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UNIT 14: Land and Labor Relationships

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VIDEO SEGMENT: The Americas and the Globalization of Labor: Slavery and Resistance

This segment explores the various forms of forced labor Europeans used in the Americas after 1500. Initially, Europeans sought to force indigenous peoples to labor in mines and on agricultural estates. This, in addition to diseases brought by Europeans, resulted in dramatic loss of life. For example, nearly a half million native people died on the island of Hispaniola alone between 1492 and 1550. In Latin America, the Spanish adopted the Inkan system of forced labor — the mit'a — in order to increase their own wealth, especially in the silver mines of Potosí.

Indeed, the harshness of European labor systems in the Americas led many indigenous groups to either resist or to flee. In the Caribbean, the lack of a surviving labor force led Europeans to experiment with imported labor in order to develop the agricultural potential of the land. Quickly, African slaves became the preferred labor source in the region. Indeed, the trade in African slaves became so profitable that 12 million Africans were forced to migrate across the Atlantic between 1500 and 1800.

The transatlantic slave trade, as it became known, thus globalized the labor system of the Americas, and linked Europe, the Americas, Africa, and Asia in one single network. Its effects on Africans and African societies were huge: Some Africans gained guns and power by collaborating with slave traders, while others were subjected to appalling conditions both in the journey across the Atlantic and in the Americas. Resistance was widespread, but could not stem the tide of such a profitable global labor system.

SELECTED IMAGES AND MAPS


Anonymous, SAN FRANCISCO SOLANO WITH AN INCAN (1588). Courtesy of WorldArt Kiosk/Kathleen Cohen.

Anonymous, STOWAGE OF THE BRITISH SLAVE SHIP BROOKES UNDER THE REGULATED SLAVE TRADE ACT (1788). Courtesy of The Library of Congress.


William Cowper, A SLAVE BEING TORTURED (1826). Courtesy of The Image Works.

Theodor de Bry, SPANISH KILLING NATIVE AMERICANS (1596). Courtesy of WorldArt Kiosk/Kathleen Cohen.



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