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Hi all! I'm interested in the 19th century American South, particularly the Border South/Upper South (i.e. Kentucky, Missouri, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, etc.) and I'm wondering if anybody has any recommendations for the best graduate programs in that field? I'd be especially interested to hear opinions on UVA, University of Kentucky, and Tennessee-Knoxville, but am open to any and all recommendations.

Edited by Sumner224

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It may make more sense to think about your potential research along the lines of subject instead of region. Are you interested in antebellum political culture? The Civil War and Reconstruction? Slavery and Emancipation? Populism and the New South? Gender and Jim Crow?

Either way, the top programs for southern history are going to be Yale and UNC. Yale is the house C. Vann Woodward built and has Glenda Gilmore and David Blight. UNC is basically the epicenter of all things southern studies related and has top tier folks in every subfield.

The next tier is going to be the University of Georgia and the University of South Carolina. UGA students do pretty well with regard to competing for the C. Vann Woodward Dissertation Prize. 

UVA would be ok if you were more interested in the 20 century South. Since Ed Ayers left I wouldn't suggest choosing them for 19th century topics unless you are a Civil War person.

Honestly, I would suggest choosing the University of Mississippi before Kentucky or UT. Even if you have a burning desire to work on a topic related to one of those two states, the best move would be to go to a grad program with more resources and higher profile scholars and then conduct your archival research in one of those states.

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This isn't the most efficient way to find programs, but figure out where your favorite historians of the U.S. South are located and go from there.

The AHA also compiles all PhD programs, and in the description it usually says what each program's strengths are.

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I have a friend at Tennessee. They apparently have funding issues.

UGA is trying to build its program up. The department managed to poach Scott Nelson from William and Mary.

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47 minutes ago, deltablue said:

It may make more sense to think about your potential research along the lines of subject instead of region. Are you interested in antebellum political culture? The Civil War and Reconstruction? Slavery and Emancipation? Populism and the New South? Gender and Jim Crow?

Either way, the top programs for southern history are going to be Yale and UNC. Yale is the house C. Vann Woodward built and has Glenda Gilmore and David Blight. UNC is basically the epicenter of all things southern studies related and has top tier folks in every subfield.

The next tier is going to be the University of Georgia and the University of South Carolina. UGA students do pretty well with regard to competing for the C. Vann Woodward Dissertation Prize. 

UVA would be ok if you were more interested in the 20 century South. Since Ed Ayers left I wouldn't suggest choosing them for 19th century topics unless you are a Civil War person.

Honestly, I would suggest choosing the University of Mississippi before Kentucky or UT. Even if you have a burning desire to work on a topic related to one of those two states, the best move would be to go to a grad program with more resources and higher profile scholars and then conduct your archival research in one of those states.

Thanks for the info. Yale has always been my top choice anyway, but obviously it wouldn't be the best bet to only apply there. UNC and UGA were definitely on my radar too, but I hadn't thought of USC. 

In terms of subject, I'm looking mainly for CW/R and slavery/emancipation, which is why UVA seemed appealing. I remember hearing from a few sources that UK was pretty solid in Southern history too and I do know they have Amy Murrell Taylor and Mark Summers, but I couldn't find much reference to Kentucky on this forum so I thought I'd ask for opinions.

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15 hours ago, Sumner224 said:

Thanks for the info. Yale has always been my top choice anyway, but obviously it wouldn't be the best bet to only apply there. UNC and UGA were definitely on my radar too, but I hadn't thought of USC. 

In terms of subject, I'm looking mainly for CW/R and slavery/emancipation, which is why UVA seemed appealing. I remember hearing from a few sources that UK was pretty solid in Southern history too and I do know they have Amy Murrell Taylor and Mark Summers, but I couldn't find much reference to Kentucky on this forum so I thought I'd ask for opinions.

I hear you. I haven't met a ton of people out in the profession who are UK grads but Edward Blum does really good work so that's a testament to the program.

If you're interested in the Civil War era, you may want to consider Northwestern, NYU, and UC Davis. Princeton could also be interesting. Matt Karp is doing really good work and is likely to get tenure. Also, there's probably not a better person on 19th century black life than Tera Hunter right now. 10 years ago I would have told you to seriously consider Maryland but all their folks who work on emancipation and the Civil War are on the verge of retirement.

Another program with a southern history focus that is on the rise is Rice. Their program has an explicit southern history focus, good funding, and connections to the Journal of Southern History.

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