Date Awarded


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)




James P Whittenburg


Lewis Burwell II designed Fairfield plantation in Gloucester County to be the most sophisticated and successful architectural and agricultural effort in late seventeenth-century Virginia. He envisioned a physical framework with the intent to control the world around him so that he might profit from growing tobacco, while raising his family's status to the highest in the colony through the display of wealth and knowledge and the enslavement of both Africans and the natural surroundings. The landscape he envisioned contrasted with those of the enslaved Africans he purchased and put to work in the fields and buildings surrounding his '1694 brick manor house. These overlapping and often competing landscapes are visible in the surviving material culture, archaeological remains, and historic documents. Individuals created these landscapes from their personal experiences, a product of their constantly changing perspectives extending outward from themselves, their "way of seeing" tempered by a culture rooted in Senegambia, England, or Virginia. at a crucial period in Virginia history, perhaps the most significant period of plantation development prior to the Civil War, Lewis Burwell II's Fairfield plantation reflected the struggle between the co-dependent strains of agricultural expansion and racialized slavery. This dissertation attempts to explain how and why individuals created and manipulated these landscapes, how landscapes provided opportunities and constrained possibilities, defined interpersonal relationships, individual and group identities, and the relative success and failures of a society constantly confronted with a physical environment it could not wholly control. By studying past landscapes and how others used them to define and redefine their identities, it is possible to gain insight into our present condition, deepening an understanding of how our interactions with landscape define our own identity.



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