Voices of Labor in the Atlantic World:

An Interactive Tour of Servitude, Commerce, and Travel in the 1600s and 1700s

In 1609, a Virginia Company investor explained why this privately funded expedition to America seemed so timely and potentially profitable at the time; it drew upon the ambition and desperation of growing numbers of English people who faced diminishing livelihoods at home. By that time, most of the public fields and forests of England had been privatized by nobles and industrial businesses, but Robert Gray recalled the era when

"commons of our Country lay free and open for all Common[er]s to [e]njoy,

for there was room enough in the land for every man… that in those days

we had no great need to follow strange reports, or to seek wild adventures…"

(The Many-Headed Hydra, 20)

By the mid-1500s, landowners started expelling tenant farmers and fencing most of the nation's formerly common land as part of the private estates. This economic shift set much of the newly landless population adrift, seeking other farms where they could settle or wage work in the cities, the army, or the sea. This population drift was essential to the growth of British colonies in North America as English ships transported thousands of Europeans, Africans, and Native Americans across the Atlantic in the 1600s and 1700s. Some of these passengers relocated voluntarily; most were forced abroad due to enslavement, criminal punishment, or legal proscriptions for education.

This activity introduces you to individuals who worked as part of the British labor system that eventually dominated the Atlantic trade in the colonial era. These case studies complicate the narrative of American colonial history as a search for religious freedom. Specifically, you will get to know more about people who were transported unwillingly to various parts of North America for someone else's economic and political gain. By learning about them, you will also practice analyzing primary and secondary historical sources related to the following major HIST 1301 key terms:

- Trans-Atlantic slave trade

- middle passage

- indentured servitude

- Virginia Company

- triangular trade

-cash crops/ staple crops

- mercantilism

- Bacon's Rebellion

- epidemics