Graduate Students

Asaf Almog is a doctoral candidate, working with Gary W. Gallagher and Elizabeth R. Varon. Asaf’s dissertation, titled “Looking Backward in a New Republic: Conservative New Englanders and American Nationalism, 1793-1861,” examines the evolution of political conservatism among New England’s Unitarian elite, and its role in the construction of American nationalism. The dissertation focuses on members of the so-called “Brahmin caste of New England,” a self-conscious elite, all Harvard-affiliated, who maintained an inner “republic of letters” throughout the early republic and the antebellum era. Moving chronologically from the establishment of the Federalist Party to 1861, Asaf juxtaposes the tradition of “conservative reform” against rival traditions, which supported various egalitarian interpretations of the American Revolution’s legacy. The dissertation examines how the converging understandings of conservatism and reform influenced the political culture of New England’s elite and of the American Republic at large. Ultimately, the dissertation illuminates the complexities of the American Revolution’s legacy of liberty and equality before the Civil War.


Clayton Butler is a doctoral candidate who studies southern unionism during the Civil War era under the guidance of Gary Gallagher and Elizabeth Varon. His M.A. thesis focuses on the First Alabama Union Cavalry, a regiment of white southerners recruited from the states of the Deep South to fight against the Confederacy. After graduating from Pomona College in 2010, he worked at the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, and the Civil War Trust in Washington, DC.


Jesse George-Nichol is a PhD candidate advised by Elizabeth Varon and Gary Gallagher.  Her dissertation examines conciliation and compromise in the spring of 1861.  Her research focuses on former Whigs in the Upper South and the Border South and their attempts secure a national adjustment and avoid armed conflict.  She is originally from North Carolina and has a B.A. from Princeton University.


Brianna Kirk studies the Civil War and Reconstruction, with a focus on the immediate post-war period and Civil War memory, under the direction of Elizabeth Varon. Her master's thesis examines the Norfolk race riot in April 1866 and its implications for the course of Reconstruction. Originally from Philadelphia, she graduated from Gettysburg College in 2015 and worked at the American Civil War Museum in Richmond, Virginia, for two years before beginning the graduate program at UVA.


Stephanie Lawton earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in history at UCLA, where she studied American and Roman history before graduating summa cum laude in 2013. She joined the graduate program at the Corcoran Department of History in 2014 as a student of Gary Gallagher. Her present research interests are the Greek and Roman Classics in American politics and political culture in the nineteenth century. Her master's essay "Substance or Window-Dressing?: Classical Conceptions of Patriotic Citizenship" (short title) argued that classical references in the eulogies of George Washington and Andrew Jackson were not empty rhetorical flourishes but instead meant to instruct Americans about the character and duties desired in the ideal republican citizen.


Stefan Lund studies media and the press in the Civil War Era with a focus on censorship and the Midwest. His Master’s thesis investigates mob attacks on newspaper offices by Union soldiers during the Civil War, and their coverage in the Democratic press. Originally from Minneapolis, he graduated from Oberlin College in 2016 with a B.A. in History and Economics and moved back to Minnesota where he did a variety of work including as a senior research assistant digitizing 19th court records. He began the graduate program at the University of Virginia in 2017, where he studies under Elizabeth Varon.


Brian Neumann is a doctoral candidate studying the political culture of the antebellum South under Elizabeth Varon and Gary Gallagher. His research examines the social, political, and ideological dynamics of Unionism in South Carolina during the Nullification Crisis. He grew up in Chesnee, South Carolina, and graduated from Furman University in 2013. In 2014, he served as the primary researcher for Furman’s 50th Anniversary Commemoration Committee, uncovering the history of desegregation at the university.


Daniel Sunshine studies nineteenth-century political culture with a focus on Union and race.  He graduated from the University of Virginia in 2014 after completing a Distinguished Majors Thesis under Gary W. Gallagher.  After a two-year stint working at a corporate law firm, he returned to the University to pursue a PhD with Elizabeth Varon.  His master’s research examines the competing interpretations of Union at play in the West Virginia statehood movement.