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White Slaves of England

(75 Posts)
Joelsnan Tue 31-Dec-19 07:29:56

Whilst researching the mining industry a a result of reading the book ‘Black Diamonds’ by Catherine Bailey. I came across this book:

^THE WHITE SLAVES OF ENGLAND (1854) Kindle Edition
by JOHN C COBDEN (Author)^

This book, written in 1854 is an eye opener to the conditions of the general U.K. population stating in one instance that * slaves in the colonies were treated better.
This is grim reading but a true reflection of the times and should be a must read for all.
It is available for free download.

LullyDully Tue 31-Dec-19 08:26:27

As I have always understood, the workers in Britain and in fact else where , were badly treated by the industrial/ farming owners. Of course they were not treated quite like the African slaves but still in an inhumane way.

I have often wondered about my own ancestors, none of whom had "powerful" jobs.

Joelsnan Tue 31-Dec-19 08:31:58

Educate yourself, read the book I think you will find your assumptions woefully incorrect.

Daisymae Tue 31-Dec-19 08:36:28

Will certainly look this up. Thanks for posting

SirChenjin Tue 31-Dec-19 08:54:29

When you say that in one instance the slaves in the colonies were treated better than the general U.K. population, can you elaborate? I won't have time to read the book in the next few days but I'm very curious.

Joelsnan Tue 31-Dec-19 09:14:13


The book describes each region of the U.K. including Ireland the description of conditions are truly tear jerking and distressing

These are just a couple of comments made by the writer.

‘The lowest of savages are not worse cared for than these children of a luxurious and refined country." Yet other authorities’

‘Thus the English peasant is driven to the most constant and yet hopeless labour, with whips more terrible than those used by the master of the negro slave. In Wales, the condition of the peasant,’

If you can find time to read it I would urge you to.

SirChenjin Tue 31-Dec-19 09:32:30

It all sounds very interesting - but surely not typical of the general UK population? It sounds like some of the very poorest of society were beaten by their 'owners', but not loaded onto ships or tortured or sold at market or split from their families or denied any human rights or any of the other atrocities meted out to slaves in the colonies for generations. I could be wrong though - as I said, I haven't read the book, but I'm not aware of that being widespread amongst the general population from my knowledge of UK history.

Joelsnan Tue 31-Dec-19 10:30:52

Reading this book has opened my eyes to the whitewashing of British history. Apart from the diabolical treatment of the working classes in the U.K., thousands were sent abroad a slaves. We have been led to believe that all was at least reasonable here. This book testifies that things were far worse here.

A couple more short statements:
‘the remorseless Duchess of Sutherland. Most slaveholders in other countries feed, shelter, and protect their slaves, in compensation for work; but the Duchess and her barbarous class take work, shelter, food, and protection from their serfs all at one fell swoop, turning them upon the world to beg or starve. Scotland has reason—strong reason—to bewail the existence of the British aristocracy.’

‘The labourers are not attached to the soil, and bought and sold with it, as in Russia. The English aristocrat is too cunning to adopt such a regulation, because it would involve the necessity of supporting his slaves. They are called freemen, in order to enable their masters to detach them from the soil, and drive them forth to starve, when it suits their convenience, without incurring any legal penalty for their cruelty, such as the slaveholders of other countries would suffer. The Russian, the Spanish, the North American slaveholder must support his slaves in sickness and helpless old age, or suffer the penalties of the law’

However unless these statements are read in context, the barbarity is probably not fully understood.

GrannyGravy13 Tue 31-Dec-19 10:31:45

There was a conviction this year or maybe 2018, where white men were kept as slaves in caravans in the U.K.
The conditions were appalling, will try "Dr.Google" for more details.

SirChenjin Tue 31-Dec-19 10:36:57

Yes Joelsnan, the treatment of the tenants by the Sutherlands is well known - it was horrific. My point was more about it not being a reflection of the general UK population. Slavery has unfortunately always been part of society, but I don't think it can be compared to the treatment of the black slaves at a UK societal level.

Joelsnan Tue 31-Dec-19 10:45:58

I urge you to read the book. It is not a case of who was treated worse, it the fact that more than you perceive of the British population held in worse than slave conditions.
Don’t forget that black slavery was as a result of them being sold by their own. It appears from this book that their slave status did afford them some (though minimal) protections that the British population did not get.
I have read distressing black slave accounts, but this book beats many.

Joelsnan Tue 31-Dec-19 10:49:09

The book does not deal solely with people of the land, it refers in depth to the mining and mill workers.

notanan2 Tue 31-Dec-19 10:49:52

Slavery = ownership and different to the white bonded workers, who had terrible conditions but their bonds were finite.

Its not the same thing! Slavery was extra dehumanising because of the type of ownership

SirChenjin Tue 31-Dec-19 10:50:41

I will read the book, it sounds very interesting - I'm just curious about the UK general population being held in worse conditions than black slaves.

Davidhs Tue 31-Dec-19 10:58:18

Since the 17th century British and Irish people were sent into slavery or bonded labour overseas. When the highlands were depopulated to make way for sheep that was the fate of many destitute families. The Irish probably suffered most, vast numbers ended up on the plantations in the Carribean, not being used to the hot climate, conditions were likely worse than the Negroes endured.

I hadn’t heard of slavery in the UK although virtual bonded labour was common enough, because the alternative was being thrown out and starving. If you got caught stealing a loaf of bread to survive it was transportation and hard labour - slavery by another name.

The accounts of life in Victorian Britain by Dickens and others was stark enough, that led to the “Workhouse” solution to destitution, not much better than slavery, so its only recently that conditions have improved.

notanan2 Tue 31-Dec-19 11:02:53

The Irish were sent as bonded workers! If they survived X amount of years of the climate and conditions they were free.

Black slaves were property. They were owned in a difference way, like livestock or furniture. They could be passed down through generation. Their children were property of their slave owners.

Why are people so determined to not see the difference?

Chestnut Tue 31-Dec-19 11:06:44

There's no doubt our ancestors worked their fingers to the bone, either in the fields or in factories when the industrial revolution started. Young children worked 12 hours, food and accommodation was poor and beatings were commonplace. They had no escape, so really that was a type of slavery and I'm sure their lives were no less miserable.

Jabberwok Tue 31-Dec-19 11:29:58

Wasn't it Pope Gregory in the 6th century remarked that the fair haired blue eyed children in the Roman Slave Market were not Angles but Angels? White slavery has been in evidence for many centuries!

Joelsnan Tue 31-Dec-19 12:40:40

Please download the book, read and understand, no one is trying to belittle the plight of black slaves, however, when you read this book your perception of free British working class living hard but reasonable lives will be expunged.
It is not a novel.

Joelsnan Tue 31-Dec-19 12:50:11

You have no real idea until you read this book I had the same view as Everyone else.OMG. The true recollections of children younger than 7 crawling in coal mines on hands and knees in seams no higher than 24-36 inches high, sent in because the seams were too narrow for adults. These children never saw daylight, lived on bread and water, were mistreated by their bosses,
Ill, elderly people and women in labour being driven out of parishes, thrown on roadsides to die. Because the parishes didn’t want to pay for pauper graves, the obscenities are endless and committed the length and breadth of Britain.

SirChenjin Tue 31-Dec-19 12:52:50

Did you honestly not know that was the plight of many working class people in Britain?

notanan2 Tue 31-Dec-19 12:55:54

I AM aware of how people suffered. I have no illusions that life was like period dramas with merry servants.
However you cannot call all forms of cruelty or hardship or unfair employment bonds "slavery"

Slavery means that people were not counted as people. Just a comodity that can be owned and willed .

Nobody ever claims that the bonded had easy lives or that many didnt die! However they were there on bonds because at the very least they were considered HUMAN! Al beit a lower class of human.

Slaves were completely dehumanised. Not even considered the same species. Thats why they were bought as slaves rather than as the bonded workers who lived and died alongside them.

And that distinction matters.

Doodledog Tue 31-Dec-19 13:06:18

I agree, notanan2.

What is clear from any study of History is that there have always been people who, given the opportunity and a political system that allows it, will exploit and ill-treat others with absolutely no compunction.

The lesson from that is that everyone needs to look out for everyone else, and nip any attempt to do so in the bud.

MaizieD Tue 31-Dec-19 13:06:34

The accounts of life in Victorian Britain by Dickens and others was stark enough, that led to the “Workhouse” solution to destitution,

You have your time periods mixed up, David. The Poor Law Amendment Act which created the punitive workhouse regime was passed in 1834. Dickens was reporting on the effects of that Act in the 1840s.

Interestingly, when the 1834 workhouses were instituted (because they had actually existed in different form since the 18C at least) the diet they offered, which was meant to be a discouragement to 'the poor' was actually found in some cases to be better than that which the 'poor' had been able to have on the 'outside'.

I suspect that Joelsnan's find is a polemic to draw people's attention to the plight of the working classes which probably goes a little bit OTT, but the condition of the poor in the 19th C was in many cases utterly appalling. They might not have been actual 'slaves' according to the common definition but their reported treatment and living conditions make one wonder how anyone could treat their fellow beings in such a way. I have several books on 19th C social history and they tell a dreadful story.

I also have made something of a study of slavery because I have distant slave ancestry. The common theme of slavery and the 19th C working classes is one of man's utter inhumanity to man. A theme which sadly persists now in the 21st C

P.S. Joel'snan, I do intend to read your book..)

notanan2 Tue 31-Dec-19 13:07:04

Bonded workers were often cheaper because they were considered human. "Just people".

Black slaves werent considered human at all. They were cattle/livestock. And that made them more "useful"

Their "hardiness" in tough hot damp conditions which is now known to be due to sicle cell mutations, was attributed to this and used as "proof" that they were closer related to cattle than people