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date: 18 May 2024


The Oxford Companion to United States History
Thomas K. McCrawThomas K. McCraw

Modern capitalist economic progress began during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, just when the thirteen colonies that would form the United States were being settled. Such corporate enterprises as the Massachusetts Bay Company, the Virginia Company of London, and the Royal African Company even brought immigrants to the New World. This latter corporation's commerce in human beings constituted only a small fraction of the transatlantic slave trade, but it symbolized the extent to which businesspeople on both sides of the Atlantic were willing to go to make a profit. Most white immigrants to America during the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries came as indentured servants. In this business transaction, the would-be immigrant exchanged three to seven years of service for passage to a land of enhanced opportunity. Mostly self-selected risk takers, indentured servants embraced an entrepreneurial culture once their terms of servitude ended.... ...

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