Rise of Plantation Economies

When the world gets over zealous in growth

Labor System

At its most rudimentary level, slavery is a labor system. Self proclaimed "masters" used slaves for a wide variety of economical tasks. However, they were not simply laborers but valuable assets to their owners. They were legally and customarily regarded as chattel to be used in the same way as land, animals, tools, and other forms of property. Thus slaves filled two economical roles such as: Laborers and Property and even used as Collateral to secure credit.

Picture: "Planter, attended by Negro driver," shows the latter holding the whip that was the ubiquitous symbol of authority.


Mechanisms varied from culture to culture, but mostly warfare was used to obtain captives. Some societies even enslaved individuals from their own society and region. Usually slaves were from opposing origin of their captors. Ex. Iberian (South West Europeans) tradition of enslaving war captives, regarded as heathens, as well as non-believers of Christianity.

In the Americas, where the worlds first extensive mixture of Caucasians, Africans and Amerindians arose; Came to define the social and legal status. This eventually became the sole criteria utilized to determine who could or could not be enslaved.

Picture: "Negres au Travail" (blacks at work). Source: Alcide Dessalines d'Orbigny, Voyage pittoresque dans les deux Amériques...(Paris, 1836), facing p. 22, fig. 4. (Copy in Special Collections Department, University of Virginia Library)

Accumulation of Slaves

The need for assistance and the absence of free workers or wage laborers is one of the initial causes for the slave trade. Towards the topic of Europeans, they desired precious metals and stones that their own region did not possess. But something they did have was power, power strong enough for them to acquire what they needed from indigenous sources. One way they would acquire wealth from indigenous people is through conquered individuals with an elite social class and preexisting political structure to mobilize labor.

Amerindian slavery was recognized long before African slavery developed on a significant scale. but the weak resilience to disease and the high morality rate of said group sparked a spur in finding other slaves.

In the middle of the 16th century, the Spanish crown and religious authorities ended the legality of indigenous slavery, for various reasons. By the second half of the century slavery was legally reduced to codes and edits to those of African descent, although Indian slavery continued in areas where colonial authority was bleak.