Andrew Agha

Date of Award

Spring 2020

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation



First Advisor

Kenneth G. Kelly


This research posits that seventeenth century natural philosophy as purported by the Royal Society of London had a major impact on the way the First Earl of Shaftesbury directed the settlement of the English colony Carolina. When Carolina was first settled in 1670, the colonists were ordered by Shaftesbury and his Lords Proprietors of Carolina cohort to test experimental exotic crops like cotton, sugarcane, grapes, olive trees, and indigo, but since those crops did not produce exportable surpluses, they have been labeled as failures. Instead, this study recognizes those failures as integral components to the scientific process of experimentation. That process was derived from the concept of English improvement, which in the seventeenth century was the idea and belief that anything could be made better through science, natural philosophy and experimentation; this concept became paradigmatic through the incorporation of the Royal Society. This dissertation identifies Shaftesbury's St Giles Kussoe, his 12,000-acre Carolina estate, as the material manifestation of a Royal Society-influenced laboratory.

This dissertation identifies Locke's labor theory of property as a product of improvement literature, and, as a theory to be tested through St Giles Kussoe in 1674. I argue that Shaftesbury used improvement to modernize enslaved African labor within the laboratory that Locke's theory constructed. The archival and archaeological data suggest that those enslaved Africans became technicians who employed traditional tasks augmented through English improvement and philosophy. Utilizing archaeological sites at the 1670s town site of Charles Towne and within St Giles Kussoe, I define a materiality of improvement from my interpretations of colonial documents, seventeenth century improvement literature and specific artifacts through a property-oriented historical political ecology theory. I argue that Shaftesbury sought a vineyard at St Giles Kussoe because he purposefully procured enslaved Africans from an Old World wine merchant and North African trader. The realization of Shaftesbury's plan was the materiality of improvement, where the enslaved were coerced to become research technicians trapped within the prison of the plantation laboratory.


© 2020, Andrew Agha

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