Elizabeth R. Varon

Elizabeth R. Varon

Langbourne M. Williams Professor of American History (2010)

Office Hours: Mon.-Wed. 1:00-2:00 and by appt.

Office: Nau 395

Email: erv5c (at) virginia.edu

Fields & Specialties

American South, Civil War Era, Women’s and Gender History, Intellectual and Cultural History

Ph.D., Yale University, 1993.
B.A., Swarthmore College, Swarthmore, PA, 1985.



Disunion!: The Coming of the American Civil War, 1789-1859.   Volume I of series "Littlefield History of the Civil War Era."  Littlefield Fund for Southern History and University of North Carolina Press, Fall 2008.

Southern Lady, Yankee Spy:  The True Story of  Elizabeth Van Lew, A Union Agent  in the Heart of the Confederacy. Oxford University Press, Fall 2003.

We Mean to be Counted:  White Women and Politics in Antebellum Virginia.  Chapel Hill:  University of   North Carolina Press, 1998.                                                                                                                        

Appomattox:  Victory, Defeat and Freedom at the End of the Civil War (Oxford University Press, forthcoming 2013).


Journal Articles and Book Chapters

“’Save in Defense of My Native State’:  A New Look at Robert E. Lee’s Decision to Join the Confederacy,” in Robert Cook, ed., Conflicted Minds:  New Perspectives on the Secession Crisis of 1860-1861      (Johns Hopkins University Press, forthcoming 2014).

“Millard Fillmore and the Taming of Sectional Tensions,” in A Companion to the Antebellum Presidents, 1837-1861, ed. Joel Silbey (Wiley-Blackwell Press, forthcoming 2013).

“’Beautiful Providences’: William Still, the Vigilance Committee, and Abolitionists in the Age of   Sectionalism” in Antislavery and Abolition in Philadelphia, ed.  Richard Newman (Louisiana State University Press, 2012), pp. 229-246

“Gender History and the Origins of the Civil War,” Organization of American Historians Magazine of History 25 (April 2011): 19-24.

“Women at War,” New York Times Opinion Pages, Feb. 1, 2011:  http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/02/01/women-at-war/

“True to the Flag:  Uncovering the Story of Elizabeth Van Lew and the Richmond Underground,” North & South (Fall 2003).

"Patriotism, Partisanship, and Prejudice:  Elizabeth Van Lew of Richmond and Debates over Female Civic Duty in Post-Civil War America," in Women and the Unstable State in Nineteenth-Century America. eds. Alison Parker and Stephanie Cole.  College Station:  Texas A&M Press, 2000, pp. 113-138.

"Evangelical Womanhood and the Politics of the African Colonization Movement in Antebellum Virginia," in Religion and the Antebellum Debate over Slavery, eds. John R. McKivigan and Mitchell Snay. Athens:  University of Georgia Press, 1999, pp. 169-95.                                                

"Tippecanoe and the Ladies, Too:  White Women and Party Politics in Antebellum Virginia," Journal of   American History 82 (September 1995), pp. 494-521.



OAH Distinguished Lecturer, “The Method in her Madness:  The Strange Career of Civil War Spy Elizabeth Van Lew of Richmond,” Limestone College, Gaffney, S.C., March 5, 2012.

Lecturer, “Breaking the Spell: Lincoln and the Spectre of Northern Disunionism in the Secession Crisis of 1860-61,” Conference on “Lincoln, the Constitution and the Nation at War,” Christopher Newport University, Newport News, Va., February 23, 2012.

Lecturer, “The Method in her Madness:  The Strange Career of Civil War Spy Elizabeth Van Lew of Richmond,” Third Annual Crenshaw Lecture on Women’s History, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, Va. Nov. 17, 2011.

Keynote Speaker, “The Legacies of Lee’s Surrender at Appomattox,” Conference on the “Legacies of the Civil War,” Chestnut Hill College, Pa., Nov. 12, 2011.

Panelist, Symposium on “The Rule of Law in the American Civil War: The Dilemma,” Montpelier:  James Madison’s House, Va., Virginia Law Foundation, Sept. 28, 2011. 

Lecturer, “Disunion!,” Burnham Lecture in Civil War History, Center for Civil War Research, University of Mississippi, April 29, 2011.

Panelist, Plenary session on the “Origins of the Civil War,” Organization of American Historians Annual Meeting, Houston, TX, March 17, 2011. (featured on C-Span)

Interviewed for radio program, “The Road to Civil War” on “Backstory with the American History Guys”; program aired March 1, 2011:  backstoryradio.org/the-road-to-civil-war

Interviewed for BBC 3 radio program “The War of the South”; aired April 10, 2011:  http:///www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01063zt

Lecturer, “Robert E. Lee’s Decision to Join the Confederacy,” Cunliffe Center for the Study of the American South, University of Sussex, UK, March 7, 2011.

Panelist, “The Civil War: Before and After,” National Archives Symposium, Washington, D.C., November 12, 2010. (Featured on C-Span).

Lecturer, “The Fugitive Slave Law, November 2011, University of Virginia, featured in C-Span’s “Lectures in American History series:  http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/SlaveLa

Lecturer, “The Spectre of Disunion in Electoral Politics, 1856-1860,” Pamplin Park Symposium on the Presidential Election of 1860, October 15-17, 2010, Petersburg, Va.

Lecturer, “Union or Disunion,” NEH Summer Teachers Institute on theme of Secession Crisis, Library of Virginia, July 2010, Richmond, Va.

Lecturer, “The Most Portentous Crisis:  Images of Disunion in the Presidential Election Campaigns of 1856 and 1860,” Civil War Institute at Gettysburg College, June 30, 2010.

Panelist, “From Appomattox to Juneteenth:  Lee’s Surrender and the End of Slavery,” Society of Civil War Historians Conference, Richmond, Va., June 18, 2010. (Featured on C-Span)


Awards and Activities

Prize Jury, Watson Brown Prize, Society of Civil War Historians, Winter 2011 (for 2012 prize).

Prize Jury, Wiley-Silver Prize, Center for Civil War Research, University of Mississippi, Winter 2011 (for 2012 prize).

Prize Jury, Bancroft Prize for American History, Biography and Diplomacy, Winter 2010.

Appointed to Organization of American Historians Distinguished Lectureship Program, January 2006.

Prize Jury, Lincoln Prize, sponsored by the Gettysburg College Civil War Institute and Gilder-

Lehrman Foundation, 2005-06.

Southern Lady, Yankee Spy named one of the “Five Best” books on the “Civil War away from the battlefield” in Wall Street Journal, October 2008.

Southern Lady, Yankee Spy awarded Lillian Smith Award by Southern Regional Council, Fall 2004.

Southern Lady, Yankee Spy awarded People’s Choice Award of Library of Virginia/James River Writers Festival, Fall 2004.

Southern Lady, Yankee Spy awarded Richard Slatten Prize for Excellence in Virginia Biography, Virginia Historical Society, April 2004.

We Mean to be Counted named Finalist, Virginia Center for the Book Non-Fiction Award, 1999.

Lerner-Scott Prize for Best Dissertation in U.S. Women's History, Organization of American Historians, 1995.

Corcoran Department of History
University of Virginia
Nau Hall - South Lawn
Charlottesville, VA 22904

tel: (434) 924-7147; fax: (434) 924-7891
office: M-F 8 am to 4:30 pm
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