Date Awarded


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)




James Axtell


This study is an attempt to discern what eighteenth-century houses--their forms, dimensions, internal organization, and external settings--have to contribute to scholarly understanding of colonial Virginia's society, economy, and culture.;Historic Virginia houses usually were built more recently than traditional scholars and popular writers have supposed, and standing eighteenth-century houses are, almost without exception, far larger and finer than the dwellings most colonial Virginians inhabited. Yet even lightly constructed and shabbily finished houses stood at the center of a complex of buildings where most of the planter's household and agricultural work was performed. Thus eighteenth-century Virginia houses were more mundane and unpretentious yet more symbolically and functionally dominant components of the landscape than surviving houses and their isolated rural sites can suggest.;This dissertation employs documentary, architectural, and archaeological evidence to address three questions. What can a close reading of written sources convey about the character and context of houses in eighteenth-century Virginia? What can a close inspection of surviving houses, their archaeological remains, and their associated documentary histories convey about the circumstances of their construction and use, the significance of their form and presentation? Finally, what was the economic background and the social significance of a pretentious Virginia house which was built, accoutred, and inhabited during a time and in a place where such structures were exceedingly rare?



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