In the seventeenth century, England witnessed some modifications in the unfree labour where unfree labour was measured as a universal legal shape of consensual manual labour. Labour agreements were restricted by various punishments in the English law which if violated were followed by imprisonment. Masters held the right to imprison their workers until they were willing to complete the service contract (indentured servitude) or return to their employers for the time period they had agreed upon (slavery). These agreements initiated the major disparities between indentured servitude and slavery on the basis of two things: contractual agreement and time period (Murrin, 121).
It was the English law that was imitated by the early American colonies and applied restrictions on departure not only to servants and apprentices but also to labourers and artificers. In the seventeenth century, English and American law acknowledged the significance of unfree labour and declared free labour as a self conscious set of legal and social practices, therefore the concept of unfree labour was alleviated. Critics claim the English law to be responsible for initiating unfree labour since it embedded concepts about liberty, labour, religious church teachings, gender specificity and observations of other European New World colonies, into the New World. Authors believe that Europe followed the roots of enslavement of Africans for practical reasons, and adapt the initial origins of slavery in Europe (Miller, 99).
However, it was the abolishment of slavery in 1833 in the British commonwealth that stands out as a truly stunning change (Murrin, 98). The Slavery Abolition Act 1833 transformed Britain and its colonies. It laid the groundwork for human rights and human dignity. People could no longer be treated as property. It could be said that this act also tolled the death knell for the British Empire. It was impossible to keep unchained