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Modern Voices
Thomas Davis on how Europeans handle labor in the New World
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Q: How did Europeans handle the question of labor in the New World?
Thomas Davis

A: Finding labor someplace. And where's labor to be found? Well, labor is to be found among the unemployed of English cities and other places. Those persons become indentured servants, working for two to seven years on average. Native Americans are enslaved. That is they're captured and forced to work for indefinite periods. And then, of course Africans are imported to work for indefinite periods. The colonial period is a period where labor is scarce...in the context of opportunities that are available. People see vast lands to be cultivated, they see vast lands to be developed, natural resources, huge timber stands, teeming rivers. Who is going to pull in that wealth? And labor is the absolute key to that.
Thomas J. Davis
Professor of History
Arizona State University

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