Unfreedom and Slavery Under Sail: Intercolonial Trade In the British Atlantic, 1698–1766

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Using evidence from 25,250 records of vessels entering and clearing the rivers of the Chesapeake Bay, this article demonstrates that intercolonial trading captains and crews significantly reduced the number of days their vessels spent in port in Virginia between 1698 and 1766. This contraction reflected a quantifying ethos in shipping that emerged during the early age of sail as the result of mutually reinforcing legal requirements and management practices. Responding to these productivity pressures, captains embraced practices that limited sailors’ freedom and turned to enslaved sailors to guarantee their maritime labor force. Embracing unfreedom aided captains to realize the dispatch goals that helped guarantee their investors’ returns.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBusiness History Review
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)751-778
Number of pages28
Publication statusPublished - 2024


  • Shipping
  • Productivity
  • Unfreedom
  • Slavery
  • Atlantic

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