University of Leicester
2023CharlesJPHD.pdf (111.69 MB)

Dressing for Adventure on the West Florida Frontier

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posted on 2023-06-12, 21:02 authored by Joshua K. Charles

My inter-disciplinary study evaluates the Creole dressing genre in eighteenth century West Florida and demonstrates how groups used dress as a primary form of material culture to negotiate life-ways and identities under colonial conditions. I focus specifically on the historical archaeology of Mobile Parish, Yuchi Town, and the Chickasaw Nation. The British period, 1763-1783, saw the colonial population increase and the commercialisation of the plantation and exchange economies. Native Americans remained the region’s majority population and retained ownership of hunting lands critical to the deerskin trade, which made Indigenous peoples politically and commercially influential. Colonial and Indigenous communities were creolised in a broader sense than those who were Creoles by birth. Gulf Coast identities were distilled into constituent groups that made up each community. People fashioned identities to either suppress or flaunt heritage, faith, occupation, and wealth to associate with one or multiple groups to be drawn in. Creolisation also offered opportunities to become  adventurers and increase personal and familial value through exchange or the acquisition of skills, property, or knowledge. This ideally involved conscious, self-aware switching between settlement, wilderness, and fête clothing to activate identities at appropriate moments to escape or bend hierarchies to one’s own use. The Creole genre provided the material means of resistance and negotiation in two related dressing strategies: The Art of Not Being Governed, to create alternative lives beyond hierarchies, and The Art of Being Governed, to capitalise on hierarchical structures. In this way, creolised newcomers of African, European, and of mixed heritage and Native Americans became adventurers, became Creoles, who became traders, planters or skilled workers, or runaways, and vice versa.



Alice Samson; Ruth Young

Date of award


Author affiliation

School of Archaeology and Ancient History

Awarding institution

University of Leicester

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • PhD



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