In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, 300,000 people or more became slaves there in all but name. Urchins were swept up from London's streets to labour in the tobacco fields, brothels were raided to provide 'breeders' for Virginia and hopeful migrants were duped into signing as indentured servants, unaware they would become chattels who could be bought, sold and gambled away. Drawing on letters, diaries, and court and government archives, the authors demonstrate that the brutalities associated with black slavery alone were perpetrated on whites throughout British rule. The trade ended with American independence but the British still tried to sell convicts in their former colonies, which prompted one of the most audacious plots in Anglo-American history. This is a saga of exploitation and cruelty spanning 170 years that has been submerged under the overwhelming memory of black slavery. White Cargo brings the brutal, uncomfortable story to the surface.

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