Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group
The Origins of American Slavery

The Origins of American Slavery

Freedom and Bondage in the English Colonies

Hill and Wang Critical Issues

Betty Wood

Hill and Wang


Trade Paperback

The Hill and Wang Critical Issues Series: concise, affordable works on pivotal topics in American history, society, and politics.

The Origins of American Slavery is a short analysis that shows the complex rationale behind the English establishment of American slavery in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. This new assessment of a pivotal time in the formation of what was to become the United States offers thought-provoking insights into the English influence on the development of the "peculiar institution."


Praise for The Origins of American Slavery

“Wood writes with remarkable clarity about a subject that has vexed historians for decades. Illuminating, subtle, provocative, The Origins of American Slavery explains the evolution of a system of permanent bondage based on race.” —Carol Berkin, author of First Generations

“A valuable addition to the scholarship on New World slavery.” —Journal of Blacks in Higher Education

“Why did British colonists in America adopt and accept the practice of slavery so readily when there existed no model of slavery at home in Britain? Wood poses and attempts to answer this perplexing historical question by investigating the earliest origins of American slavery and the initial response of the colonists to the enslavement of West Africans. Rather than enslaving Native Americans or other Europeans, the colonists singled out Africans as their victims. The exclusive nature of this practice has led many to believe that the slave systems established in English America were rooted solely in racial prejudice. Others cite economic and demographic realities as the primary cause of the institutionalization of slavery. Wood's analysis reveals that a more complex dynamic involving a myriad of economic, cultural, social, religious, and ethnic considerations was necessary to forge the development and contribute to the widespread acceptance of slavery in the Caribbean islands and on the American mainland. An important contribution to the scholarly examination of the genesis of slavery in the U.S.” —Margaret Flanagan , Booklist

“Historian Betty Wood examines how traditions of American slavery actually began in the early British colonies before the enslavement of West Africans became largely accepted practice. Plenty of titles start history with a cursory overview of this period of time: Wood's is the only survey to examine the roots of European greed and prejudice which fueled the development of slavery in this country.” —Midwest Book Review

Reviews from Goodreads

About the author

Betty Wood

Betty Wood, a fellow of Girton College, Cambridge, is the author of several award-winning articles and two previous books on American slavery.

Betty Wood

From the Publisher

Hill and Wang

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