Games and Simulations


How to Play the Indentured Servitude Simulation – Agents



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How to Play the Indentured Servitude Simulation – Agents





  1. You will be assigned a role, as either an emigrant or an agent.

  • If you are an agent, you will start the game with a blue role card. Do not switch roles unless told to do so. Read the agent instructions below.

  • If you are an emigrant, read the instructions on the back of this sheet.

  1. Agent instructions:

  • If you are an agent (blue), your goal is to make a profit by securing an indenture that you can sell in the colonies for more than the price of passage (£10).

  • Your role card includes a chart telling you the current price being paid for indentures of different length and skill. Use this information to decide what type of indentured servant you will try to recruit and how long an indenture you’ll offer.

  • Experience has shown you that there are many different types of people willing to sign indentures. Some are more valuable than others. On the other hand, some of the less valuable ones are willing to sign longer contracts. Keep this in mind as you negotiate with the emigrants.

  • Also keep in mind that you must pay the £10 passage price. If you contract with a servant whose indenture you think you can sell for £2/year, you have to get at least a 5-year contract in order to break even. Be sure to ask for the emigrant’s worker classification number before you begin negotiating, so that you can figure out what you need to make a profit. Don’t let the emigrant see the information on your role card or he’ll be much harder to negotiate with.

  • Once you make a deal with an emigrant, report the contract length to the teacher. Return to your desk to record the transaction and figure your profit. Subtract £10 from the value of his indenture and add in any bonus points to figure your “profit.” Each round of the game will last approximately 5 minutes. During the round, circulate through the room, negotiating with people who have different colored cards than you have. (It takes one agent – blue – and one emigrant – yellow – to make a deal.) You may make only one deal in each round, so make the best deal you can.




  1. When you agree on a deal (an indenture contract):

  • shake hands,

  • come to the front of the room, and tell the recorder the agreed upon length of the contract,

  • return to your seat and record the length of the contract and your points on your personal score sheet,

  • stay in your seat until the teacher reopens the trading floor.



How to Play the Indentured Servitude Simulation - Emigrants





  1. You will be assigned a role, as either an emigrant or an agent.

  • If you are an emigrant, you will start the game with a yellow role card. Do not switch roles unless told to do so. Read the emigrant instructions below.

  • If you are an agent, turn this sheet over to read the instructions.




  1. Emigrant instructions:

  • If you are an emigrant (yellow), the card you are holding describes your situation and the conditions under which you would accept an indenture and go to the colonies. The card tells you the longest indenture you would be willing to accept.

  • In general, your goal is to earn points by securing the shortest indenture contract you can. The shorter the contract, the more points you earn. At the end of the activity, your points will be translated into money that you may spend in the classroom store.

  • Note that your role card has a number in parentheses. This is your worker classification number. It is based on your level of skill, education, age, etc. There are 4 classifications of workers – 4 indicating the most skilled, 1 indicating the least. Most people are 2s. You must answer truthfully agents’ questions about your characteristics and circumstances, and worker classification, but Do NOT reveal the maximum length of the contract you will accept.

  • You also know quite a bit about indenture conditions. You know many people who, like you, couldn’t afford the £10 passage to America, and chose to pay for it by indenturing themselves. The conditions in the cane fields, for example, are well known among potential emigrants.




  1. Each round of the game will last approximately 5 minutes. During the round, circulate through the room, negotiating with people who have different colored cards than you have. (It takes one agent – blue – and one emigrant – yellow – to make a deal.) You may make only one deal in each round, so make the best deal you can.




  1. When you agree on a deal (an indenture contract):

  • shake hands,

  • make sure that the agent you contracted with goes to the front of the room to record the contract,

  • return to your seat and record the length of the contract and your points on your personal score sheet,

  • stay in your seat until the teacher reopens the trading floor.



Agent: ship captain


As a ship captain, you are taking a risk. You have to bear the cost (£10) of the emigrant’s passage and won’t make your money back until you get to the colonies to sell the indenture. If the emigrant dies on the voyage, you’re out of luck. If your ship arrives after the fall harvest, you’re out of luck because no one wants to buy workers he has to feed through the long winter. Last time you were in port, however, the market was good, and you were able to sell every indenture you brought. You aren’t looking for any particular type of indenture; you just want to fill the ship with people young enough and strong enough to get there alive so that you can make a profit on each passenger. You know this about the market:

Worker classification

Approx. sale price per year of indenture

1 – convicts, elderly, sick, illiterate

£ 1.25/ year

2 – unskilled farm and domestic workers (male and female)

£2 / year (£.5/quarter of year)


3- craftsmen – blacksmiths, carpenters, masons, etc., educated workers (male and female)

£3 / year (£.75 / quarter of year)




4 – people with a specialty skill – such as a musician or a skilled artisan

£5 year, (or £1.25 per 3 months)

After you make a deal, report the length of the indenture to the recorder, figure out the sale price of the indenture, subtract £10 for the passage, and record your profit on your score sheet.


Agent: ship captain


As a ship captain, you are taking a risk. You have to bear the cost (£10) of the emigrant’s passage and won’t make your money back until you get to the colonies to sell the indenture. If the emigrant dies on the voyage, you’re out of luck. If your ship arrives after the fall harvest, you’re out of luck because no one wants to buy workers he has to feed through the long winter. Last time you were in port, however, the market was good, and you were able to sell every indenture you brought. On your last voyage, you noticed that the women’s indentures sold very quickly – probably many of the men on the docks were looking for wives, as there aren’t yet many women in the colonies, especially on the frontiers.

Worker classification

Sale price per year of indenture

1 – convicts, elderly, sick, illiterate

£ 1.5/ year

2 – unskilled farm and domestic workers (male and female)

£2 / year (£.5/quarter of year)

(£1 bonus for young single women)



3- craftsmen – blacksmiths, carpenters, masons, etc., educated workers (male and female)

£3 / year (£.75 / quarter of year)




4 – people with a specialty skill – such as a musician or a skilled artisan

£5 / year, (or £1.25 per 3 months)



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