Professor David Silkenat (PhD)

Professor of History


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.

Responsibilities & affiliations

Executive Committee, Society of Civil War Historians

Undergraduate teaching

  • History of the United States (2nd year survey course)
  • The Peculiar Institution: Slavery in the U.S. South, 1789-1860 (3rd option course)
  • The American Civil War: History and Memory (4th year option course)

Postgraduate teaching

  • Demise of the Slaveholding South
  • Themes in American Historiography
  • Edinburgh's Slavery Connections
  • The American Civil War and Reconstruction (online MSc)
  • Professional Skills for Historians

Open to PhD supervision enquiries?


Areas of interest for supervision

  • American Civil War Era
  • Slavery in the US
  • 19th Century US History

Current PhD students supervised

Name - Degree - Thesis topic - Supervision type

  • Burns, Katherine - PhD - African American family during/after Reconstruction - Primary
  • Stanley, Miles - PhD - Abolition in Delaware - Secondary
  • Bates, Chris - PhD - Jefferson and England - Secondary
  • Sisel, Audrey - PhD -  Civil War Virginia - Primary
  • Wheeler, Chris - PhD - Irish in NY politics - Primary 

Past PhD students supervised

Name - Degree - Thesis topic - Supervision type

  • Cools, Amy - PhD - James McCune Smith - Primary
  • Jodoin, Jared - PhD - The role of Classics in Pro-Slavery Rhetoric - Primary
  • Bateson, Catherine - PhD - American Civil War songs and Irish American sentiments - Secondary
  • Grier, Devin - PhD - Scots in the California Gold Run - Secondary
  • Singerton, John - PhD - Habsburg Empire and the American Revolution - Secondary
  • MacNiven, Robbie - PhD - Revolutionary War atrocities - Secondary
  • Sutton, Rian - PhD - Women Murderers in London and NYC - Secondary
  • Mackay, James - PhD - Black Refugees in the Revolution - Secondary
  • Blackstone, Krysten - PhD - Morale in the Continental Army - Secondary

Research summary


  • North America


  • Culture
  • Economic History
  • Gender
  • Labour
  • Landscapes & Monuments
  • Society
  • War


  • Nineteenth Century

Research interests

My research focuses on the social and cultural history of the American South during the 19th century, with particular attention to the Civil War, race, and slavery.

I am the author of four books:

 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.

Affiliated research centres

  • Centre for the Study of Modern and Contemporary History

The list below is a subset of the information held on the University of Edinburgh PURE system, and includes Books, Chapters, Articles and Conference contributions. For a full list, including details of other publication types (e.g. reviews), please see the Edinburgh Research Explorer page for Dr David Silkenat.

Books - Authored

Silkenat, D. (2022) Scars on the Land: An Environmental History of Slavery in the American South. Oxford University PressDOI:

Silkenat, D. (2019) Raising the White Flag: How Surrender Defined the American Civil War. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina PressDOI:

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:

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. (2021) 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, pp. 123-136DOI:

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:

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