Date Awarded


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


American Studies


Chandos M. Brown


The presence of pests and the effect of their activity emerged very early in the colonial era, from the early seventeenth century through the third quarter of the eighteenth century, as a major challenge to the financial and social success of Euro-American settlers, predominantly English, in the tidewater region of Virginia and Maryland, or the Chesapeake. Pests were not only a feature of the natural environment, they were a factor in the modified and built environments that settlers created. The problem of pests cut across ethnic, race, gender and class lines in the Chesapeake.;Euro-American, African-American and Native American residents of the colonial Chesapeake consistently characterized pests as not simply annoying, but as also as threats. their responses to pests reflected notions about both the nature of the threat pests presented, and the commodities and resources that residents valued. Pest control schemes were based on the establishment and reinforcement of boundaries across which pests and their effects were not tolerated. These boundaries quickly assumed a social function. In addition to defining an area in which the presence and activity of pests was restricted, these boundaries functioned as thresholds across which human interaction had to be negotiated. Pest control assumed boundary maintenance functions on several levels.;In different times, places and circumstances, the role of vermin killer fell to different people in Euro-American traditions. In the domestic sphere the responsibility for managing pests in the home fell to women. In connection to their role in pest control, women had an important role in managing the establishment, reinforcement and maintenance of physical and social boundaries in the home.



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