Politics, Public Life & Governance

Politics, Public Life, and Governance builds on the current renaissance in political history, broadly defined, at Duke and in the profession as a whole.  This resurgence has involved a breakdown of older boundaries of political history with the infusion of concepts, methods, and findings from social and cultural history.  The most exciting work in the field now stems from the recognition that politics is conducted in distinct ways by a wide variety of groups, including the formally disenfranchised, and that governance takes place through numerous institutions, including many that are not part of the state, among them labor unions, trade associations, communal organizations and more.  What unites faculty in this area is interest in exploring the workings of power: who has it, who lacks it and why; how it is exercised and experienced and negotiated; and how and why its character and distribution have changed over time.

The ways we explore these issues, however, vary across geographic regions, thematic subfields, conceptual frameworks, and analytic lenses such as political economy, gender, race, class, and nation.  Areas of particular strength at Duke include the intersections of state and empire formation; high politics, public policy, and the evolution of national states; formal institutions such as early modern charter companies, the military, and corporations as distinct political communities and instruments of innovation and domination; popular politics and social movements; citizenship and the law as sites of political contestation and recognition and categories for political inclusion and exclusion; the relationship between strategies of governance and the evolution of modern capitalism in different societies; the modern administrative state as a pivotal site of economic and political conflict; political violence, including state violence; and the transnational flows of political ideas, movements, policies, and identities.

Faculty and students working in this area benefit from an unusual array of resources.  Among them are the area’s outstanding research libraries and archival collections including collections on segregation and civil rights at the Duke Center for Documentary Studies, Sanford School of Public Policy, and Program on History, Public Policy and Social Change and a series of collaborative seminars including The Moral Challenges of Poverty in North Carolina (Duke-UNC), Rethinking Regulation (Duke-UNC), and Global Governance and Democracy (Duke faculty/graduate students).


Edward J. Balleisen

Edward J. Balleisen, Professor of History

Office: 216 Allen Bldg, Durham, NC 27708
Phone: (919) 684-5783

My research and writing explores the historical intersections among law, business, politics, and policy in the modern United States, with a particular focus on the origins, evolution, and impacts of the modern regulatory state.  I have pursued a number of collaborative projects with historians and... full profile »

Dirk Bonker

Dirk Bonker, Associate Professor in the Department of History

Office: 208 Classroom Bldg, Durham, NC 27708
Phone: (919) 684-3930

I am a historian of the United States and Germany, who focuses on questions of militarism, warfare, and empire in the long twentieth century. In my work, I also address larger questions about how best to "globalize" and "internationalize" U.S and German histories in the modern age. full profile »

James Gregory Chappel

James Gregory Chappel, Assistant Professor of History

James Chappel is the Hunt Family Assistant Professor of History at Duke University. His first book will appear from Harvard University Press in the Spring of 2018: "Catholic Modern: The Challenge of Totalitarianism and the Remaking of the Church." The book is primarily an intellectual history of... full profile »

Laura F. Edwards

Laura F. Edwards, Peabody Family Distinguished Professor of History in Trinity College of Arts and Sciences

Office: 333 Carr Bldg, Durham, NC 27708
Phone: (919) 668-1435

My research focuses on women, gender, and the law in the nineteenth-century, particularly the U.S. South. In addition to articles on these topics, I have published four books: A Legal History of the Civil War and Reconstruction:  A Nation of Rights (2015); The People and Their Peace:... full profile »

John D. French

John D. French, Professor of History

Office: 331 Carr Bldg, Durham, NC 27708
Phone: (919) 684-2536

I am a professor of History and African and African-American Studies at Duke University in Durham North Carolina. With a B.A. from Amherst College, I received my doctorate at Yale in 1985 under Brazilian historian Emília Viotti da Costa. Since 1979, I have been studying class, race, and politics in... full profile »

Thavolia Glymph

Thavolia Glymph, Professor in History

Office: Box 90719, 226 Carr Building (East Campus), 114 Campus Drive, Durham, NC 27708
Phone: (919) 668-1625

Thavolia Glymph, professor of history and law, studies the U.S. South with a focus on nineteenth century social history. Glymph is the author of Out of the House of Bondage: The Transformation of the Plantation Household (Cambridge University Press, 2008) and The Women's Fight: The Civil... full profile »

Reeve Huston

Reeve Huston, Associate Professor of History

Office: 212 Carr Bldg, Durham, NC 27710
Phone: (919) 684-2271

My teaching, thinking, and writing center on U.S. political history and on the history of capitalism.  In the latter interest, I teach and write in both US and global/comparative history.  I teach several courses in these fields: a two-semester survey of U.S. political history, the History of... full profile »

Nancy MacLean

Nancy MacLean, William H. Chafe Distinguished Professor of History and Public Policy

Nancy MacLean is an award-winning scholar of the twentieth-century U.S., whose new book, Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America, has been described by Publishers Weekly as “a thoroughly researched and... full profile »

Martin A. Miller

Martin A. Miller, Professor of History

Office: 337 Carr Bldg, Durham, NC 27708
Phone: (919) 684-3575

Professor Miller's interests are in Modern Russian history, the history of psychoanalysis in Russia, and comparative and international terrorist movements. full profile »

Jocelyn Olcott

Jocelyn Olcott, Professor of History

Office: 114A East Duke, Box 90760, Durham, NC 27708-0760
Phone: (919) 668-5298

Jocelyn Olcott is Professor of History; International Comparative Studies; and Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies at Duke University. Her first book, Revolutionary Women in Postrevolutionary Mexico, explores questions of gender and citizenship in the 1930s.  Her second book, International... full profile »

Gunther W. Peck

Gunther W. Peck, Associate Professor of History

Office: 308 Carr Bldg, 136 Public Policy, Durham, NC 27708
Phone: (919) 668-5297

My research focuses on the long history of human trafficking and its relationship to the evolution of racial ideology, humanitarian intervention, and immigration policy in North America and Europe. In addition to mentoring both History and Public Policy graduate students, I regularly teach four... full profile »

Susan Thorne

Susan Thorne, Associate Professor of History

Office: 336 Classroom Building, 1356 Campus Drive, Durham, NC 27705
Phone: (919) 593-2810

My research and teaching interests include the social history of modern Britain, the imperial history of modern Europe, and the ideological intersections of race, crime, and urban poverty in Anglo-American political culture.   Congregational missions and the making of an imperial culture in... full profile »