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Robin Bates

Robin Bates

Department: History

Supervisor: Professor Gary Gerstle

College: Queens' College

AHRC Subject Area: History

Title of Thesis: Civil War Veterans' Pensions, Politics, and Historical Memory in Gilded Age America.


The large number of veterans of the American Civil War presented an unprecedented challenge to the institutions and resources of the United States and impelled significant structural change. Often underappreciated by historians, the growth of a substantial military pensions system during the late nineteenth century was driven by an admixture of party politics, ideology, and Civil War memory. Indeed, with the cost of such pensions demanding an increasingly large portion of the Federal budget, the distribution and administration of veterans’ benefits became a hotly contested battleground of bipartisan politics throughout the ‘Gilded Age’, while the burgeoning bureaucratic and investigatory capacity of the Bureau of Pensions reflected the reconceptualization of the American state during the post-war period. My PhD research will focus on the politics of Civil War pensions and in so doing, offer a fresh perspective on late nineteenth-century political culture in the United States.

I completed my Undergraduate degree at Newcastle University, where I focused on the long-term impact of the Civil War for Confederate veterans through an analysis of applications to a soldiers’ home in Richmond, Virginia. My dissertation won the 2013 Peter Parish Dissertation Prize awarded by the British American Nineteenth Century Historians. I stayed at Newcastle to work towards an MLitt. My final dissertation focused on the contributions of Confederate veterans to an emergent historical memory of the internecine conflict in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.