History of slavery of white people in western christian nations

The history of black slavery in the west pretty well known by me (where the slaves came from, the abolition timeline of various states and nations, attempts to get around abolition via peonage, etc), but what is the history of white slavery in all its forms (actual slavery, feudalism, indentured servitude, forced apprenticeship, etc) in western christian nations over the last few hundred years?

Example, I just found out today that many white people brought to the US in the 17th and 18th century were indentured servants. I didn’t know that, I assumed they all came voluntarily. The terms of indentured servitude are not too well known by me. I’ve heard people were released after a certain time (maybe 7 years of work, maybe at age 21 or 28) but I don’t know if that is what happened in the real world.

How did the forms of slavery vary, and when were they abolished? Feudalism was abolished in Russia in 1861, I was under the impression feudalism was similar to slavery. I have no idea what the abolition timelines were in places like England, Canada, Germany, etc.

As I understand it, it was easy enough for an indentured slave to just walk out on his master, especially when the frontier was still near the Atlantic. Being sent across the pond was already sufficient punishment for the slave.

Some of the indentured servants were far from volunteers.

One of my ancestors was among the Scottish prisoners captured by Cromwell at the Battle of Dunbar in 1650. The prisoners were sold as indentured servants in the colonies

Indentured servants are servants that have what’s called an indenture. The practice became common when colonization of America started, because getting there tended to be expensive, and because keeping employees in America could be difficult (Employees tended to quit and set up their own farms.) Generally, the way the indenture worked is that the master would pay for the servant to go to America, and in exchange, the servant would agree to work for the master for a fixed period of time (usually 5 years, or until the servant turned 25). In the case of people like the Irish and Scottish prisoners after the battles in the Civil War, the indenture was involuntary and served as a penal measure.

I’m not an expert in Russian serfdom, but I believe that Russian serfs had one distinct advantage over outright slaves: they weren’t bought or sold, at least not directly. Russian nobles couldn’t (or maybe just didn’t) sell their serfs to the next Count over. Serfdom was pretty thoroughly evil, but it wasn’t chattel slavery. In addition, things were still very nasty for peasants in Russia right up through the 1917 Revolution, abolishing serfdom notwithstanding.

Yup. Basically serfs were not owned by people; they were tied to the land.

You also need to consider Britain’s policy of establishing penal colonies, where convicts provided the unfree labour that in other contexts was provided by slaves.

The catch of being an indentured servant was the high death rate. The majority of new immigrants to Virginia died before their seven years were up. And their master had no reason to provide good health care - if the servant died during their term of service, the master inherited their land allotment.

Eventually conditions in Virginia improved and people started having longer life expectancies. Landowners started thinking long-term and lifetime slaves became a better investment than indentured servants.

Another aspect of white slavery was the fact that a lot of slaves who were legally regarded as black actually had mixed ancestry. Some of them had majority white ancestry.

I can stand to be corrected on this, but I do recall reading that “white slavery” was a common institutionalized practice in Europe up until the middle ages. Slavery is still practiced in Europe, but on a smaller scale, and largely involves criminal organizations selling women from Eastern Europe into the sex trade.

In the Middle Ages, it was apparently common practice for parents from northern and eastern Europe to sell their children for transportation to the slave markets in France. Here they were sold, mainly to Arabs from the Middle East.

I recall reading that there were at least two slaving centers in France, but I can’t recall in which towns they were located. However, I do recall that the markets were physically located in the market squares, adjacent to the cathedrals.

Also, the name “Slavs” was the common name for the white slaves in Europe.

Since I am relying on my vague memory, I have no cites, but would be interested in any that anyone else can provide.

After the American Revolution, the British Empire needed a new place to dump the “criminals.” So Australia became a penal colony…

I believe Georgia was the only British colony in North America that was used as a penal colony.

Most convicts shipped to North America ended up in Maryland and Virginia. Georgia was never used as a penal colony, except for one ship with 40 Irish prisoners who were settled in Georgia after they weren’t allowed into Jamaica. Oglethorpe had originally set up Georgia with the idea of it being a debtor’s colony, but the trustees dropped that pretty quick, one of the trustees noting “that many of the poor who had been useless in England were inclined to be useless likewise in Georgia.”, and deciding to try to encourage settlement of Georgia by displaced Highlanders and German Protestants suffering discrimination.

So in short, Georgia was going to be a debtor’s colony until the people there realized that debtors tended to be poor and they didn’t want a bunch of poor people running around their colony.

This is a good example of Civil War era white slaves.

It also depends on what you mean by ‘black’ versus ‘white’. Even slavery in the Antebellum South was more of a legal institution rather than a purely racial one. Louisiana for example had a complicated racial and legal structure based on rules that are foreign to us now. There were many free blacks, some of which owned slaves themselves although lighter skinned blacks, as a general rule, had a higher status than darker ones.

Indentured servitude is certainly one form of white slavery but there were also people that appeared to be completely white yet were enslaved because of their legal status. Most people know for example that Thomas Jefferson had an affair with one of his slaves - Sally Hemings. What is less known is that she was only 1/4 black and also his sister in law through his deceased wife’s side of the family. The resulting children were only 1/8 black and were also slaves (four survived into adulthood).

I don’t know much about the offspring about their children but it would have been perfectly plausible for them to have interbred with other white people for a few more generations and still have legal slaves that are 1/64th black or less. Many similar cases were inevitable.

According to my dictionary, “Slav” is the origin of the word slave.

As late as the 19th century, it was legal for Romany people to be sold as slaves as well.

I’ve also read that Hemings shared a strong resemblance to her half-sister Martha, who was Jefferson’s deceased wife. Which makes the entire relationship even creepier than it already was.