Northern Virginia, A Place Apart: Bound Labor in Virginia's Northern Neck, 1645-1710




Harris-Scott, Steven Anthony

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



Bound laborers such as white servants and African slaves were essential in early English Virginia, supplying the necessary labor to produce profit from tobacco for the colony’s landowners. This was even more important in Virginia’s “upper” Northern Neck region—specifically, Northumberland and Westmoreland counties along the Potomac River—given that a less desirable strain of tobacco, oronoco, was grown there. This had significant implications for the types of bound laborers employed and exploited in that region. In particular, those northern Virginia counties continued to rely heavily on servants into the first decade of the eighteenth century, unlike most of the counties to the south that had transitioned mostly or fully to slavery by the late-seventeenth century. In fact, the years around 1700 saw an unprecedented number of young uncontracted laborers—several hundreds of them who had not signed indentures prior to leaving England—immigrate to the entire Northern Neck region, even to areas like Lancaster County that had already transitioned to slavery. For those few years, as peace descended upon the Atlantic World, servants poured into the Northern Neck. The era of servants was not over yet, it had been interrupted by the first of several imperial wars England would fight in the decades after its Glorious Revolution.



History, American history, Black history, Apprenticeship, Early America, Early Virginia, Indentured servitude, Northern Neck, Slavery