Dr David Silkenat
Senior Lecturer; American History
History Graduate Officer
Co-Director, History for Schools
Affiliated research centres
A native of New York City, I received my undergraduate degree in History from Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. After several years of teaching high school in Florida, I returned to North Carolina for graduate study at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill. From 2008 to 2013, I taught at North Dakota State University in Fargo, North Dakota.
With my colleague Frank Cogliano, I host the podcast The Whiskey Rebellion.
Chair, Scottish Association for the Study of America (2018-2020)
Editorial Board, Journal of the Civil War Era
Editorial Board, American Nineteenth Century History
Summary of research interestsPlaces:
- North America
- Economic History
- Landscapes & Monuments
- Nineteenth Century
My research focuses on the social and cultural history of the American South during the 19th century, with particular attention to the Civil War.
My most recent book is Raising the White Flag: How Surrender Defined the American Civil War (UNC Press, 2019).
I am also the author of Driven from Home: North Carolina's Civil War Refugee Crisis, which was published by UGA Press in October 2016 and received the North Caroliniana Society Book Award for the best non-fiction published that year. My first book, Moments of Despair: Suicide, Divorce, and Debt in Civil War Era North Carolina (UNC Press, 2011), explored shifting moral sentiments in North Carolina over the course of the 19th century, and was also awarded the North Caroliniana Society Book Award for the best non-fiction book of 2011. I have also published articles on labour at the World’s Columbian Exposition, Populism, female education in the Civil War South, African Americans’ historical memory of Abraham Lincoln during the 1930s, and the origins of the 'scourged back' photo.
Current research activities
I am currently writing an environmental history of American slavery.
- The Making of the United States (1st year survey course)
- The Peculiar Institution: Slavery in the U.S. South, 1789-1860 (3rd/4th year option course)
- The American Civil War: History and Memory (4th year option course)
- Demise of the Slaveholding South
- Themes in American Historiography
- Edinburgh's Slavery Connections
- The American Civil War and Reconstruction (online MSc)
Books - Authored
Silkenat, D. (2019) Raising the White Flag: How Surrender Defined the American Civil War. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina PressDOI: https://doi.org/10.5149/northcarolina/9781469649726.001.0001
Silkenat, D. (2016) Driven from Home: North Carolina's Civil War Refugee Crisis. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press
Silkenat, D. (2011) Moments of Despair: Suicide, Divorce, and Debt in Civil War Era North Carolina. University of North Carolina Press
Silkenat, D. (2017) Surrender or Die. Civil War Monitor
Silkenat, D. (2015) From fusionists to moral Mondays: The populist tradition in North Carolina politics. 49th Parallel , 37(1), pp. 1-13
Silkenat, D. (2014) “A Typical Negro”: Gordon, Peter, Vincent Colyer, and the story behind slavery's most famous photograph. American Nineteenth Century History, 15(2), pp. 169-186DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/14664658.2014.939807
Silkenat, D. and Barr, J. (2013) "Serving the Lord and Abe Lincoln's Spirit": Lincoln and Memory in the WPA Narratives. Lincoln Herald, 115(2), pp. 75-98
Silkenat, D. (2011) “In Good Hands, in a Safe Place”: Female Academies in Confederate North Carolina. North Carolina Historical Review, 88(1), pp. 40-71
Silkenat, D. (2011) Workers in the White City: Working Class Culture at the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893. Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society, 104(4), pp. 266-300
Silkenat, D. (forthcoming) The Union Occupation of Coastal North Carolina: Foundations for freedom. In: Foote, L. and Hess, E. (eds.) The Oxford Handbook of the American Civil War. Oxford University Press
Silkenat, D. (2019) Refugees and movement in the Civil War. In: Sheehan-Dean, A. (ed.) The Cambridge History of the American Civil War: Volume 3: Affairs of the People. Cambridge University Press, pp. 131-150DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781316650721.007
Silkenat, D. (2012) Hard times is the cry: Debt in populist thought in North Carolina. In: Populism in the South Revisited: New Interpretations and New Departures. University Press of Mississippi, pp. 101-127