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Slaves, Convicts, Field Workers And Artisans: The Chinese In The Colonial Labour Diasporas

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Chapter Summary

In this chapter the experiences of the Chinese as slaves, plantation workers and artisans are described and their place alongside the importation of servile and indentured African and Indian labour is discussed. After the formal acquisition of Mauritius by the Dutch in 1638, the labour supply of this new colony was in part derived from convicts- prisoners and rebels-imported from their base on Batavia. Ethnic Chinese may well have been among Batavian convicts sent to work on the island. The French, who established a permanent settlement on their Isle of France from 1715, set up trading links with the port of Canton, on mainland China. With the British accession to power, the slave trade, and later slavery itself, was abolished, and attempts were made almost immediately after the conquest of 1810, to import 'free' labour to bolster and then to replace the dwindling slave population.

Keywords: British East India Company; Chinese artisans; Chinese convicts; Chinese field workers; Chinese slaves; slave trade

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