Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Charles Steffen

Second Advisor

Jacob Selwood

Third Advisor

Jeffrey Young


Life in the colonial American south was filled with brutality and inequality. Whether it was the violence of slavery and colonial expansion or the inherent inequalities of gender relations, violence and oppression permeated nearly every facet of life. This dissertation will look critically at the development of what I am calling a culture of violence in the colonies of Georgia and South Carolina. By studying the ways in which violence effected family, social, and political interactions, my work argues that the crucible of social, racial, and political issues of these two colonies created a culture in which violence or the threat of violence permeated most human interactions. Not only was violence commonplace, violence perpetrated by the individual as well as the state came to be seen as the only legitimate way to punish someone or defend oneself.

Social and political historians have dealt with one or two of spheres in which violence occurred. For instance, many studies focus on the violence of slavery and gender relations. However, no one has yet attempted to view all the forms of violence in the South and use that as a lens for understanding southern culture both in the Colonial era and beyond. I argue that by investigating all forms of brutality and the rhetoric associated with such acts, a more complete picture of southern culture emerges – a culture which did not just accept brutality in one area of society but rather in every aspect of life. This acceptance of the necessity of violence went on to inform southerners’ responses to the Imperial Crisis, American Revolution, and even the racial upheaval of the post-Civil War Years.