Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

John Bohstedt

Committee Members

Ernest F. Freeberg, Mark Hulsether, Vejas G. Liulevicius


On 5 October 1880, Thomas Hughes gave the "Opening Day" address at the Rugby colony on the Cumberland Plateau in rural East Tennessee. Hughes, a noted English author, philanthropist, and politician, was president of the Board of Aid to Land Ownership, Limited. This colonization company was formed in London in 1879 to assist the emigration of young well-to-do Britons who could not find suitable employment at home. Hughes envisioned the Board's colony as a place where classically educated young men might engage in manual labor without losing status. He thought Rugby's rugged environment would encourage these youth to reject the rampant materialism of the age and to live simply. Sending a stream of fine young Britons to the South was meant to strengthen the region and to heal divisions between the United States and Britain.

Hughes's fame ensured that he would be identified as the colony's sole founder in the Rugby "myth" which was created in 1880. However, Hughes was not the colony's only founder nor did he play the central role in the colony that his fame or his role as president of the Board led everyone to expect. The Rugby "myth" perpetuated numerous misconceptions about the colony which this dissertation aims to refute.

The Rugby colony never achieved Hughes's noble goals. Nonetheless, this colonization project remains a visible reminder of intentions to establish a community where leading simple, godly lives would trump self-indulgence and self-promotion.

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