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The Case of Java
An Early Case of Using Industrial Paid Labor Instead of Slavery
Reading in a very well researched but dimly illuminated book, Terence McKenna’s Food of the Gods [1], the author mentions that in Dutch Indonesia, Javanese women were paid to have more children. Surely some of these children were sold as chattel as they were in China and England. Even if they were all sold, it was a more humane situation than Scotland, where almost all of them were kidnapped.
McKenna points out that the triangular English/African/American trade of rum/slaves to grow sugar/and sugar to make rum was economically convenient, though he does not know that English slaves cost 20% of what Africans did and far outnumbered them in the English colonies.
Certainly, it would have been inconvenient and perhaps cost prohibitive to ship European children to Java to work the sugar plantations. The voyage was three times as long as that to the West Indies, which saw a 25% middle passage death rate among Africans and Europeans, meaning that slaves shipped to Java would have died at about 75% and would mostly pass after they had already consumed an amount of food that would have gotten a starving brat from Liverpool to Jamaica mostly alive.
With the high dollar yield on alcohol distilled from sugar, paid labor in Java and expensive African slaves in the West Indies were made profitable. The cheap European slaves seem to have served two purposes: increased profit and alleviation of demographic and social pressure at home. This latter reason for shipping out the underclass from the home country can best be seen by the herculean task of shipping disgruntled laborers as convicts to Australia and other corners of the South Pacific as soon as the fledgling United States closed its doors to British convict labor.
Worry about population expansion at home and pressure on the upper class to make concessions to the underclass may also have influenced the English Crown, Parliament and Admiralty in their refusal to combat the Barbary Pirates, or to rescue or ransom captives or go to war with the nations who sent pirates to scour the coasts of the British Isles for slaves, entirely unopposed. The fact that two frigates and a crazy junior officer marching across North Africa with a platoon of volunteers managed to defeat the nation of Tripoli by order of President Thomas Jefferson in order to free American slaves, as Admiral Nelson sailed the Med with 27 ships of the line and enough sailors to storm any African city in the first decade of the 19th century, is clear proof that the English were glad to have their women, children, sailors, farmers and fisherman sold as sex slaves in distant lands—leaving ever more room for the Master Class.
Notes
-1. 1992, Bantam, NY, 312 pages
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