Standard Article

Bonded labor and migration, India

Migration A–Z


  1. Manoranjan Mohanty

Published Online: 4 FEB 2013

DOI: 10.1002/9781444351071.wbeghm068

The Encyclopedia of Global Human Migration

The Encyclopedia of Global Human Migration

How to Cite

Mohanty, M. 2013. Bonded labor and migration, India. The Encyclopedia of Global Human Migration. .

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 4 FEB 2013


Slavery is a hallmark in human history, a system in which people were sold and forced to work, and forced labor was closely associated with imperialism. In the modern era, slave migrations were a primary force in European mercantilism as tens of millions of people were captured, sold, and shipped from Africa to the Americas (Cohen 1995). Due to the vast profits in the slave trade that accrued to financial and commercial interests, it was essential to European mercantile capitalism (John 2006). The abolition of slavery by Britain in 1833, France and Denmark in 1848, and Holland in 1863 created new demands for cheap labor to support commerce and trade (Vertovec 1995), and the emancipation of African slaves in 1838 created a severe shortage of laborers working in sugar, coffee, tea, cocoa, rice, and rubber plantations (John 2006). Therefore, mercantile interests gradually replaced slavery with servitude and unfree labor. The terms “bonded labor,” “indentured servitude,” “peonage,” and “serfdom” are used synonymously but are different forms of servitude.


  • capitalism;
  • colonialism;
  • empire;
  • geopolitics;
  • labor supply;
  • political economy;
  • transnationalism;
  • racism