Bondage – August 16

Bondage in Somerset? Yes – it was happening even during the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries. A curious group of members of The Friends of the Museum of Taunton listened as Sarah Villiers explained how whips, chains and handcuffs might have been employed by recruiting agents to spirit, abduct and collect people to become bonded servants working in America and Australia.

Some bonded servants emigrated willingly to gain a better life overseas but others were coerced into making the journey, lasting anything for four to seventeen, or in one case twenty-seven weeks in appalling conditions. Half of them died during the journey.

When their contracted period of bondage was over two-thirds settled on the land, became artisans or even risked the journey back to Britain, whilst the others became “poor whites” for whom the better life had not materialised. The government of the day encouraged this form of emigration as it reduced the numbers in the poor houses and thus reduced rates, and at certain times as after the 1861 census, it reduced the superfluity of women in Britain by encouraging them to go as bonded servants to America and Australia.

The Friends’ next speaker will be Mary Miles talking about Brewing in Somerset at 7.30 on Tuesday, September 20th at the Museum of Taunton. All are welcome to attend, the fee for guests being £3. For further details, please visit the Museum or see their website wwwfriendsofthemuseumofsomerset.com

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