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Rob Bates


The system of pensions established in the United States for veterans of the Civil War has often been seen as emblematic of the American state's transformation during the post-war period. By sequestering the U.S. Pension Bureau within a narrative that chronicles the rise and fall of an incipient American welfare state, however, historians have overlooked alternative yet significant aspects of its evolution. 

This research, supervised by Professor Gary Gerstle, represents a reconsideration of the Civil War pension system as a key site of American state development during the final third of the nineteenth century. Though historians charting the growth of federal authority in the post-war period have customarily highlighted the escalating demand on the Federal budget, enhanced administrative capacity, and increasing number of citizens pulled into the purview of the Pension Bureau, they have been less inclined to explore the parallel emergence of its investigatory and law enforcement capacities or the internal institutional logics which guided their development. This project considers the Civil War pension system within the context of a system of governance that was both fragmented and frequently improvised, and which, in an age of reconstruction, reflected the manifold conflicts and contingencies attendant upon the development of central state authority. 

This PhD is funded by the AHRC and Queens' College. I am also the holder of an Honorary Vice Chancellors' Scholarship, and during 2019 was a Kluge Fellow at the Library of Congress. 

I previously studied at the University of Newcastle, where my research focused on the American Civil War and its social and cultural after-effects, especially among the conflict's veterans. My undergraduate thesis won the Peter Parish prize awarded by the British American Nineteenth-Century Historians (BrANCH) and was published in the journal American Nineteenth Century History. 



  • American History

Other Publications

"The Ideal Home of the South": The Robert E. Lee Camp Confederate Soldiers' Home and the Institutionalization of Confederate Veterans in Virginia, American Nineteenth-Century History 17 (2016).