Prof Gary L Gerstle FBA

Paul Mellon Professor of American History Emeritus
Paul Mellon Director of Research in American History
Professor Gary L Gerstle FBA

Gary Gerstle arrived in Cambridge in 2014 after a three-decade career in the United States, most recently at Vanderbilt University where he was James G. Stahlman Professor of American History. He is currently Paul Mellon Professor of American History Emeritus, Paul Mellon Director of Research in American History, and Fellow of Sidney Sussex College. He is a historian of the twentieth century, with substantial interests in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. He received his BA from Brown University and his MA and PhD from Harvard University. He is a Fellow of the British Academy and of the Royal Historical Society.

Gerstle has received many fellowships, including a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship, a National Endowment of the Humanities Fellowship, and a Membership at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey. He has served as the Annenberg Visiting Professor at the University of Pennsylvania and as Visiting Professor at the Ecoles des hautes études en sciences sociales in Paris. In 2012-2013, Oxford elected him to the Vyvyan Harmsworth Professorship in American History. He has lectured throughout North America and Europe, and in Brazil, Israel, Mexico, Japan, South Africa, and South Korea. He was elected to the Society of American Historians in 2006 and named a Distinguished Lecturer of the Organization of American Historians in 2007. He has testified before the US Congress on immigration matters and served as an advisor and on-screen commentator for the 2013 Public Broadcasting Service documentary, Latino Americans. He is the creator and presenter of a four-part radio programme, America: Laboratory of Democracy, broadcast on BBC World Service in October-November 2017, and rebroadcast on multiple National Public Radio stations in the US in early 2018. His writings have been translated into Arabic, Dutch, French, German, Japanese, Portuguese, and Spanish.  He is a Guardian columnist and has also written for the Atlantic Monthly, the New Statesman, Dissent, the Nation, and Die Zeit, among others. He frequently appears on BBC Radio 4 and NPR, and was a regular on Talking Politics.

Gerstle’s interests are wide-ranging.  He has written extensively about immigration, race, and nationality, with a particular focus on how Americans have constituted (and reconstituted) themselves as a nation and the ways in which immigration and race have disrupted and reinforced that process.  He has also studied the history of American political thought, institutions, and conflicts, and maintains a longstanding interest in questions of class and class formation.  The Organization of American Historians awarded Gerstle’s 2015 book, Liberty and Coercion: The Paradox of American Government from the Founding to the Present, the 2016 Ellis W. Hawley Prize for the best book on political economy, politics, or institutions of the US since 1865. A Spanish translation of Liberty and Coercion, Libertad y coaccion: La paradoja del gobernio estadunidense desde su fundacion hasta el presente, was published in 2017 by Fondo de Cultural Economica.  Also in 2017, Princeton University Press published an expanded edition of Gerstle's award-winning, American Crucible: Race and Nation in the Twentieth Century, with a new chapter exploring race and nation from Obama to Trump.  

In September 2015, a Beyond the New Deal Order conference at the University of California at Santa Barbara assessed the influence of Gerstle’s 1989 coedited book, The Rise and Fall of the New Deal Order, 1930-1980, on the writing of American political history.  A book resulting from the conference (Beyond the New Deal Order) and coedited by Gerstle, Nelson Lichtenstein, and Alice O'Connor, was published by University of Pennsylvania Press in 2019.  Gerstle published a second coedited volume, States of Exception in American History (University of Chicago Press), with Joel Isaac, in 2020, and a third, A Cultural History of Democracy in the Modern Age (Bloomsbury), with Eugenio Biagini, in 2021.   

Gerstle's new book, The Rise and Fall of the Neoliberal Order: America and the World in the Free Market Era, has just been published by Oxford University Press (2022).

Gerstle is fully-engaged with post-graduate supervision, at both the MPhil and PhD levels.  Recent and current PhD students are working on a wide range of topics including: the scientific-military state in the early republic; disease and slavery in the antebellum South; the Irish-American press in the nineteenth century; the Pension Bureau, statebuilding, and corruption in the Gilded Age; violence and statebuilding in the late nineteenth century; drug policy, race, and statebuilding, 1880-1920; American performers in Britain, 1880-1910; Mexicans, Anglos, and violence on the Texas Borderlands, 1910-1920; the personal politics of conservative women, 1900-1930; Roosevelt's and Churchill's homes in history and public memory; negritude in the francophone and anglophone African diasporas, 1945-1975;  sexual violence and GIs in WWII Europe; the 1950s roots of the gay liberation movement; the carceral state in Texas, 1945-1975; southern migrants (black and white) who moved North, c 1940-1970; the logics and limits of American globalism, 1945-1975; white and black Protestantism and the Civil Rights movement; 1960s student radicalism in the American South; Arab-American identities in the 'age of assimilation', circa 1930-1965; community medicine programs and the Great Society; religious education in post-1960s America; conservative thought in America, 1945 to the present; John Dewey's influence on post-1945 philosophy and politics; and the neoliberal turn in American political thought and practice.

Prospective Mphil and PhD students seeking Gerstle as a supervisor are encouraged to apply early in Cambridge's annual application cycle; PhD students are asked to consider Sidney Sussex as their college affiliation, owing to the availability of substantial college funds to support research in the United States. 

For undergraduates, Gerstle lectures and supervises for Paper 24, The United States since 1865.  He also supervises Part II dissertators.

  • Convenor, Cambridge American History Seminar
  • Cambridge Coordinator, Cambridge-Harvard-Oxford Workshop on Inequality, 2015-2017
  • Organizer, with Joel Isaac, of States of Exception in American History, two conferences (the first in Cambridge in 2015, the second at the University of Chicago in 2018) on emergency powers and liberal democracy in the United States, past and present, to be published as a book by the University of Chicago Press, 2020
  • Organizer, with Eugenio Biagini, of A Cultural History of Democracy: A Global Twentieth Century History, a conference at Cambridge in 2018, to be published as a book by Bloomsbury in 2021.  
  • Co-editor, Politics and Society in Twentieth-Century America, a book series published by Princeton University Press
  • Editorial Boards, DissentJournal of American Ethnic HistoryJournal of American Studies, and Past and Present (Past board member of the American Historical Review, the Journal of American History, and Modern American History)
  • Advisor, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution, on Many Voices, One Nation, an exhibit on immigration that opened in 2017  
  • Creator, Writer, and Narrator of a 4 Part BBC World Service radio series, America: Laboratory of Democracy, that aired in October-November 2018.
  • Consultant, for newspapers, magazines, bloggers, museums, and film producers on immigration, race, and politics in the United States  
  • Commentator on politics for BBC Radio 3 and Radio 4, BBC World Service, Good Morning BritainTalking Politics, New StatesmanThe TelegraphDie ZeitThe NationDissent, and National Public Radio.  My personal webpage,, offers links to some of these programmes, interviews, podcasts, and writings.


Tags & Themes


Faculty of History
West Road
Cambridge UK CB3 9EF

Office Phone: +44 1223 3 35309


Key Publications

The Rise and Fall of the Neoliberal Order: America and the World in the Free Market Era (Oxford, 2022)

A Cultural History of Democracy in the Modern Agecoedited with Eugenio Biagini (Bloomsbury, 2021)

States of Exception in American History, coedited with Joel Isaac (Chicago, 2020)

Beyond the New Deal Order, coedited with Nelson Lichtenstein and Alice O'Connor (Pennsylvania, 2019)

Liberty and Coercion: The Paradox of American Government from the Founding to the Present (Princeton, 2015), winner of the 2016 Hawley Prize; 2016 Editors' Choice, New York Times Book Review; Spanish translation published in 2017

Liberty, Equality, Power: A History of the American People (co-authored), Seventh Enhanced Edition (Cengage, 2019)

American Crucible: Race and Nation in the Twentieth Century (Princeton, 2001), winner of 2001 Saloutos Prize, best book award given by the Immigration and Ethnic History Society.  A expanded edition appeared in 2017, with a new chapter on race and nation from Obama to Trump.

Ruling America: A History of Wealth and Power in a Democracy, co-edited with Steve Fraser (Harvard, 2005)

E Pluribus Unum? Contemporary and Historical Perspectives on Immigrant Political Incorporation, co-edited with John Mollenkopf (Russell Sage, 2001)

America Transformed: A History of the United States Since 1900, co-authored with Emily Rosenberg and Norman Rosenberg (Harcourt Brace, 1999)

Working-Class Americanism: The Politics of Labor in a Textile City, 1914-1960 (Cambridge, 1989)

The Rise and Fall of the New Deal Order, 1930-1980, co-edited with Steve Fraser (Princeton, 1989)


Select Articles and Book Chapters

Links to many of these articles can be found on my personal webpage:

'America’s Neoliberal Order', in Gary Gerstle, Nelson Lichtenstein, and Alice O’Connor,  eds., Beyond the New Deal Order (Pennsylvania, 2019)

'The Rise and Fall(?) of America's Neoliberal Order', Transactions of the Royal Historical Society (2018), 241-64.

'Spaces of Exception in American History', co-authored with Desmond King, in Gary Gerstle and Joel Isaac, eds., States of Exception in American History (Chicago, 2020)

'Race, Ethnicity, and Democracy in the Global Twentieth Century', co-authored with Saul Dubow, in Eugenio Biagini and Gary Gerstle, eds.,  A Cultural History of Democracy in the Modern Age (Bloomsbury 2020)

'Civic Ideals, Race, and Nation in the Age of Obama', in Julian Zelizer, ed., The Obama Presidency: A First Historical Assessment (Princeton, 2018)

 'The Age of Obama', a new chapter for an expanded edition of American Crucible: Race and Nation in the Twentieth Century (Princeton, 2017)

 'Foreword,' to Many Voices, One Nation: Material Culture Reflections on Race and Migration to the United States (Smithsonian Institution Scholarly Press, 2017), book published in conjunction with a National Museum of American History exhibit on immigration opening in 2017

 'The Civil War and Statebuilding: A Reconsideration', Journal of the Civil War Era, 2017

 'The Reach and Limits of the Liberal Consensus', in Robert Mason and Iwan Morgan, eds., The Liberal Consensus Reconsidered: American Politics and Society in the Postwar Era (Florida, 2017)

'Inclusion, Exclusion, and American Nationality', in Ronald Bayor, ed., Oxford Handbook on American Immigration and Ethnicity (Oxford, 2016), 144-165

'The Contradictory Character of American Nationality: A Historical Perspective', in Nancy Foner and Patrick Simone, eds., Fear, Anxiety, and National Identity: Immigration and Belonging in North America and Western Europe (Russell Sage, 2015), 33-59

'Acquiescence or Transformation? Divergent Paths of Political Incorporation in America', in Jennifer Hochschild, Michael Jones-Correa, Claudine Gay, and Jennifer Chattopadhyay, eds., Immigrant Political Incorporation: A Handbook (Oxford, 2013), 306-320

'Minorities, Multiculturalism, and the Presidency of George W. Bush', in Julian Zelizer, ed., The Presidency of George W. Bush: A First Historical Assessment (Princeton, 2010), 252-281

'A State Both Strong and Weak', American Historical Review 115 (June 2010), 779-85

 'The Resilient Power of the States Across the Long Nineteenth Century: An Inquiry into a Pattern of American Governance', Desmond King and Lawrence Jacobs, eds., The Unsustainable American State (Oxford, 2009), 61-87

'America’s Encounter with Immigrants', in Michael Kazin, ed., In Search of Progressive America (Pennsylvania, 2008), 37-53.  Published in Dutch as “Hoe Amerika omgaat met zijn immigranten: Het verleden, het heden en de toekomst,” in Frans Becker, Menno Hurenkamp, and Michael Kazin, eds., Op zoek naar progressief Amerika (Mets and Schilt, 2007), 112-127; and in French as  “L’Amérique rencontre les immigrants: passé, présent, futur,” Cahiers d’histoire 108 (April-June 2009), 95-110      

 'Race and Nation in the Thought and Politics of Woodrow Wilson', in John Milton Cooper, Jr., ed., Reconsidering Woodrow Wilson: Progressivism, Internationalism, War, and Peace (Woodrow Wilson Center and Johns Hopkins, 2008), 93-124

'Race and Nation in the United States, Cuba, and Mexico, 1880-1940', in Don H. Doyle and Marco A. Pamplona, eds., Nationalism in the Americas (Georgia, 2006), 272-304; translated into Portuguese as 'Raca e nacao nos Estados Unidos, Mexico e Cuba, 1880-1940', in Nacionalismo no Novo Mundo: a formacao de estados-nacao no seculo XIX  (Editora Record, 2008), 409-450

'In the Shadow of Vietnam: Liberal Nationalism and the Problem of War', in Michael Kazin and Joseph McCartin, eds., Americanism: New Perspectives on the History of an Ideal (North Carolina, 2006), 128-152; translated into Portuguese as 'Na sombra do Vietna: o nacionalismo liberal e o problema da guerra', Tempo 25 (July-December 2008), 47-74

'The Immigrant as Threat to American Security: A Historical Perspective', in John Tirman, ed., The Maze of Fear: Security and Migration after 9/11 (New Press, 2004), 87-108; translated as 'L’immigrant, une menace pour la securité américaine', in Pietro Causarano, et al., Le XX siècle des guerres (Les Editions de l’Atelier, 2004), 256-272. Revised and updated for Elliott R. Barkan, Hasia Diner, and Alan M. Kraut, eds., From Arrival to Incorporation: Migrants to the U.S. in a Global Era (NYU, 2008), 217-245  

'Diversity, Pluralism, and the War on Terror', Dissent, 31-38, Spring 2003

'Immigration and Ethnicity in the American Century', in Harvard Sitkoff, ed., Making Sense of the Twentieth Century (Oxford, 2000), 275-95

'Theodore Roosevelt and the Divided Character of American Nationalism', Journal of American History 86 (December 1999), 1280-1307.  Anthologized in Bruce Baum and Duchess Harris, eds., Racially Writing the Republic: Racists, Rebels, and Transformations of American Identity (Duke, 2009), 163-95

'Liberty, Coercion, and the Making of Americans', Journal of American History 84 (September 1997), 524-558.  Anthologized in Charles Hirschman, Philip Kasinitz, and Josh DeWind, eds., The Handbook of International Migration: The American Experience (Russell Sage, 1999), 275-94.  Translated and reprinted as 'Libertad y coaccion en la conformacion de la nacion norte Americana', in Desarrollo Económico: Revista de Ciencias Sociales  40 (July-September, 2000), 317-48

'Race and the Myth of the Liberal Consensus', Journal of American History 82 (September 1995), 579-86

'The Protean Character of American Liberalism', American Historical Review 99 (October 1994), 1043-1073