Date of Award

Winter 1996

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Committee Director

Jane T. Merritt

Committee Member

Carolyn J. Lawes

Committee Member

James R. Sweeney


Historians have generally placed the beginning of capitalism in the United States in the early- to mid-nineteenth century. This assumes that the industrialization of the New England states fostered in a modern economic environment for the country as a whole. However, evidence of modern economic principles existed on the Virginia frontier as early as the mid-eighteenth century. As frontier settlers aspired to emulate eastern society, they not only sought to recreate a lifestyle similar to the one they left behind, but also set up similar governing practices, which in turn created social stratification similar to that which existed in the Tidewater region. Virginia's frontier participated in a web of trade relations where goods were both exported and imported from the region and traditional, local trade relationships waned. What emerged was a frontier interdependent with the east as trade kept both regions tightly connected, leaving little room for an autonomous, independent backcountry to develop.


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