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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Indian indentured migration and the forced labour debate
Author:Carter, MarinaISNI
Periodical:Itinerario: European Journal of Overseas History
Geographic terms:Mauritius
Great Britain
contract labour
Abstract:The migrants who left India to work on colonial sugar plantations in the 19th century have been variously categorized as neo-slaves or as voluntary black settlers. This paper assesses some of the recent historical claims and revisionist interpretations of Indian indentured labour and takes up a number of themes based on the case of Mauritius to highlight important aspects of this colonial labour diaspora. It shows that in spite of the very specific conditions which occasioned the importation of Indian labour, and the numerous links which tied indenture to the slave work practices which had preceded it, the post-emancipation Indian diaspora was scarcely akin to a 'new system of slavery'. The characteristics of indentured immigrants reflected a degree of political control which at certain points was in direct conflict with the short-term economic interest of the planters, the presence of women being a case in point. If one considers material conditions and restrictions on liberty during the period of the contract, it is clear that indentured workers were certainly not 'free'. The conditions under which Indian labour was recruited exhibit characteristics of both the so-called settler and forced migrations and perhaps provide the best evidence that the practice of defining such labour streams in terms of volition or coercion is unwise and unhelpful. Ref.