Beyond plantations: Indian and African slavery in the Illinois country, 1720–1780

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Abstract

This article offers an analysis of Indigenous and African slavery in the Illinois Country during the eighteenth century. It shows that slavery did not operate as an institution and was not organized around plantation production, but that human bondage was a set of adaptable practices. Slavery took many forms, and masters had to adapt to that diversity and, in so doing, they forged a single, heterogeneous slave system. Frenchmen brought enslaved workers of African descent to the Illinois Country, and masters worked them on grain farms to sustain an export economy. In this way, Illinois’s economy shared much with the wider Atlantic World. Yet they had to revise their slaving practices in light of the reality that indigenous forms of bondage pre-dated their arrival. In Native North America, slavery operated as a kin-based system of captivity that could structure alliances and sustain local politics between diverse groups. Masters participated in this form of slavery, and incorporated Indigenous slaves into their economies. Rather than stressing the differences that existed between diverse forms of human bondage, this article moves beyond an institutional analysis of slavery to show how slavery’s many guises mutually defined each other across generations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)489-509
Number of pages21
JournalSlavery and Abolition
Volume38
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 3 2017

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ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science

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