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Unfree Labor

Forced labor, or unfree labor, is any work relation, especially in modern or early modern history, in which people are employed against their will with the threat of destitution, detention, violence including death, or other forms of extreme hardship to either themselves or members of their families.

Unfree labor includes all forms of slavery, penal labor and the corresponding institutions, such as debt slavery, serfdom, corvée and labor camps.

Two massive systems of unfree labor arose, a world apart from each other, in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. The American enslavement of blacks and the Russian subjection of serfs (“white slaves”) flourished in different ways and varying degrees.