Elizabeth R. Varon

Elizabeth R. Varon

Langbourne M. Williams Professor of American History (2010)

On Leave: Spring 2015

Office Hours: ON LEAVE

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.



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

winner of the 2014 Library of Virginia Literary Award for Nonfiction                                                 

winner of the 2014 Daniel M. and Marilyn W. Laney Prize of the Austin Civil War Roundtable

finalist, Jefferson Davis Award, Museum of the Confederacy       

finalist, Library of Virginia People's Choice Award      

featured on C-Span Book TV       

History Book Club Main Selection

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.

Lillian Smith Award by Southern Regional Council, Fall 2004

People's Choice Award of Library of Virginia/James River Writers Festival, Fall 2004

Richard Slatten Prize for Excellence in Virginia Biography, Virginia Historical Society, April 2004

named one of the "Five Best" books on the "Civil War away from the battlefield" in Wall Street Journal, October 2008

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


Books in Progress

The American Civil War (single volume survey, forthcoming with Oxford University Press, 2016).


Journal Articles and Book chapters

"City Point, Virginia:  Nerve Center of the Union War Effort," in Gary Gallagher and J. Matthew Gallman, eds., Lens of War (Athens:  University of Georgia Press, fall 2014).

"The Method in her Madness:  Contested Narratives of the Life of Civil War Spy Elizabeth Van Lew" in Cynthia Kierner and Sandy Treadway, eds., Virginia Women:  Their Lives and Times (University of Georgia Press, forthcoming 2014).

"New Year's Day, 1864," New York Times Opinion Pages, Jan. 2, 2014:  http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/01/01/new-years-day-1864/?_r=0

“’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/


Selected Conference Papers and Scholarly Presentations

Lecturer, "Catastrophe or Setback? Confederate Interpretations of the Election of 1864," Lincoln Group  Symposium on the Election of 1864, Washington, D.C., November 2014 (C-Span).

Lecturer, "Andrew Johnson and the Legacy of the Civil War," Miller Center Series on the American Presidency, UVA, October 2014.

Carls-Schwerdfeger Endowed Lecture, "Legacies of Appomattox," Union University, Tn., October 2014.

Commentator, Panel on the Rise of the Republican Party, Society of Historians of the Early American Republic Annual Meeting, Philadelphia, July 2014.

Lecturer, "Legacies of Appomattox," Library of Virginia Book Talks series, June 2014.

Keynote, "Legacies of Appomattox," Austin Civil War Roundtable, June 2014.

Commentator, Panel on Northern Democrats in the Civil War Era, Society of Civil War Historians  Annual  Meeting, Baltimore, June 2014.

Chauncey Endowed Lecture, "Lee at Appomattox," Virginia Historical Society, June 2014.

Keynote Address, on Appomattox, Virginia Tech Civil War Weekend, March 2014.

Interview on Appomattox, for Civil War Book Review, February 2014.

Lecturer, "Legacies of Appomattox," Civil War Authors Series, Metropolitan Club, Washington, D.C., Jan. 17, 2014.

Lecturer, "Appomattox and Its Discontents," Sociology Lectures Series, New School for Social Research, NY, Dec. 5, 2013.

Interview, "Appomattox:  What Did it Really Mean?," Miller Center Forum, Nov. 13, 2013, broadcast on Virginia public television, http://millercenter.org/public/forum/detail/6076.

Lecturer, "Appomattox:  Victory, Defeat and Freedom at the End of the Civil War," Museum of the Confederacy-Appomattox, Nov. 2, 2013, featured on C-Span Book TV: http://www.booktv.org/Program/15046/Appomattox+Victory+Defeat+and+Freedom+at+the+End+of+the+Civil+War.aspx

Interview on Appomattox for Civil War Monitor, Oct. 2013, http://www.civilwarmonitor.com/behind-the-lines/an-interview-with-elizabeth-varon.

Interviewed for radio program, "Mission Accomplished" on "Backstory with the American History Guys"; program aired May 2013: https://soundcloud.com/backstory/appomattox-what-ends-from.

Panelist, "Union Spies in Fact and Fiction," Museum of the Confederacy, April 6, 2013, featured on C-Span.

Keynote Address, "A Journey through Virginia History," Phi Beta Kappa induction ceremony, Washington & Lee University, March 13, 2013.

Lecturer, "Legacies of Appomattox," North Carolina Museum of History, March 3, 2013.

Lecturer, "Legacies of Appomattox," Charlottesville-Albemarle Civil War Roundtable, February 19, 2013.

Commentator, Panel on "The Gendered Uses of Knowledge in the Early Republic," SHEAR Conference, Baltimore July 2012.

Panelist, "The Importance of Virginia History," Virginia Festival of History, Charlottesville, Va., May 2012.

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.

Commentator, Panel on the "Fugitive Slave Law and the Coming of the Civil War," Society for Historians of the Early Republic Annual Conference, Philadelphia, Pa., July 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


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
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Charlottesville, VA 22904

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