Master of Arts (MA)


Samuel Smith

Primary Subject Area

Education, General; History, Church


Anglican, Backcounty, College, Education, Enlightenment, Virginia


This project traces the shift of educational, and in many ways, intellectual, hegemony from the elite College of William and Mary in the Tidewater region, to those institutions founded in the western parts of the Commonwealth. As a result of diversified people groups, religious pluralism, and influences from scattered religious revivals, people formerly considered agrarian folk, found themselves in the midst of Virginia's intellectual and education transformation. Because of the school's unshakable connections to both the English monarchy and the Established Church in Virginia, the College of William and Mary failed to incorporate a more religiously tolerant agenda. With the development of American independence, the College was unable and unwilling to adopt the diverse cultures surrounding it, and thus relegated as an English religious institution amidst a country and state taking on a new Republican identity. The academies in the backcountry, having already adopted a more universal educational paradigm, not only adopted Republican rhetoric, but quickly became the foremost centers in Virginia for enlightened Republican education. Synthesizing the diverse cultures around them into a unified educational paradigm, the backcountry institutions were able to do what the College of William and Mary could not; they espoused and encouraged ideas of Republican liberties and developed students for practical professions within the new Commonwealth.