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, cooly
1. a cheaply hired unskilled Oriental labourer
2. Derogatory an Indian living in South Africa
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a term used to designate low-paid, unskilled workers (including porters, stevedores, manual laborers, rickshaw-boys, and day laborers) in China (prior to 1949), India, and other countries of eastern and southeastern Asia. The name was also used for unskilled workers who signed contracts to work in America, South Africa, and Australia. The workers included Chinese, Indians, Malays, and Negroes, who performed the hardest jobs on plantations and in mines. The institution of contracted coolies arose during the 1830’s and 1840’s, after the abolition of slavery in the British, Dutch, and French colonies, and it grew considerably during the second half of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
(15) As a result, by 1860 the coolie trade had shifted to Macao, a trend reflected in the contracts in the Melikian Collection.
(19) By the mid-nineteenth century, many countries, including Spain after 1854, issued Passenger Acts meant to protect the health and safety of immigrants to the New World and to distinguish the coolie trade from the slave trade.
(27) Chinese historians today are also shifting focus to the diplomatic accomplishments of the Qing mission, rather than on the economic failures of the coolie trade. (28) As a result of the commission, the Qing established a Chinese embassy in Havana in 1882.
Most useful to historians and other scholars are his meticulous data compilations on various critical components of the coolie trade. First and foremost, he details the actual numbers of coolies exported by year and voyage, noting the ship's name and flag, captain's name, tonnage (size of ship), port of departure and destination, and exact dates of departure and arrival.
The Chinese coolie trade has been described by historians as a new form of slavery, or an extension of African slavery of the Americas.
Individual chapters discuss the mechanics of recruitment and passage to the New World, shipboard mutinies, conditions and treatment in Latin America, and international opinion and the termination of the coolie trade. Meagher points out that even as Britain and the United States decried slavery in Spain's colonies, their businessmen profited from the equally unscrupulous coolie trade.
In a concluding chapter that will pique the interest of labour historians, Meagher assesses the coolie trade in terms of the debate on what constitutes slave versus free labour.
In more recent studies, Asian Americanists Moon-Ho Jung analyses the debates in the United States on the coolie trade, while Lisa Yun probes coolie subjectivity and the nature of the contract.