Lecturer Ingerick Ryan

129000 €

Before the Departure: A Comparison of the Socioeconomic Dimensions of Indentured Servitude in the Nordic States and Great Britain During the 17th and 18th Centuries

Tieteellinen tutkimus / siihen pohjautuva työ | Nelivuotinen

The following proposed research plan will explore indentured servitude in the Nordic states during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Indentured servitude was an institution of compulsory labor in which men and women signed a contract, known as an indenture, to work as a bound servant for a specified period of time. Servants performed a variety of tasks. In Denmark and Norway, the institution proved instrumental in the expansion of each state’s aspiration toward becoming a colonial empire. Following Great Britain's example, they adopted servitude at home and abroad. This study will focus on the institution as it existed in the Nordic states of Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Finland, comparing it with the institution as it existed in Great Britain. Specifically, it will explore the following questions: What was the nature of indentured servitude in the Nordic states before servants were transported to the New World? What were their rights? How were they perceived by society and the law? How did they see one another? An analysis of the extant records of the West Indian and Guinean Company (Vestindisk-Guineisk Kompagni) and Danish-Norweigian West Indies found in the Danish National Archives, as well as, an analysis of the East India Company and the Virginia Company records found in the British National Archive, London Metropolitan Archive, Dutch National Archives, and the Old Bailey Archive reveals that story. Adopting Orlando Patterson’s notion of social death as a framework, the proposed research plan will also place Nordic servitude within the context of other systems of forced labor in the West. This research will draw legal and social comparisons between British indentured servitude and that of the Denmark-Norway and Sweden-Finland. Indentured servitude was a vital, if unjust, part of the economic makeup of European colonialism and the growth of European colonial holdings during the early modern era.