Historic Events

History notes on plantation
Plantation System
In the 17th century Europeans began to establish settlements in the Americas. The division of the land into smaller units under private ownership became known as the plantation system. Starting in Virginia the system spread to the New England colonies. Crops grown on these plantations such as tobacco, rice, sugar cane and cotton were labour intensive. Slaves were in the fields from sunrise to sunset and at harvest time they did an eighteen hour day. Women worked the same hours as the men and pregnant women were expected to continue until their child was born.

European immigrants had gone to America to own their own land and were reluctant to work for others. Convicts were sent over from Britain but there had not been enough to satisfy the tremendous demand for labour. Planters therefore began to purchase slaves. At first these came from the West Indies but by the late 18th century they came directly from Africa and busy slave-markets were established in Philadelphia, Richmond, Charleston and New Orleans.

The death-rate amongst slaves was high. To replace their losses, plantation owners encouraged the slaves to have children. Child-bearing started around the age of thirteen, and by twenty the women slaves would be expected to have four or five children. To encourage child-bearing some population owners promised women slaves their freedom after they had produced fifteen children.
Cotton Plantations
A large number of early settlers in America grew cotton. To grow cotton and to pick, gin (remove seeds from the white fluff) and bale it took a great deal of work. Therefore large numbers of slaves were purchased to do this work.

The industry was given a boost invention of Eli Whitney's Cotton Gin in 1793. With the aid of a horse to turn the gin, a man could clean fifty times as much cotton as before. This increased the demand for slaves. For example, in 1803 alone, over 20,000 slaves were being brought into...