Elena McGrath

Visiting Assistant Professor

Nau Hall N233
Office Hours: Tuesdays from 11-1 or by appointment

Field & Specialties

Latin American History
Gender History
Natural Resources and Environmental History


B.A. Reed College, 2006

M.A. University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2011

Ph.D. University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2016

I am a historian of revolutionary movements, race, gender, and natural resources in Latin America, with an emphasis on the Andes. My research explores the material conditions that create revolutions as well as the ideological and cultural visions that sustain them over time, and how such forces help create community and individual identity.  My current book project, Devil's Bargains: Miners, Indians, and Citizens at the Limits of the Bolivian Revolution, 1930-1985, follows mining families as they struggle to hold nationalist governments accountable, negotiate community authority, and survive life high in the mountains. My work highlights the importance of these families in the construction of a nationalist ideology that could reconcile development in a precarious landscape with the racial, cultural, and economic legacies of colonialism during the twentieth century. My next project will be a transnational history of how the English bowler hat came to be a symbol of indigenous femininity in Andean Bolivia during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. 

Before coming to UVA, I was a visiting fellow at the Institute of Latin American Studies in London, and prior to that I taught courses in global history for incarcerated men at the Oakhill Correctional Institution in Oregon, WI.


Pre-Histories of Revolutionary Nationalism and the Welfare State: Corocoro, Bolivia 1918-1930.” Zapruder World: International Journal of Social Conflict on the Origins of the Welfare State (Dec, 2016).

Internet and Popular Press Publications


Housewives Against Dictatorship: The Bolivian Hunger Strike of 1978Nursing Clio (December 29, 2016)

Mining for Change in BoliviaEdge Effects (November 5, 2016)

"An 'Agonized Siege over a Roomful of Dynamite': Histories of Violence Between Miners and the Bolivian State” Latin American Diaries: Institute of Latin American Studies (September 26, 2016)

Seduction and Power in Revolutionary BoliviaNotches: (re)marks on the History of Sexuality (October 15, 2015)

Current Research

Devil's Bargains: Miners, Indians, and Citizens at the Limits of the Bolivian Revolution, 1930-1985



“Children of the Revolution: Bolivian Mining Families after 1952” in Anita Casavantes Bradford and James Shrader, eds. Little Nations: Childhood, Family and the State in Cold War Latin America. 

Courses Taught

HILA 1501 Migrations in Latin American History

HILA 2559 Environmental Histories of Revolution in Latin America

HILA 2002 Modern Latin America

HILA 4511 Telling Global Stories from Latin America

Corcoran Department of History
University of Virginia
Nau Hall - South Lawn
Charlottesville, VA 22904


(434) 924-7147
(434) 924-7891
M-F 8am to 4:30pm
Department Contacts