Originally from Michigan, Aaron Sheehan-Dean now makes his home in Baton Rouge, where he is a professor of Civil War history at Louisiana State University. An undergraduate at Northwestern, he went on to do his master's and doctoral degree at the University of Virginia. A proud member of the "UVA Mafia," he worked with Michael Holt and Gary Gallagher (both of whom are previous podcast guests) in Charlottesville. He taught in Florida and West Virginia before moving to LSU, where he has Charles Royster's old job.
Aaron is the author of Why Confederates Fought and The Calculus of Violence, the latter of which won the Jefferson Davis Award from the American Civil War Museum in 2018. But as Aaron tells Colin, he originally wanted to be in politics. Working in Congress for a few years, he saw the growth of partisan rancor. He also developed his speaking chops and realized he wanted to pursue history as a career. At UVA, he discovered that grad school isn't just for single people: he managed to finish school and raise a family.
In the course of this interview, you'll find out: what politician could "talk a dog off a meat truck?" And what exactly is a "Sweet'N Low Momma?" Listen and you'll be enlightened.
A native of Northern Ireland, Stephanie McCurry moved to Canada while in high school before settling in the United States. She studied under renowned slavery scholars Eugene and Elizabeth Fox Genovese as a grad student. She made a big splash with her first, prize-winning book, Masters of Small Worlds, which wove together politics, gender, and class relations in antebellum South Carolina. Her second book, Confederate Reckoning, published in 2010, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Now she has a new book, Women's War: Fighting and Surviving the American Civil War.
Despite her success, Dr. McCurry is honest about the challenges she has faced. She talks about her rough road to settling in America, the often thorny nature of grad school politics, and producing scholarship amid changing jobs, moving across the country, and raising children. Through it all, she has focused on the role of women in 19th century American history and how she has tried to raise (and answer) new questions about the past.