Theses and Dissertations


Nathan Drake

Issuing Body

Mississippi State University


Messer, Peter C.

Committee Member

Hersey, Mark D.

Committee Member

Giesen, James C.

Committee Member

Hui, Alexandra E.

Date of Degree


Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access



Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


College of Arts and Sciences


Department of History


Humans form lasting and unique relationships with the natural world and, by extension, the organisms and animals who have for millennia carved out niche environments. Scholars and general observers agree—at least in principle—that human beings have actively shaped (for better and for worse) the habitats, behaviors, and population of the Earth’s creatures. In turn, those spaces and animals have influenced not only how humans think of the natural world, but also of humanity itself. Animals, in other words, help humans understand themselves.1 This dissertation is a history of the American Alligator. A study of human interactions with alligators can reveal not only how humans viewed the animal, but also how they created, recreated, and utilized those representations to meet their own ends. Much of what humans attached to alligators—either positive, negative, or oscillating between—were the results of an internal process of dialogue, culture, and human psychology. In simpler terms, this research investigates how human beings understand themselves and how a particular species fits within human understandings of the “natural” world.