Washington University in St. Louis
Campus Box 1062
One Brookings Drive
St. Louis, MO 63130-4899
I am interested in the processes by which the United States political regime was invented, reinvented, ruptured and re-created over the long era of the Revolution and Founding through the Civil War and Reconstruction and the ways in which the traumas of slavery, race and war--and the representations of those traumas--shaped those dramas of creative destruction.
My recent research and book project have focused on the coming of the Civil War: that book locates the origins of the war in the eruption of national democratic movements in the years leading up to 1861 (see Stripes & Scars: Race, The Revitalization of America and The Origins of the Civil War, under contract with Oxford University Press, above). I am especially concerned, in this context, with the attachments, alliances and convergences between and among slaves, fugitive slaves and quasi-free blacks, and usually white collaborators of various kinds, from individuals to nation-states, and the roles they have performed in stabilizing or destabilizing old regimes and creating new nationalisms and political orders.
My book explains how and why such outsiders came to play a pivotal role in the advent of the Civil War, foregrounding the traumatic politics of violation and debasement as a foundational field of struggle. In so doing the book recasts the governing narrative of the war’s origins and significance. It also re-examines core assumptions about the Founders’ Republic/early US empire, antebellum US slavery, the meaning of freedom and the construction of history in the era before slave emancipation.
Stripes & Scars: Race, The Revitalization of America, and The Origins of the Civil War (under contract with Oxford University Press).
The New York City Draft Riots: Their Significance for American Society and Politics in the Age of the Civil War (Oxford University Press, 1990, cloth and paperback) (Bison Books, 2010, new paperback edition) (Oxford Kindle edition).
Articles and Essays
"Lincoln and the Traumatic Violence of Slavery and the Civil War: A Brief for Expanding Historical Imagination," in Stephen Hansen and Caroline Pryor, eds., TEACHING LINCOLN (Peter Lang, 2013), 21-29.
"Political Evil and the Body Politic in Mid-Nineteenth-Century America," in Steven Mintz & John Stauffer, eds.,The Problem of Evil: Slavery, Freedom, and the Ambiguities of American Reform (University of Massachusetts Press, 2007), 231-59
"Securing Freedom: The Challenges of Black Life in Civil War New York," in Ira Berlin and Leslie M. Harris, eds., Slavery in New York (The New Press, 2005)
"Abraham Lincoln's Body and Body Politic: Two Puzzles in Mid-Nineteenth-Century American Political Language and Culture," in Harold Holzer and John Y. Simon, eds.,The Lincoln Forum: Rediscovering Abraham Lincoln (Fordham University Press, 2002)
“The Volcano Under the City: Draft Rioting in New York City and State, 1863," in Harold Holzer, ed., State of the Union: New York and the Civil War (Fordham University Press, 2002)
"Moral Perspective and the Cycles of Jacksonian History," Journal of Policy History (Summer 1994)
"Expanding the Boundaries of the Political: Workers and Political Change in the Nineteenth Century," International Labor and Working Class History (Fall 1987)
(With David Montgomery), "Work, Family and Class Values in the Nineteenth Century," International Labor and Working Class History (Fall 1981)
Special Recognition for Excellence in Mentoring, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, Washington University, 2005
Kemper Faculty Award, Washington University, 2000
Avery Craven Prize Committee, Organization of American Historians, 2000
Advisory Board, Lincoln Prize
Oxford-Smithsonian Lecturer, Smithsonian Institution, 1998
American Council of Learned Societies Fellowship, 1995-96
Fletcher Jones Visiting Professorship, Huntington Library, San Marino, California, 1995-96 (declined)
Mayer Fund Fellow, Huntington Library, San Marino, California, 1993
Historical Society of Pennsylvania and Library Company of Philadelphia Fellow, 1990
American Council of Learned Societies Fellowship for Recent Recipients of the Ph.D., 1987-1988
National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Stipend, 1987
George Washington Eggleston Prize, Yale University, Best Doctoral Dissertation in American History, 1985
Stephen Charney Vladeck Fellowship (Inaugural Fellow), New York University, 1983-84
Whiting Fellowship in the Humanities, Yale University, 1982-83
Phi Beta Kappa, Magna Cum Laude, Departmental Honors in History, Brown University, 1977.
Civil War & Reconstruction
The New Republic: The United States, 1776-1848
The Theory and Practice of Justice: The American Historical Experience
The American Trauma: Representing the Civil War in Art, Literature and Politics
The Age of Lincoln: America in the 1850s
The Problem of Freedom: The Age of Democratic Revolution in the United States and the Americas, 1760-1888
Slavery in America: The Politics of Knowledge Production
Introduction to the Graduate Study of American History, to 1865
Introduction to Graduate American Culture Studies: Conceptualizing American Empire
Profiles, Podcasts and Interviews
Washington People: Iver Bernstein, October 28, 2011
Stripes and Scars: Hold That Thought American Identities Podcast Series, August 28, 2013