Silvana R. Siddali



Associate Professor


Ph.D., Harvard University, 1999;

A.M., Harvard University, 1993;

Ed.M., Harvard Graduate School of Education, 1989;

B.F.A., Massachusetts College of Art, 1984.



     As a historian of 19th century American political culture and constitutionalism, my primary focus has been on the notion of property rights and their link to citizenship. My first book argues that the wartime confiscation of rebel property--including human property--necessitated profound changes in the American conception of private property rights, constitutionally protected civil liberties, and an individual's right to decide for her/himself what constituted legitimate property. My research for this book and for subsequent articles on 19th century constitutional culture led me to a deeper interest in American ideas about democracy, self-government, and constitutionalism. This research specifically raised questions about the conflict between the rights of individual citizens and the rights of political communities, as well as the limitations of democratic self-government in the presence of ethnic, racial, cultural, and religious clashes. My second book concerns the political, social, and military history of Missouri during the era of the Civil War.
     My current research focuses on self-government and democracy in the states carved from the Old Northwest during the decades before the outbreak of the Civil War. I am writing a book on antebellum state and territorial constitutions, in which I argue that the constitutional debates in the Old Northwest Territory reveal a turbulent, creative, and profoundly democratic experimentation with self-government. The debates over the new constitutions were deeply concerned with land rights and opportunities; perhaps for this reason, these discussions often betray an imaginative reinterpretation of democracy. Convention delegates and their constituents used political compromises, alliances, and rhetoric in a creative blend of legislative, constitutional, and private (including, sometimes corrupt) negotiation. I argue that they had to build new alliances, not only with the political and economic leaders of the older eastern states, but also with European investors and potential settlers. These struggles reveal how antebellum Midwesterners participated in democracy--how they combined their ideals and principles, their personal and local interests, and their patriotism--on the ground.

Honors and Fellowships

  • State Historical Society of Iowa Research and Publication Grant, 2005
  • Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan, Travel Grant, 2004
  • National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Stipend, 2003
  • St. Louis Mercantile Library Fellowship, 2003 
  • J. Everett Helm Fellowship, Lilly Library, Indiana University, 2003 
  • Gilder-Lehrman Institute Fellowship, 2003 
  • Newberry Library Center for Great Lakes Culture Fellowship, 2002

Recent Courses Taught

  • U.S. History to 1865
  • Civil War and Reconstruction 
  • Graduate Seminar: Civil War and Reconstruction 
  • American Slavery 
  • U. S. Constitutional History
  • Senior Seminar: St. Louis History
  • Graduate Seminar in U. S. Historiography
  • Graduate Seminar: The Old Northwest Territory
  • Graduate Seminar: Constitutions in Comparative Perspective

Scholarly Publications


  • From Property to Person: Slavery and the Confiscation Acts, 1861-1862 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2005).

Edited Volumes

  • Missouri's War: The Civil War in Documents (Athens: Ohio University Press, 2008).

Journal Articles

  • ""Principle, Interest, and Patriotism All Combine":  The Iowa Capital City Controversy," Annals of Iowa, 64 (2):111-138.
  • ""Refined, Highfalutin' Principles":  The Northern Public and the Constitution in 1861-1862," American Nineteenth Century History, 2 (2001)60-81.
  • "The Sport of Folly and the Prize of Treason:  Confederate Property Seizures and The Northern Home Front during the Secession Crisis," Civil War History, 47 (2001): 310-333.
  •  Joel Perlmann, Silvana R. Siddali and Keith Whitescarver, "Literacy, Schooling and Teaching Among New England Women, 1780-1829," History of Education Quarterly, 37 (1997), 117-139.


Essays in Edited Volumes


  •  "Social Trends and Everyday Life in the Era of the Civil War," chapter in The Era of the Civil War, 1850-1877, Thomas J. Brown, editor (Columbia: Manly, Inc., 1997), 265-307.

Graduate Students

Brian Forbes
Stephen Kissel
Marcus McArthur
John O'Brien
Chris Schnell

© 1818 - 2015  SAINT LOUIS UNIVERSITY   |   Disclaimer   |  Mobile Site
St. Louis   |   Madrid