Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Planning, Development, and Preservation

Committee Member

Carter Hudgins, Committee Chair

Committee Member

Barry Stiefel

Committee Member

Amalia Leifeste

Committee Member

Lauren Northup


This thesis explores patterns of the rice plantation landscape of the ACE River Basin in South Carolina during the period of 1800-1860 to assess how planters surveilled enslaved workers. The research consisted of a cartographic study of historic plats of nineteen rice plantations, a sample of the ninety-one plantations that covered the region during the height of rice production in South Carolina. For each of the plantations, the next level of analysis was viewshed and line of sight studies after 3D Sketch-Up models were created from each the plat. These studies yielded maps that support analysis of how planters arranged plantations to optimize surveillance, as planters imposed spatial configuration based on proximity and communication. In a system controlled by the few, the plantation owners, who wielded complete power over many, the enslaved, there was a sharp inequity in the number of enslaved Africans to the number of overseers on every rice plantation. How did this system remain viable from the standpoint of power and control? How did constant surveillance, or its threat, from the overseers over the enslaved workers manifest itself in configurations of the physical environment into a control mechanism? What are common patterns to layouts and configurations (of plantations) that are derived to allow white overseers to surveil enslaved workers in order to maintain control as a minority party on a rice plantation? Reconstructed viewsheds indicate that plantation layout had distinct layout patterns in terms of settlement proximity to plantation house, orientation of structures in the settlement and presence of clear lines of sight from the plantation house to the settlement. However, overall visibility potential by the planter was significantly lower than predicted. On average, rice planters could only see between 35% and 65% of the structures on their plantation from their houses.



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