Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “White Cargo: The Forgotten History of Britain's White Slaves in America” as Want to Read:
White Cargo: The Forgotten History of Britain's White Slaves in America
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

White Cargo: The Forgotten History of Britain's White Slaves in America

3.89  ·  Rating Details ·  338 Ratings  ·  63 Reviews
White Cargo is the forgotten story of the thousands of Britons who lived and died in bondage in Britain s American colonies.

In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, more than 300,000 white people were shipped to America as slaves. Urchins were swept up from London s streets to labor in the tobacco fields, where life expectancy was no more than two years. Brothels were
Paperback, 320 pages
Published March 1st 2008 by New York University Press (first published February 28th 2008)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Oct 29, 2011 Bill rated it really liked it
Every time I think I have a fairly reasonable understanding of American history, a book like this comes along and makes me feel gloriously ignorant. This is a fantastically detailed history of white indentured servitude in the early colonial period. Needless to say, it wasn't at all like we were taught in school and astonishingly brutal. I don't want to give away the ending, but I do want to say that I cannot recommend this book strongly enough.
BAM The Bibliomaniac
During the early centuries of the British colonies hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children were shipped from England and Ireland to serve as forced labor, many of them enslaved. Some of the children were mere toddlers, the parents hoping for a better life for them. The adults were either convicts, vagrants, or Catholics. Many of them were kidnapped.
Ir is thought that " black slavery emerged out of white servitude," the only difference being that those white servants who survived the b
Robert Owen
“White Cargo” is the history of pre-Revolutionary white indentured servitude in North America. It is a story that is as unloved and it is, unlovely; yet Jordan and Walsh bring the institution, its victims and its compelling consequences to life in this fascinating, layman-friendly read.

Beginning with the story of Jamestown’s founding in 1607, the authors recount how, over a century and a half, wave after wave of various cohorts of people were transported as a cheap, convenient labor source to t
Oct 28, 2011 BarbaraNathalie rated it it was amazing
I remember learning about indentured servants while in high school, never thinking beyond the assistance given to people who wanted to reach America in the seventeen and eighteen hundreds. So they paid for their passage by working off their seven years to their sponsers. So what, young Barbara Nathalie probably thought. They were lucky to get here, avoiding starvation and the lack of opportunity in the British Isles. After all, they weren't like the blacks who could never even hope for anything ...more
Kathleen Riley-Daniels
White Cargo: The Forgotten History of Britain's White Slaves in America was a good resource for my research into the connection between Britain and Barbados.

I'm currently piecing together the story of my 8th great-grandfather and his journey from Lord of the Manor to slave on a sugar plantation in Barbados to land owner in the USA. It was quite an adventure, and I am reading lots of books about the white slave trade.

As a child, I recall learning about slaves being kidnapped from their native l
Simon Wood
Sep 08, 2013 Simon Wood rated it really liked it

Two journalists, Don Jordan and Michael Walsh, have written an account of what they call "The Forgotten History of Britain's White Slaves in America". "Forgotten" is over-stating the case somewhat as a number of books on Colonial-era America and indeed on Slavery have previously covered this subject. Indeed the lengthy and decent bibliography at the end of the book is testament to this, including such books as Edmund Morgan's "American Slavery, American Freedom" and Peter Kolchin's
H Wesselius
Jan 08, 2014 H Wesselius rated it liked it
The indentured servant trade of colonial America is often overlooked and Jordan's White Cargo does an excellent of correcting this oversight. In this well detailed recounting of this barely mentioned past, the nature and origin of American slavery can be seen beyond the color line. Within all the detail, the legal framework which allowed indentured service to become near slavery is shown to provide the foundation when the African slaves first arrived. Two things are missing -- a better explorati ...more
Ed Hillenbrand
Jun 18, 2015 Ed Hillenbrand rated it really liked it
Some people talk of hating all people equally, the English of the 17th and 18th century lived it. They kidnapped and sold into slavery their own children! The “Powers That Be” at this time were mean spirited, miserable wretches that in fact did enslave many from the British Isles. This book gives some frightening statistics and the method of operandi of those who committed these heinous crimes, from Cromwell to the meanest street thug. A must read for anyone going to teach about colonial America ...more
Mary Catelli
Apr 03, 2016 Mary Catelli rated it really liked it
Shelves: history-modern

A history of colonial America's indenture servitude.

In which the "servants" were bought and sold as chattel, and their time limit was often nominal, because they would die first (often owing to their masters' neglect), because they would have years tacked on as punishment for this or that, or because their masters simply refused to free them, and either they could not appeal to the courts or the courts backed their masters on specious grounds -- or even didn't pretend they had grounds.

Covers the
Nov 17, 2011 Jael rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own, history
Another book I'm reading for my US history paper that I'm writing about Colonial America use of convicts as indentured servants or white slavery. The previous two books I've read on the subject was Emigrants in Chains and Bound for America. I found this book to repeat some of the same things brought up in the other ones, but I would prefer this one over the others in that the depth in which he does to explaining situations. For example, in Bound for America Ekirch stated a case where a convict h ...more
Paul Brandel
Dec 07, 2014 Paul Brandel rated it really liked it
This was an eye-opening history book,about white slavery in America.I learned alot about the so-called endentured servants.Make no mistake they were slaves.They were treated miserably and many died before their 4-7 years of bondage were up.How the British authories were so damn cold harded to the poor not only in Ireland and Scotland,but to their fellow women,men and children.
Loved the writers accounts on Peter Williamson,a 13 deceived to go on an exciting adventure.He nearly lost his life beca
Terry Lloyd
White Cargo: The Forgotten History of Britain's White Slaves is a thorough detailed account of the misery and depth of inhumanity metered out to the poor and vulnerable white citizens of Great Britain in the past. It should be noted that slavery in various forms is still present in the UK and throughout the World. Colour should not be a debating point as to which slaves suffer the most. I was once berated by a coloured gentleman that my forefathers had made his slaves. This book does show a more ...more
Whitney Hassell
May 26, 2015 Whitney Hassell rated it really liked it
This book should be required reading in schools. This book gives and easy-to-follow, accurate, balanced account of indentured servitude and slavery, both black and white, started in 16th century Britain and played out in the American colonies. I learned a great deal from this book (white slaves arrived in America months before African slaves did, and the first person to enslave another for life was a black man enslaving another black man), and I believe everyone should give it a read. It's a lit ...more
Jan 29, 2016 DeadWeight rated it it was ok
Book is dogged by a degree of dangerous white apologism (as should be imagined from the title alone) and some of what the book posits as historical fact is highly contested / sometimes outright false. Still - milled from its inaccuracies and its politics, a shocking depiction of the history of indentured servitude, and thus the roots of modern capitalism.
Feb 04, 2015 Marta rated it did not like it
Shelves: did-not-finish
I thought one of his quotations was odd, so I flipped to the back to check the source, and was ... confused.... because he seems to have based most of his work on 19th century secondary sources and Howard Zinn. And at one point, the "Penguin History of the United States of America." I'm going to find another book about this subject.
Caribbean Lgbt
Sep 18, 2013 Caribbean Lgbt marked it as to-read
American chattel slavery did not begin with a racial hierarchy, it was about financial opportunity - all people were enslaved during the colonial era - whites without means were slaves like any other cargo!
Mar 30, 2012 Teresa rated it it was ok
Interesting information about the slavery euphemistically known as indentured servitude but dry... Better for research than for reading;-)
Jul 28, 2008 Meave rated it liked it
Good information; kept falling asleep while reading it. Partially my fault though.
Dec 17, 2016 Deborah rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
This book explores the white slavery in the early years of America. White slaves continued up until about 1820. This is something you never hear about in history class. The authors present the beginnings of slavery and the attitudes that became part of the American attitudes.

A very enlightening book.
Mel Foster
Aug 04, 2016 Mel Foster rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: those interested in colonial history, slavery, race issues
Shelves: history, liberty, slavery
I live a short distance from the Glenn Curtiss Museum. Every American can tell you what the Wright Brothers did. But few know of Glenn Curtiss. He didn't make the "narrative" being sold in textbooks, though he deserved to. We tend to learn history in abstractions, often mythologized and viewed through rose-colored glasses, or rather the green glasses required by order of the man behind the curtain. Mr. Jordan and Mr. Walsh would like us to take off our glasses with respect to slavery and servitu ...more
Aug 09, 2016 Relstuart rated it really liked it
Before 1776 three classes of people were sent into slavery in the colonies that now make up the USA. First, the children, some dispatched by poverty stricken parents hoping by sending their children to be servants in the New World they might end up having a better life. "In fact, they were sold to planters to work in the fields and half of them died within a year." Shipments of children from England and Ireland continued for decades. It was not rare for the children to be very young, even toddle ...more
Nov 18, 2015 Donnell rated it it was ok
A bit too academic--could not get past the, sometimes repetitious, recitation of facts to get a feeling of the people, the pain, the emotions involved.

Good background, though, on how slavery arose in North America. It begins in a lawless world about the time of Jamestown, and fills a need back in England to get rid of its human refuse--poor children running through the streets, post-war soldiers whose energy and exuberance tended to overfill the jails.

Also forget that pass you want to give to
Jun 10, 2015 Kenneth rated it really liked it
It's ironic that the original sin of "the land of the free" should be slavery. It has radically deformed American society from the first colonies to the latest police shooting. DA Blackmon's SLAVERY BY ANOTHER NAME shows how vagrancy laws and the like were designed to feed Black men, in particular, into a prison-industrial complex based on the slave labor of convicts. Nowadays, onerous court fees routinely turn minor traffic infractions into life sentences for the poor. In a very literal sense, ...more
Tom Johnson
Jun 24, 2015 Tom Johnson rated it really liked it
notable hidden history - given the historical brutality of both the English and our own elite it is small wonder that we have developed a criminal "justice" system that leads the world in incarcerating such a high percentage of our people - the same motive down through the years, profit, bloody profit - the attitudes of civic leaders of the colonial times varies little with those of today - poverty = moral turpitude, the poor never had it so good, and worse - 1620 through 1820 (1820s before whit ...more
Trevor McGuire
Jan 20, 2016 Trevor McGuire rated it really liked it
While informative in general, two things stick out to me about this book. First, the authors assume that the reader has a rather substantial knowledge of European history and specifically British royalty. While it doesn't necessarily take away from the book, it would help to know what Earls, Dukes, etc are, and how they stack up.

The second thing I noticed is based on the fact that is taught to every American child that black slavery was prominent and horrible during the European settlement of No
Sep 26, 2016 Tanya rated it liked it
Shelves: history
It's probably politically incorrect to say this, but before there were African slaves in America, there were white slaves. They were called indentured servants, but the only difference between their treatment and that of black slaves in the colonial era is that their periods of servitude were not necessarily for life. These men, women, and children were sold, bartered, separated from their families, starved, beaten, and overworked, and huge numbers of them died before they had a chance to taste ...more
May 07, 2016 Emily rated it really liked it
I appreciate this British perspective (the authors are British) on slave labor (mostly) before the Revolutionary War in America. Slavery can often be such an emotional and taboo subject that it's difficult to grasp the timeline of history without being overloaded with moral overtones, racism, and reverse-racism. Those with more power have taken advantage of those with less power throughout history, so I appreciated this different-than-I've-read-before perspective. It has helped me to understand ...more
Dec 28, 2014 TKay rated it it was amazing
Really enjoyed this book. I got it because I suspect one of my mom's ancestor's was an indentured servant (traced him back to service in the American Revolution but can find nothing prior to that) and expected the usual dry history book. I was wrong. This is a very readable history book, and I couldn't put it down. If you enjoy learning about the past, then you'll love this book.

Note:when I checked out the reviews for this book on Amazon, I was amazed at the number of reviews from people who did
Jenna Amundson
Jan 02, 2016 Jenna Amundson rated it it was amazing
I had a hard time finishing this book. Each chapter was tough for me to read, but I did it. I always wondered who decided the value of a skin color and I found my answer in this book. I never understood that America was built on the backs first of white slaves, many illegally sold or shipped from England or Ireland, and then on the backs of black slaves.

I'm not an expert, hardly, but the research seemed diligent and unbiased, from a lot of different historical sources. Now I have an entire list
Heather Leasor
Dec 06, 2015 Heather Leasor rated it really liked it
Stunning. The amount of information we are not told in high school regarding this part of our history is shameful. This book, or at least parts of it, should be made mandatory reading. It is a lot of information to digest but important to understanding a very large key of where our country evolved from and developed. much like learning the origins of Jamestown, white slavery was around way before black slavery yet it only looked at as indentured servitude. this is so wrong on so many levels. I a ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • To Hell or Barbados: The Ethnic Cleansing of Ireland
  • Blood and Politics: The History of the White Nationalist Movement from the Margins to the Mainstream
  • The  Slave Ship: A Human History
  • The Invention of the White Race: Racial Oppression and Social Control (Volume 1) (Haymarket Series)
  • Voyagers to the West: A Passage in the Peopling of America on the Eve of the Revolution
  • Saltwater Slavery: A Middle Passage from Africa to American Diaspora
  • Inhuman Bondage: The Rise and Fall of Slavery in the New World
  • The Many-Headed Hydra: Sailors, Slaves, Commoners, and the Hidden History of the Revolutionary Atlantic
  • The First Frontier: The Forgotten History of Struggle, Savagery, and Endurance in Early America
  • Grass Beyond the Mountains: Discovering the Last Great Cattle Frontier on the North American Continent
  • The Enlightenment: The Science of Freedom
  • Crusade Against the Grail: The Struggle between the Cathars, the Templars, and the Church of Rome
  • Wall Street and the Bolshevik Revolution
  • When London Was Capital of America
  • Root and Branch: Charles Hamilton Houston, Thurgood Marshall, and the Struggle to End Segregation
  • Craze: Gin and Debauchery in An Age of Reason
  • The Second Bill of Rights: FDR's Unfinished Revolution--And Why We Need It More Than Ever
  • Our Town: A Heartland Lynching, a Haunted Town, and the Hidden History of White America

Share This Book

“It is difficult to picture the rich, hard-nosed advisors of James I being overly concerned about the rights of vagabonds and felons. But this was a period that was especially suspicious of arbitrary acts by the Crown against individuals. There was no law enabling the crown to exile anyone, including the baser convict, into forced labour. According to legal scholars, the Magna Carta itself protected even them. The Privy Councillors therefore dressed up what was to befall the convicts and presented the decree authorising their transportation as an act of royal mercy. The convicts were to be reprieved from death in exchange for accepting transportation. (71-71)” 0 likes
More quotes…