Coerced and Free Migration: Global Perspectives

By David Eltis | Go to book overview

4
The Differential Cultural Impact of
Free and Coerced Migration to
Colonial America
LORENA S. WALSH

THE EARLY MODERN Atlantic world dealt very different hands to Africans and Europeans. The circumstances that shaped the entry of the two groups into movement across the ocean, their shipboard experiences, and above all the rights they and their descendants could claim after their arrival in the New World differed so dramatically that any attempt to compare coerced with free migrations might appear doomed. Historians, except perhaps for historical demographers, certainly appear to have thought so: few have attempted to bridge the scholarship carried out on the two groups. Yet there are substantial potential benefits from making the attempt, especially in the Chesapeake colonies where Old World settlers included a mix of free, indentured, and enslaved migrants. Rather than treating European and African migrations as entirely separate movements, this chapter explores possible similarities as well as the patently obvious differences. Specifically, it asks how posing some of the same questions frequently asked about European migrants might shed new light on our understanding of the cultural outcomes of forced African migration.


I
The Demography of the Migrant Streams

Unlike the contemporary migrations to New England and to the Middle Colonies, in which most settlers arrived in family groups, the majority of migrants to the Chesapeake region, both free and coerced, were young males. 1 This heavily imbalanced sex ratio had pro-

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