James G. Stahlman Professor of American History
Professor Political Science; Director, Vanderbilt History Seminar
Gary Gerstle is a historian of the twentieth-century United States, with particular interest in three major areas of inquiry: 1) immigration, race, and nationality; 2) the significance of class in social and political life; 3) and social movements, popular politics, and the state. Gerstle is the author, co-author, and co-editor of six books and the author of more than thirty articles on these topics. Working-Class Americanism (Cambridge, 1989) explores issues of class, ethnicity, and Americanization among workers and their unions during the Great Depression. American Crucible: Race and Nation in the Twentieth Century (Princeton, 2001), winner of the 2001 Saloutos Prize for the outstanding work in immigration and ethnic history, examines how the modern American nation was shaped by the robust, protean, and contradictory traditions of civic and racial nationalism. The Rise and Fall of the New Deal Order, 1930-1980 (Princeton, 1989), a book Gerstle co-edited with Steve Fraser, analyzes how the Democratic Party and liberalism came to dominate American politics from the 1930s through the 1960s and why both collapsed in the 1970s. A second book co-edited with Fraser, Ruling America: A History of Wealth and Power in a Democracy (Harvard, 2005), explores how ruling elites have taken shape in America and how they have gained and lost political power. Gerstle has also co-edited E Pluribus Unum? (Russell Sage, 2001), an examination of past and current immigration to the United States, and he has coauthored Liberty, Equality, Power: A History of the American People (Wadsworth), a college and high school AP textbook, now in its Sixth Edition. He is currently writing Governing America, an interpretive history of the uses (and abuses) of public power in the United States from the Revolution to the present.
Gerstle has received numerous fellowships, including a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship, a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship, and a Membership at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey. In 2012-2013, Oxford appointed him to the Harmsworth Professorship in American History. Also in 2012, the National Museum of American History (Smithsonian Institution) appointed him Goldman Sachs Senior Fellow to advise them on "Migration Nation,” an exhibit on immigration and migration being planned for 2015. He has served as the Annenberg Visiting Professor at the University of Pennsylvania and a Visiting Professor at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociale in Paris. He has lectured throughout the United States and in Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, France, Belgium, South Korea, Germany, Israel, the Netherlands, Italy, Brazil, Japan, and South Africa. He was elected to the Society of American Historians in 2005 and named a Distinguished Lecturer of the Organization of American Historians in 2007. Gerstle has also lectured widely to the general public, and is often consulted by newspaper reporters, magazine writers, and television producers on matters pertinent to his areas of historical expertise. He has testified on questions of immigration before the Immigration Subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill. In 2008, Maureen Costigan, book critic of NPR's Fresh Air, chose American Crucible (2001) as one of the "Best Books for a Transformative New Year." His writing has been translated into Arabic, Portuguese, Spanish, French, Dutch, German, and Japanese.
A book series, Politics and Society in Twentieth-Century America, that Gerstle co-edits for Princeton University Press has published more than thirty books, many of them prizewinners. Gerstle has served on the editorial boards of the American Historical Review, Dissent, the Journal of American Ethnic History, and the Journal of American History, and on the nominating board of the Association of American Studies.
Gerstle teaches a wide variety of courses, including an introduction to U.S. history (at both the undergraduate and graduate level) and seminars on subjects such as immigration, race, and nationality; politics, social movements, and the state; and labor history. He is currently advising nine Ph.D. students on dissertations in nineteenth and twentieth-century U.S. history.
Before coming to Vanderbilt in 2006, Gerstle taught at the University of Maryland, where he was Director of the Center for Historical Studies (2000–2003) and Chair of the Department of History (2003–2006).
Twentieth-century U.S. history, with emphasis on politics and society; immigration, ethnicity, and nationality; and labor
“Acquiescence or Transformation? Divergent Paths of Political Incorporation in America,” in Jennifer Hochschild, Jacqueline Chattopadhyay, Claudine Gay, and Michael Jones-Correa, eds., Outsiders No More? Models of Immigrant Political Incorporation (Oxford University Press, 2013), 306-320.
"The GOP Is in Trouble But the Left Has Its Work Cut Out," Dissent (November 2012)
"Iron Horse and Gilded Age," a review of Richard White's Railroaded: The Transcontinentals and the Making of Modern America," Dissent (Summer 2011): 99–103. The review has been published in German as "Freie Bahn für Räuberbarone," Merkur (February 2012): 160–65.
"Historical and Contemporary Perspectives on Immigrant Political Incorporation: The American Experience" International Labor and Working-Class History (Fall 2010), 110–117.
"Minorities, Multiculturalism, and the Presidency of George W. Bush," in Julian Zelizer, ed., The Presidency of George W. Bush: A First Historical Assessment (Princeton University Press, 2010), 252–81.
"The GOP in the Age of Obama: Will the Tea Party and Republican Establishment Unite or Fight?" New Labor Forum 19.3 (Fall 2010): 23–31.
"Federalism in America: Beyond the Tea Partiers," Dissent (Fall 2010): 29–36.
"A State Both Strong and Weak," The American Historical Review 115.3 (June 2010): 779–85.
"The Resilient Power of the States Across the Long Nineteenth Century: An Inquiry into a Pattern of American Governance," in Lawrence Jacobs and Desmond King, eds., The Unsustainable American State (Oxford University Press, 2009), 61–87.
"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 (Amsterdam: Mets and Schilt Publishers, 2007), 112–127. Published in English as "America's Encounter with Immigrants," in Michael Kazin, ed., In Search of Progressive America (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008), 37–53. Translated into French as "L'Amérique rencontre les immigrants: passé, présent, futur" for a special edition of Les Cahiers d'Histoire (September 2009).
"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 Press and Johns Hopkins University Press, 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 (University of 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.
"Becoming Americans—U.S. Immigrant Integration," Testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security, and International Law, May 16, 2007.
"The Political Incorporation of Immigrant Groups: A Historical Perspective on the American Experience," in Philippa Strum, ed., American Arabs and Political Participation (Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, 2006), 27–40.
"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 (University of 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.
"Affirmative Action: The Last Stand," a review of Ira Katznelson’s When Affirmative Action Was White: An Untold History of Racial Inequality in Twentieth-Century America, Dissent (Spring 2006): 93–98.
"The Neglect of the American Elite," (with Steve Fraser), The Chronicle Review, April 1, 2005, B13–14.
"The Immigrant as Threat to American Security: A Historical Perspective," in John Tirman, ed., The Maze of Fear: Security and Migration after 9/11 (The New Press, 2004), 87–108; translated as "L'immigrant, une menace pour la securite americaine," and anthologized in Pietro Causarano, et al., Le XX siecle des guerres (Paris: Les Editions de l'Atelier, 2004), 256–272. A revised and updated version of this essay appeared in Elliott R. Barkan, Hasia Diner, and Alan M. Kraut, eds., From Arrival to Incorporation: Migrants to the U.S. in a Global Era (NYU Press, 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 University Press, 2000), 275–95.
"Theodore Roosevelt and the Divided Character of American Nationalism," Journal of American History 86 (December 1999), 1280–1307. A revised version of this essay will appear in Bruce Baum and Duchess Harris, eds., Racially Writing the Republic (Duke University Press, 2009).
"Liberty, Coercion, and the Making of Americans," Journal of American History 84 (September 1997), 524–558; with responses from David Hollinger and Donna Gabaccia, and a rejoinder, "The Power of Nations," Journal of American History 84 (Sept. 1997), 576–80, from Gerstle. 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.