Date Awarded


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)




Using ecological literature and an ethnohistorical approach, this dissertation examines the nature and extent of environmental change resulting from European colonization in Virginia, the Carolinas, and Georgia.;European explorers in the Southeast saw mixed hardwood forests, pinelands, savannahs, marshlands, and inland swamps. These diverse habitats were home to an infinite variety of wildlife, including whitetailed deer, black bears, wild turkeys, buffalo, elk, and beaver. The landscape had been shaped by long-term ecological change and by varying patterns of topography, rainfall, and fire.;The environment had also been altered by Indians. Southeastern Indians were neither despoilers nor conservators of nature. Seeking subsistence and survival, they fished, farmed, hunted, and periodically burned the woods, all of which affected the various ecosystems.;Early contact between natives and Europeans introduced Old World diseases into the Southeast which killed Indians by the thousands. With their culture torn apart by depopulation, the natives ensured their survival by finding a place within the European system. Indians willingly supplied colonists with animal skins, meat, and medicinal plants, a systematic trade which led to the extinction of buffalo and elk and nearly wiped out beaver, deer, and ginseng.;Agricultural clearing by colonists reshaped local climates. Selective cutting of white and live oak, white cedar, and baldcypress made those trees scarce in settled regions. Naval stores production reduced sizeable tracts of pinelands to patches of scrubby hardwoods.;Commercial agriculture exhausted and eroded soils. Domestic animals destroyed native grasses and woody plants. European grasses and weeds, carried by transplanted livestock, replaced indigenous species. Agriculture and ranching simplified existing relationships between plants and animals, creating an ecologically unstable "new South.".;Attributing such changes solely to European capitalism is an oversimplification. Since his arrival in North America, man has been alienated from nature. The innovations of a capitalist economy triggered complex cultural interaction between Indians, colonists, slaves, and the land itself, a dialectic which pushed all three groups toward exploitation of the environment.



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