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Publication Date



UM campus only

Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)


History (Arts and Sciences)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Ashli C. White

Second Committee Member

Michael T. Bernath

Third Committee Member

Mary Lindemann

Fourth Committee Member

Mihoko Suzuki


This dissertation examines family diasporas in the British Atlantic world through the life of Eliza Lucas Pinckney (1722-1793), an elite Caribbean-born inhabitant of the British empire. Pinckney is well known to historians due in large part to the success of her experiments with indigo cultivation in South Carolina and to the fact that she mothered two “founding fathers.” Spanning three-quarters of the eighteenth century, including the colonial, revolutionary, and early national eras, Pinckney’s life story is a fascinating tale in its own right. Yet this dissertation does more than reconstruct Pinckney’s life; rather, it examines the ways in which Pinckney negotiated the challenges and advantages that the Atlantic posed for her and her family. Thanks to technological advancements and imperial warfare during the eighteenth century, Englishmen and women increasingly migrated throughout the Atlantic world, which had far-reaching consequences for their families. By tracing the evolution of Eliza’s Atlantic family, this work examines the structural and ideological adaptations that she and her contemporaries made to their conception of the family unit. As families like Eliza’s scattered across the Atlantic world, they drew upon their transatlantic economic networks, knitting their business associates into the fabric of their families. In doing so, they created dense and overlapping familial and economic networks that made the family an important force behind the integration, expansion, and eventual fracture of the British empire. Women like Eliza played a crucial role in that process. Throughout each stage in Eliza’s life cycle, the Atlantic and the separation of her family shaped the gender roles and ideologies guiding her life. In contrast to depictions of southern women as isolated on rural plantations and divorced from the plantation economy, Eliza’s life was marked by mobility and engagement with the plantation, local, and Atlantic economy.


Atlantic World; Women and Gender; South Carolina; Family; Plantation Economy; Migration