Penn State Penn State: College of the Liberal Arts

George and Ann RichardsCivil War Era Center

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William Blair
William Blair

William Blair

Ferree Professor Emeritus of Middle American History
Director Emeritus / Richards Civil War Era Center
Founding Editor / The Journal of the Civil War Era
118A Pond Lab, University Park, PA 16802

I am a historian of the Civil War era, focusing primarily on the home front and political culture in the middle nineteenth century. My work has focused on the construction of Confederate identity during the war and the use of ceremonies such as Memorial Days and Emancipation Days after the war to reinforce and contest political identities. I am currently working on a book-length project that examines the uses and misuses of treason during and after the Civil War. As director of the Richards Civil War Era Center, I work with student interns, sponsor symposia, and serve as the organizer for a biennial conference with the Society of Civil War Historians. I also am the founding editor of The Journal of the Civil War Era,” published by the University of North Carolina Press.


  • PhD, Pennsylvania State University, 1995
  • MA, Pennsylvania State University, 1989
  • BA, Pennsylvania State University, 1975

Recent Publications:

Cities of the Dead: Contesting the Memory of the Civil War in the South, 1865-1914. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004.

Virginia’s Private War: Feeding Body and Soul in the -Confederacy, 1861-1865. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.

Lincoln’s Proclamation: Emancipation Reconsidered. Co-editor with Karen F. Younger. Part of the Steven and Janice Brose Lecture Series. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2009

“Friend or Foe: Treason and the Second Confiscation Act,” in Wars within Wars. Eds. Gary W. Gallagher and Joan Waugh. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2009.

Awards and Service:

Distinction in the Humanities Award, College of the Liberal Arts, Pennsylvania State University (2009)
Honorable Mention, Peter Seaborg Award for Civil War Scholarship (2005)
Distinguished Lecturer, Organization of American Historians (since 2004)
Welch Alumni Award, College of the Liberal Arts, Pennsylvania State University (2003)

Recent Courses:

HIST444 – The United States in Civil War and Reconstruction 1850-1877
HIST544 – Topics in the Civil War and Reconstruction

Areas of Specialization: