slavery in the Age of Abolition (New Haven, CT, 2013), pp. 223240 .

21 Quirk signals this mentality among civil servants in Africa, but it holds equally for Southeast Asia: Quirk, Joel, The Anti-Slavery Project: From the Slave Trade to Human Trafficking (Philadelphia, PA, 2011), p. 11 ; Stanziani, Alessandro, Sailors, Slaves, and Immigrants: Bondage in the Indian Ocean World, 1750–1914 (New York, 2014), p. 132 .

22 Falola, Toyin, “The End of Slavery among the Yoruba”, in Suzanne Miers and Martin A. Klein (eds), Slavery and Colonial Rule in Africa (Abingdon, 2006), pp. 232249, 236 .

23 Salman, Michael, The Embarrassment of Slavery: Controversies Over Bondage and Nationalism in the American Colonial Philippines (Berkeley, CA [etc.], 2001).

24 Davis, Kingsley, The Population of India and Pakistan (New York, 1951), p. 100 .

25 For the Javanese workers to British Malaya see, for example, Parmer, J. Norman, Colonial Labor Policy and Administration: A History of Labor in the Rubber Plantation Industry in Malaya, c.1910–1941 (New York, 1960), p. 109 .

26 McKeown, Adam, Melancholy Order: Asian Migration and the Globalization of Borders (New York, 2008), pp. 113118 .

27 Lin Ken, Wong, The Malayan Tin Industry to 1914 (Tucson, AZ, 1965), pp. 97, 185, 203, 223225 ; Jackson, R.N., Immigrant Labour and the Development of Malaya 1786–1920 (Kuala Lumpur, 1961), p. 113 . The power of the labour gangs has also been noted for plantations in South India. Paul E. Baak, “About Enslaved Ex-Slaves, Uncaptured Contract Coolies and Unfreed Freedmen: Some Notes about ‘Free’ and ‘Unfree’ Labour in the Context of Plantation Development in Southwest India, Early Sixteenth Century-Mid 1990s”, Modern Asian Studies, 33:1 (1999), pp. 121–157, 139.

28 Steinfeld, Robert J., The Invention of Free Labor: The Employment Relation in English & American Law and Culture, 1350–1870 (Chapel Hill, NC, 1991), p. 15 . See also idem, Coercion, Contract, and Free Labor, pp. 29, 76.

29 Cottereau, Alain, “Droit et bon droit. Un droit des ouvriers instauré, puis évincé par le droit du travail (France, XIXe siècle)”, Annales. Histoire, Sciences Sociales, 57:6 (2002), pp. 15211557 , 1535–1536.

30 See Lucassen, Jan, “Labour and Early Modern Development”, in Karel Davids and Jan Lucassen (eds), A Miracle Mirrored: The Dutch Republic in European Perspective (Cambridge, 1995), pp. 367409 .

31 Schoelcher, Victor, L’arrêté Gueydon à la Martinique et l’arrêté Husson à la Guadeloupe (Paris, 1872).

32 Bosma, “Dutch Imperial Anxieties”, p. 72.

33 See for the Dutch case Schrauwers, Albert, “The ‘Benevolent’ Colonies of Johannes van den Bosch: Continuities in the Administration of Poverty in the Netherlands and Indonesia”, Comparative Studies in Society and History, 43:2 (2001), pp. 298328, 299 .

34 A.F. van Blommestein, Ontwerp eener Ordonnantie tot Regeling van den Arbeid van den elders afkomstige Personen in Bedrijven, welke in het Gewest Oostkust van Sumatra geheel of gedeeltelijk buiten de Bevolkingscentra Worden Uitgeoefend, en Memorie van Toelichting, in Voldoening aan eene Opdracht van den Minister van Koloniën Samengesteld (s.l., s.a).

35 ILO, “Forced Labour, Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking”, available at:; last accessed on 2 July 2018.

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Slavery and Labour Contracts: Rethinking Their Nexus

  • Ulbe Bosma (a1)


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