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Indian Ocean indentured labor, 19th and early 20th century

Migration A–Z

I

  1. Richard B. Allen

Published Online: 4 FEB 2013

DOI: 10.1002/9781444351071.wbeghm293

The Encyclopedia of Global Human Migration

The Encyclopedia of Global Human Migration

How to Cite

Allen, R. B. 2013. Indian Ocean indentured labor, 19th and early 20th century. The Encyclopedia of Global Human Migration. .

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 4 FEB 2013

Abstract

The 19th and early 20th centuries witnessed the migration of more than three million men, women, and children from eastern Africa, East Asia, and South Asia throughout the Indian Ocean to satisfy the demand for free (nonslave) workers in French and especially British colonies in this part of the world. The origins of these free migrant labor trades to the Mascarene Islands (Mauritius, Réunion), Ceylon (Sri Lanka), Malaya, and East and South Africa between the mid-1820s and late 1930s may be traced to various developments: the dramatic expansion of slave trading in the Indian Ocean during the late 18th and early 19th centuries to satisfy the demand for labor in European colonies; the abolition of the British and French slave trades in 1807 and 1818, respectively, and then of slavery in these colonial empires in 1834 and 1848, respectively; the transportation of Indian and Ceylonese convicts to British settlements and possessions beginning in the late 18th century; and the development of colonial plantation economies during the 19th century to produce tropical commodities for export to imperial and global markets. The legacy of these labor trades continues to influence social, economic, cultural, and political life in the former British colonies that acquired independence during the late 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s.

Keywords:

  • Asia;
  • empire;
  • slavery;
  • labor supply;
  • political economy