“Black Service … White Money”
The Peculiar Institution of Military Labor in the British Army during the Seven Years’ War
Soldiering—war work—constituted a peculiar form of labor in the 18th-century Anglo-American world. These troops straddled the worlds of free and unfree labor. Army recruits encountered wage work with labor processes in which the army is an employer, its officers are managers, and troops are workers, yet they yielded control of their bodies and lives. Often bound for life, housed, provided for, and subjected to, brutal military discipline, military labor can also be viewed as unfree labor. Martial labor was not slavery, being for many a voluntary occupation, but it comprised a form of servitude. Soldiers occupied a marchland of labor relations due to the unusual nature of “production” in warfare. A soldier's bondage enabled his deployment on the periphery of acceptable human conduct, performing the “black” service of spilling blood in the interests of the state in return for “white” money. Despite much attention to the slave factory, plantation, merchant ship, craft shop, and household, the military garrison has largely been ignored by other than military historians. This chapter examines the British regular army in the Seven Years' War, where soldiers' labor, at once paid and coerced, secured an American empire at a heavy price in human life.
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