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Rachel Shelden

Rachel Shelden

Director of the Richards Civil War Era Center

Associate Professor of History

410 Weaver Building
University Park , PA 16802


I am an Associate Professor of American History, specializing in the long Civil War Era, from the Jacksonian Period through Reconstruction. My research and teaching interests include slavery and abolition, the Civil War, the U.S. South, and political and constitutional history. I am  the author of Washington Brotherhood: Politics, Social Life, & the Coming of the Civil War (University of North Carolina Press, 2013), which received honorable mention for the Wiley-Silver Prize for the best first book on the American Civil War and was a selection of the History Book Club. I am also co-editor, with Gary Gallagher, of A Political Nation: New Directions in Mid-Nineteenth-Century American Political History (University of Virginia Press, 2012). My current project explores the political culture of the U.S. Supreme Court from the Jacksonian Era to the 1890s. Before coming to Penn State, I taught at the University of Oklahoma.



PhD, University of Virginia, 2011

MA, University of Virginia, 2006

BA, Stanford University, 2003


Recent Publications:

 "Secession and the Outbreak of Civil War," in The Routledge History of Nineteenth-Century America, Jonathan Daniel Wells, ed. (New York: Routledge Press, 2017), 171-190

 Washington Brotherhood: Politics, Social Life, and the Coming of the Civil War. Chapel Hill: University of  North Carolina Press, 2013 (paperback, 2015)

 “'Obey and Yet Disbelieve': Southern Reaction to the Dred Scott Decision Revisited,” Ohio Valley History 13, No. 2 (Summer 2013): 25-45

 A Political Nation: New Directions in Mid-Nineteenth-Century American Political History, co-edited with  Gary W. Gallagher. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2012.

 “Messmates’ Union: Friendship, Politics, and Living Arrangements in the Capital City, 1845-1861,”  The Journal of the Civil War Era 1:4 (December 2011): 453-480

 “Measures for a ‘Speedy Conclusion’: A Reexamination of Conscription and Civil War Federalism,” Civil War History 55 (December 2009): 469-498