Saint Louis University


 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 nineteenth-century American political culture and constitutionalism, I have long been interested in one core question: How do citizens in an ethnically, racially, and politically diverse democracy talk to each other about framing governments and defining rights? My most recent book, Frontier Democracy: Constitutional Conventions in the Old Northwest (Cambridge University Press, 2015) examines the debates over state constitutions in the antebellum Northwest from the 1820s through the 1850s. The constitutional conversations allow insights into the essential dilemma inherent in democratic deliberation. Even when people meet together with prior agreements about justice, fair representation, and constitutionally protected rights, they can still fail to live up to those ideals. These conventions, and the urgent popular conversations that engaged with them, tested the possibilities and risks of democratic deliberation on a frontier landscape.

As these people-black, white, Indian, New Englanders and Southerners, European immigrants, men and women-argued over their new governments, they discovered that they had to rethink everything they had believed about democracy, rights, and justice: indeed, what it meant to be an American citizen. They debated every aspect of their political, economic, and private lives, including the citizenship of black people and Indians; the placement of important transportation and civic projects such as canals, railroads, colleges, prisons, and courthouses; married women's property rights and the education of children; the role of the judiciary and grand juries in administering justice; and banks, paper money, and debts. Therefore, my research interests range over a wide terrain of the human experience, including economic, political, social, cultural, and legal history.

I am currently working on a project that explores the language of violence evident in debates over the rights of free black people living in the antebellum and Civil War-era American West (adding several slave states to my earlier research.)

Honors and Fellowships

• Missouri Humanities Council, Distinguished Achievement in Literature Award, 2011
• President's Research Fellowship, Saint Louis University, 2011
• 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. Constitutional History
• U.S. History to 1865
• Civil War and Reconstruction
• Graduate Seminar: Civil War and Reconstruction
• American Slavery
• 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

Frontier Democracy: Constitutional Conventions in the Old Northwest (Cambridge University Press, October 2015)

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, 2009).

Journal Articles

• "Regulating the Jackals of the Monetary World: Banking and Constitutional Reform in the Antebellum Northwest," Western Historical Quarterly 44 (Winter 2013): 389-409.

• ""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

"Democracy and Emancipation," in Harold K. Busch, ed., "What Historians Think of Spielberg's Lincoln," Cineaste 38 (2013): 13-19.

"Lincoln the Politician," in Abraham Lincoln: Self-Made in America, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, Springfield, Illinois, 2008.

"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

Andrew Boysen
Stephen Kissel
John O'Brien
Chris Schnell
Eric Sears