The term indentured labour referred to a bonded labourer who was bound by a contract to work for an employer for a specific period of time.
The 19th century witnessed a rapid expansion of world trade. One of the important developments was the migration of labour from China and India. In India, the indentured workers came from present day regions of eastern Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Central India, and parts of Tamil Nadu.
The domestic industry had declined and people migrated as indentured labour to places like Caribbean islands, Mauritius, Fiji, Sri Lanka, Malaya and tea plantations of Assam.
The Indentured labourers were hired by way of a contract which promised that the workers could return to India after they had served their employer for five years.
The indentured labourers were subjected to extremely cruel living conditions. They developed their own forms of self-expression which was actually a blend of Indian and foreign cultural forms. Indentured labour migration was extremely criticised and finally abolished in 1921.
In India, the peasants borrowed from local bankers such as Shikaripuri Shroffs and Nattukottai Chettiars. These bankers financed export agriculture in Central and South East Asia.
In the 19th century, the value of British exports to India was much higher than the British imports from India. Britain maintained a trade surplus with India which helped it balance out its trade deficits with other countries.