Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Making the farm pay: Persistence and adaptation in the evolution of Delaware's agricultural landscape, 1780–2005
by Sheppard, Rebecca Jean, Ph.D., University of Delaware, 2009, 535; 3360281
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation explores the evolution of the built environment and landscape associated with agriculture in Delaware, between 1780 and 2005. Agriculture is an economic system, a way of life, and a cultural landscape. It also evokes aesthetic responses that can have political repercussions and it is a form of environmental land use with ecological consequences. Over the past three centuries, the agricultural landscape of Delaware evolved in response to a variety of pressures and forces. Different elements of the landscape appeared, changed, or vanished. What persists provides clues for understanding that evolution and the forces that shaped it. This dissertation argues that we can learn much about how the practice and product of agriculture in Delaware evolved from the evidence that survives in its landscape. The recursive relationships between people, land, markets, and society have long driven changes to the built environment. The landscape materializes relationships of farmers and laborers and shows us how families coped with shifts in the economy and the market. The objects in those landscapes document the range of choices farm families confronted and the ways in which they altered their environment. Ultimately, the landscape teaches us about Delaware farmers’ responses to the “Great Transformation” from an agrarian economy and culture to an urban, industrial society. This dissertation uses a close examination of the state’s agricultural history and landscape to address these issues. Case studies of individual farm landscapes serve to reveal the broader patterns in each of the state’s various regions and allow us to gauge the extent of change and persistence in farming over time.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Garrison, J. Ritchie
Commitee: De Cunzo, Lu Ann, McMurry, Sally, Russ, Jonathan
School: University of Delaware
Department: Department of History
School Location: United States -- Delaware
Source: DAI-A 70/07, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: American history, Geography, Architecture
Keywords: Agricultural history, Architecture, Built environment, Cultural landscape, Delaware, Landscape, Material culture
Publication Number: 3360281
ISBN: 978-1-109-24928-6
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