Lawrence McDonnell

19th Century American History, Slavery and the Old South, Civil War and Reconstruction


Office:615 Ross
527 Farm House Ln.
Ames IA


My research explores nineteenth-century American history, with particular focus on the Old South, the coming of the Civil War, and the central role that conflict played in reconstructing the United States as a capitalist nation. My first book, Performing Disunion: The Coming of the Civil War in Charleston, South Carolina considers how social contradictions at street level generated revolutionary change. In addition, I have published essays on slavery, Southern politics, honor and chivalry, masculinity, and labor history in The Journal of Social History, Labour/Le Travail, the Slavery and Antislavery digital history collection, and several edited volumes.

My research has been supported by fellowships from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the Institute for Southern Studies at the University of South Carolina, and Richmond: The International American University in London. In 2024, I will complete a microhistorical analysis of the life of a surprising Southern confidence man. Beyond that, I am at work on a study of the intersection of military and labor history—Bloody Work: The Civil War and the Making of the American Working Class—and (with Kathleen Hilliard) writing Dark Bargain: Love, Murder, and Vengeance in the Old South, a study of the social crisis one woman's murder caused for whites and blacks in an antebellum southern community.