Examining the emergence of the modern conception of free
labor--labor that could not be legally compelled, even though
voluntarily agreed upon--Steinfeld explains how English law
dominated the early American colonies, making violation of al labor
agreements punishable by imprisonment. By the eighteenth century,
traditional legal restrictions no longer applied to many kinds of
colonial workers, but it was not until the nineteenth century that
indentured servitude came to be regarded as similar to slavery.