Robert Elder

Assistant Professor of History

Arts and Science Building 356


B.A. – Clemson University
M.A. – Clemson University
Ph.D. – Emory University

Scholarly Contributions

Elder recently published the book The Sacred Mirror: Evangelicalism, Honor, and Identity in the Deep South, 1790-1860.  Information about the book can be found at the publisher’s website.
Elder is currently working on a new book on John C. Calhoun. His efforts have been chronicled on Valpo’s website.


Robert Elder joined the history department at Valparaiso University in fall 2014. He first came to Valparaiso as a Lilly Postdoctoral Fellow from 2011 to 2013. A historian of the American South and American religious history, Professor Elder teaches a variety of courses on early American history, including the American Revolution, the Age of Jackson, and the Civil War. He has also taught courses on slavery and the history of race and class in the American South in Christ College, Valparaiso University’s honors college. His approach to teaching is pretty simple: read good books, tell good stories, try to rescue the past from what E.P. Thompson once called the “enormous condescension of posterity,” and get students to see their world from a different angle.

Professor Elder’s current research focuses on the cultural and religious history of the American South in the 19th century. His first book, The Sacred Mirror: Evangelicalism, Honor, and Identity in the American South, 1790-1860, was published by the University of North Carolina Press in 2016. This book examines the influence of honor culture on evangelical religion in the South, and links this interaction to the origins and progress of modern identity in the region. He has also published articles, essays, and reviews in venues such as The Journal of Southern History, Safundi, The Journal of American History, The Journal of Southern Religion, and Books & Culture. He is in the beginning stages of a new project on South Carolina Senator John C. Calhoun, one of the intellectual architects of southern secession and a fierce defender of slavery who the historian David Potter once called “the most majestic champion of error since Milton’s Satan.” In the wake a significant recent reevaluation by scholars of slavery’s relationship to modernity and capitalism, this project will reexamine Calhoun’s ideas and arguments. During the 2016-2017 academic year, Professor Elder will serve as University Research Professor at Valparaiso as he conducts research for this project.

Professor Elder is married and has four (wonderful) young children. His hobbies used to include fly fishing, but now consist mostly of drinking coffee and thinking about fly fishing.


American South and American Religious History

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