Kyle Volk's research and teaching focus on the political, legal, social, and intellectual history of the United States. He is especially interested in the history of democracy, the problem of dissent and difference in American society, the place of morals in American law and politics, civil rights and civil liberties, and the changing meaning of freedom in American life. Volk's research has been supported by the American Society for Legal History, the William Nelson Cromwell Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the American Antiquarian Society. He advises the History Department's chapter of Phi Alpha Theta (the history honor society) and coordinates the department's Lockridge History Workshop. Volk is also a Prelaw advisor for history students and an affiliated faculty member of the African American Studies Program. Professor Volk was the 2014 recipient of the Helen and Winston Cox Award for Excellence in Teaching and the University of Montana's 2015 nominee for CASE Professor of the Year.
His first book, Moral Minorities and the Making of American Democracy (Oxford University Press, 2014), explores the pioneering popular struggles over minority rights that developed out of conflicts over race, religion, and alcohol in nineteenth-century America. Moral Minorities received two major honors from the Organization of American Historians (OAH) in 2015: the Merle Curti Prize for Best Book in American Intellectual History; and honorable mention for the Frederick Jackson Turner Prize for the Best First Book in American History. Future projects will explore resistance to government in the long Progressive era and the centrality of debates over alcohol to cultural conceptions of liberty in U.S. History.
Professor Volk advises graduate students studying aspects of nineteenth- and twentieth-century U.S. History that dovetail with his own broad historical interests. His current and former graduate students work on issues ranging from patriotism, public education, racial prejudice, and disability to environmental politics, public health and urban space, and governance in the American West. Professor Volk is accepting both MA and PhD students in the next admissions cycle. Please contact him by e-mail if you are interested in working with him as a graduate student. Current doctoral students interested in preparing an examination field advised by Professor Volk should contact him early in their graduate career.
Fields of Study
U.S. Political, Legal, Social, & Intellectual History; Civil Rights & Civil Liberties; Political Economy, Social Movements, & American Democracy
PhD, University of Chicago, 2008
MA, University of Chicago, 2001
BA, Boston College, 1999
American History I / Honors American History I (Gen. Ed.: American/European and Historical/Cultural)
Introduction to Historical Methods
Minority Rights and American Democracy
The Early American Republic (Intermediate Writing Course)
American Constitutional History
Intoxication Nation: Alcohol in American History
Moral Conflict & American Democracy (Advanced Writing Course)
Law & Society in Nineteenth-Century America (Advanced Writing Course)
America Divided, 1848-1865 (Advanced Writing Course)
Dissent & American Democracy (Undergraduates/Graduate Seminar)
Readings in Early American History (Graduate Course)
Law, Politics, & Ideas in US History (Graduate Course)
Graduate Research Seminar in History (Graduate Course)
Moral Minorities and the Making of American Democracy (Oxford University Press, 2014)
- Merle Curti Prize, 2015. (For the best book in American Intellectual History, awarded by the Organization of American Historians.)
- Frederick Jackson Turner Prize, 2015, honorable mention. (For the best first book in U.S. History, awarded by the Organization of American Historians.)
"The Perils of 'Pure Democracy': Minority Rights, Liquor Politics, & Popular Sovereignty in Antebellum America." Journal of the Early Republic 29 (Winter 2009), 641-679.
"Fighting for the Right to Party on Sundays: How the Struggle over Blue Laws Changed American Politics," Humanities: The Magazine of the National Endowment for the Humanities 36 (July/August 2015).
"All Wet: Drink and the Fortification of American Democracy." Boston College Magazine, Fall 2014.
"Desegregating New York City: The Amazing pre-Civil War History of Public Transit Integration in the North." Salon.com, August, 2014.
"NYC's 19th Century Rosa Parks." New York Daily News, August 4, 2014.
"What if the Fourth of July were Dry?" OUPblog, July 4, 2014.
"Schools Can't Say 'Amen' to Coercion." Star Ledger (Newark, NJ), October, 25, 2005.
Book Reviews in Law & History Review, Journal of the Early Republic, American Nineteenth Century History, and The Journal of the Civil War Era.