Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Geography and Anthropology

First Advisor

Carville V. Earle


Since the first European settlement was established in the middle of Indian territory in 1714, the Red River Valley had experienced a dramatic transformation until the end of the antebellum period. The trajectory of the evolution can be divided into five vertical cross sections. The formative phase (1714--1803) features the colonial regimes in political arena, less-specialized regional economies, nascent urban units laden heavily with defensive functions, and coerced labor system. The settlement system resembled a semi-primate pattern with Natchitoches on the summit. The period of the Territory of Orleans (1804--1812) corresponded to the transition phase. During this interim, traditional staples and cotton underpinned regional economies; towns added agricultural functions to the original strategic ones; and the introduction of cotton gin and short-staple variety prepared the region for the massive cultivation of the cash crop in the next period. In addition to Natchitoches, Alexandria began to carve out its sphere of influence. A variety of learning processes were in motion in the third phase of trials, errors and adjustments (1813--1834). There were experiments with intensive land use, mixed rural economy, agro-commercial towns, steam power, and new machinery. The spread of population resulted in the increase in the number of settlement hierarchies. An expansion regime led the fourth phase (1835--1850). Land and regional resources were used in more commercialized manner. In the middle of this period, sugar emerged as a major supplementary crop to cotton in the parishes of Rapides and Avoyelles. Because of weak cotton market, however, rural economies turned into specialized diversification regime. The renewed emphasis on the traditional wisdom of crop rotation helped to sustain this diversified economies. With the deepening staple economy, towns invited more commercial populations than before. In the meantime, the removal of logjams led to the re-configuration of settlement system from Natchitoches-centered one to Shreveport-centered one. The last phase of assertion (1851--1860) is characterized by systemic improvement of natural environment, the installation of diversified specialization regime in rural economy, increase of commercial and professional occupations, and scientific management. Boosted cotton economy sustained the continuous progression of the region. Settlement system showed the sign of the end of in-filling process. The system was consolidated around the three nuclei of Shreveport, Natchitoches and Alexandria.