Date Awarded


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)




James P Whittenburg


From the 1730s through the 1770s Shadwell was home to Jane and Peter Jefferson, their eight children, over sixty slaves owned by them, and numerous hired workers. Archaeological and documentary evidence reveals much about Thomas Jefferson's boyhood home. Shadwell was a well-appointed gentry house at the center of a highly structured plantation landscape during a period of Piedmont settlement that scholars have traditionally classified as frontier. Yet the Jeffersons accommodated in their house, landscape, material goods, and behaviors the most up-to-date expectations of Virginia's elite tidewater culture. The material remnants of Shadwell raise questions about the character of this frontier and how the Jeffersons maintained a style of living that reflected their high social status.;The Jeffersons' wealth made it possible for them to enjoy the fashionable material goods they desired and also meant that they had the ability to influence the character and development of their community in profound ways. In providing their family with a home and consumer goods that served the familiar functions of elite society, they also fostered the growth of a local community of craftspeople whose skills the Jeffersons needed. The Jeffersons' slaves worked agricultural jobs but also were cooks, personal servants, and nurses to children and had a variety of skills to support the Jeffersons' material needs and heightened social position. The number of African Americans at Shadwell meant that slaves had opportunities to form effective families and communities. The Jeffersons' various agricultural investments required the building of infrastructure that small planters nearby could also use. Social connections and economic clout translated into political influence; the Jeffersons and their peers affected how their county grew and also how Virginia grew.;Archaeology at Shadwell gave new meaning to many of the historic documents as the material culture recovered there prompted fresh reading of much that seemed familiar. The results of the research offer new views of the Jefferson family and their role in settling Virginia, a rich description of the lives of both house and field slaves who worked for them, and a few new perspectives on Thomas Jefferson himself.



© The Author