Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Ph.D. in History


Arch Dalrymple III Department of History

First Advisor

Robbie Ethridge

Second Advisor

Douglass Sullivan-Gonzalez

Third Advisor

John R. Neff

Relational Format



Abstract: this dissertation seeks to interpret how the upper creeks used geographic corridors (i.e. rivers and overland paths) to the Gulf of Mexico to offset economic and military dominance from Carolina and Georgia during the eighteenth century. Not only did access to these channels assure their commercial and territorial integrity through the colonial and postcolonial periods, but they also facilitated and empowered specific lineages and factions among the creeks in general. These special interest groups presented a confusing array of political alignment and counter-alignment that permitted the creeks avenues to challenge the coercive effects of outside markets. This is not meant to suggest that the creeks operated on an equal playing field with colonizing powers (though they oftentimes held advantages), or were immune to entangling arrangements such as alluring debt-credit cycles, alcoholism, military conquest, resource scarcity, or political manipulation. Instead, the creeks demonstrated an acute awareness to changing circumstances and adjusted while still operating within a traditional cultural framework. Their willingness to engage outside markets in creatively fluid ways, frustrated colonizing powers eager to recruit their undivided loyalty. Conventionally termed the creek "policy of neutrality" was actually an intrinsic cultural characteristic that involved competing factions, families, and towns--each eagerly seeking their own respective beneficial interaction zones with outsiders. Contrary to some interpretations, creek "neutrality" was not a well-organized and executed inter-town policy initiative that sought commercial arrangements from multiple directions and sources, while simultaneously curbing Euro-American trade and territorial ambitions. Contrary evidence suggests that Euro-American efforts to effectively consolidate and manipulate trade and military alliances with these heterogeneous creek communities were instead complicated by the autonomy of town, faction, and lineal support structures that each vied for connections to advantageously located channels of commercial activity among the various competing nation-states that colonized their peripheries.



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