Where To Study The Civil War In Graduate School

I recently received an email from someone who stumbled onto my blog while looking for places to study the Civil War in graduate school.  Here is the email:

I stumbled on your blog while doing some of my research on grad schools.  Since you seem to have your ear to the ground regarding Civil War academia, I was wondering if you know which grad schools have the best reputations for study of Civil War, have the best Civil War scholars, etc.  I’ve already assembled a list of some of the schools, based in part from input I’ve received from guys like Gallagher, Robertson, and Davis, but I’d appreciate any information you might have. Thanks for your time.

Since I don’t really "have my ear to the ground" on this one I thought it might be worthwhile to appeal to some of my readers for help, especially those of you who teach the Civil War on the college level.  still, I might take a crack at this one.  First, I would think of the Civil War broadly and look at departments that have a strong concentration in Nineteenth-Century and/or Southern History.  Obviously, the University of Virginia would be an ideal place to go given that Ed Ayers, Gary Gallagher, Michael Holt, Julian Bond, and Grace Hale all teach in the department.  In addition, there is the Center For Digital History and the Carter G. Woodson InstituteRice University has a strong concentration in Southern History, including John Boles who edits the Journal Of Southern History.  If I were going to graduate school I would seriously consider the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  Joe Glatthar, Jacquelyn D. Hall and Fitz Brundage cover a wide range of issues that connect to the Civil War.  The University of North Carolina at Greensboro now has a Ph.D program in United States History and there is a strong concentration in the Nineteenth-Century, including Charles Bolton, Peter Carmichael, and Loren Schweninger among others.  Penn State University has Carol Reardon, Mark Neely and William Blair on its faculty along with the George and Anne Richards Civil War Center.  Finally, Ohio State University includes both Mark Grimsley and Joan Cashin.  There is also a strong concentration in African-American history.

That’s just a few that I could think of off the top of my head.  Perhaps Emory University, Arizona State University, University of Georgia as well as Harvard University should be considered.  Anyone else want to offer their advice?

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18 comments… add one
  • Mark A Sleboda Mar 2, 2019 @ 13:47

    Currently, Lesley Gordon at the University of Alabama is Chair of Southern History there. She formerly mentored several Civil War studies students at the University of Akron.

  • James Curtis Aug 27, 2016 @ 12:43

    What are the chances of finding employment in this field? I’m sure its very limited. Also, one has to take into account the good ole boy network of the South.

    • Kevin Levin Aug 27, 2016 @ 14:09

      From what I understand the Humanities in general is still a very tough field to find full-time employment. The “good ole boy” network is the least of your problems.

  • Mike Emett Mar 20, 2016 @ 17:53

    My family looking to head back to the states within the Rockies as soon as I finish my Masters at Marshall in WV, so that we can be closer to family. Does anyone know of any universities in Utah, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming that have at least a decent Civil War doctoral program, or even 19th century American History?

  • Nils Skudra Dec 24, 2015 @ 20:15

    Bruce Levine has apparently left the University of Illinois this December. I called the History Department there and was told this.

  • Tim Aug 27, 2008 @ 10:44

    University of Illinois has Bruce Levine who authored “Confederate Emancipation”, “Half-Slave and Half Free”, along with other books that linger between 19th Century Industry and Civil War.

  • Peter Carmichael Oct 26, 2006 @ 10:44

    The Atlantic World perspective at UNCG is integrated into the program, but it is not a concentration or a required minor. Virtually all of our students work in Southern history, and a few of those take an Atlantic World perspective

  • Will Hickox Oct 25, 2006 @ 18:12

    Thanks, Kristen.

  • John Maass Oct 25, 2006 @ 17:14

    Is the PhD program at UNCG not geared mainly for Atlantic World studies?

  • Kristen Oct 25, 2006 @ 11:08

    This isn’t really the Chicago area, but its in the Midwest–I know that Jennifer Weber teaches at the University of Kansas, as well as Jonathan Earle (a former student of Sean Wilentz who works on Jacksonian Democrats). Their department might have others as well.

  • Will Hickox Oct 24, 2006 @ 23:50

    Are there any good Civil War grad programs in the Chicago area?

  • Hiram Hover Oct 24, 2006 @ 21:33

    Stephanie McCurry has joined the dept at Princeton.

    Penn State also has Anthony Kaye, who studies emancipation, and is an editor of Civil War History and an alumnus of the Freedmen and Southern Society Project.

  • Brooks Simpson Oct 24, 2006 @ 19:44

    Jim McPherson, I believe, is retired.

  • Kevin Levin Oct 24, 2006 @ 16:48

    Sarah, — Thanks for the additional references — all solid choices, though I thought McPherson retired.

    Peter, — If I could do it all over again I would focus on public history.

  • Peter Carmichael Oct 24, 2006 @ 15:55


    Thanks so much for mentioning our new doctoral program at UNCG. We have attracted a range of students, many of them interested in 19th century and Civil War history. I should add that we also have a very good MA program in public history and every year we arrange for students to work at Civil War sites in the National Park Service and elsewhere. In fact, the Stonewall Jackson House in Lexington just hired one of our recent graduates as the new curator. If any of your readers are interested in UNCG, I would be happy to speak to them directly.

  • Sarah Oct 24, 2006 @ 15:51

    Yale (Blight, Gilmore)
    Columbia (Eric Foner)
    Princeton (McPherson, Kevin Kruse–more modern South than straight Civil War history, though)

  • Kevin Levin Oct 24, 2006 @ 14:45

    Thanks for the input Cash. I only cited Phd programs, but would have cited VTech had the author of the email not mentioned Robertson and Davis.

  • Cash Oct 24, 2006 @ 12:19


    My alma mater, Virginia Tech, has the Virginia Center for Civil War Studies


    and Professors James I. Robertson and William C. Davis.


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