Skip to main content

American Political History Conference

 Reconstructing Democracy: Power, Politics, and Participation (June 6-8, 2024 at Vanderbilt University)

The study of history and the politics of memory have become key dividing lines in the struggle over the future of democracy in the United States. This conference aims to bring historical research and historical thinking to understanding contemporary challenges to democracy. It will also consider how innovations in political history can help deepen the project of democratic reconstruction: the rebuilding of institutional trust (and trustworthy institutions), meaningful democratic participation, and the roles of the people in U.S. politics and political culture.

This event will bring political historians into conversation with one another and the broader public to grapple with the idea of what it means to study U.S. political history. It will challenge the traditional categories of political history — left and right, elite and populist, rural and urban — as well as the traditional sub field divisions that silo the discipline. It will create opportunities to build networks, share new research, debate ideas, think about the implications of this research in our contemporary setting, and discuss strategies for public engagement.

We invite panel and paper submissions that reflect the diversity of the field of American political history, from the colonial era to recent history, and that will generate debates and discussions over how to define and pursue political history.  As such, we especially encourage round table and workshop ideas that will foster dynamic conversations about how we write and understand political history across time periods, sub fields, and disciplines. We welcome sessions that feature differing sub field dynamics debating topics that challenge traditional paradigms in political history and address broad historical time periods. We especially encourage conversations that include scholars working in the eighteenth and nineteenth century.

We also welcome historians from different arenas—including academia, public history, public policy, journalism, documentary film, television, and radio—to launch conversations about the contemporary meaning and uses of history.  More than just sharing specific historical insights, this conference aims to bring together an intellectual community of historians within and beyond academia to inspire conversations about the uses of history, the public responsibilities of historians to engage broader audiences, and the skills needed to do this.  The program committee is deeply committed to inclusion and diversity. We request session proposals with attention to gendered, racial, and career diversity and will have limited funds available to support graduate students and contingent faculty.  The conference will be held in-person only.

Registration for the 2024 American Political History Conference is now open! You can register here. Registration is $90 for full-time faculty and $45 for graduate students, contingent faculty, and independent scholars.

The Rogers Center for the American Presidency and the Vanderbilt College of Arts and Sciences will provide some funding to offset costs for graduate students and contingent scholars who do not have access to research and travel funds through their departments and employers. Please email to apply for these funds.

Hotel blocks are now available. Most are within easy walking distance of campus, but we will also provide shuttle services to and from the hotels.

Homewood Inn and Suites

Cost: $209/night

Information: 0.4 miles to campus; King beds; breakfast included; shuttle available if needed


Group code: 90P; guests can call the hotel directly at 615-340-8000 and reference the group code to have the discount applied.

Hyatt House Nashville at Vanderbilt

Cost: $219/night

Information: 0.5 miles to campus; breakfast included

Link: Hyatt | Select Room

Call: 1-800-233-1234, ask for the Vanderbilt History Department Block (Group code is G-VHD1)

Deadline to reserve: Thursday, May 9, 2024 by 11:59 pm CST

Home 2 Suites

Cost: $219/night

Information: 0.7 miles to campus


Call: 1-615-254-2170; mention “American Political History Conference;” code if needed is APH

Deadline to reserve: April 25, 2024 by 11:59pm

Hilton Garden Inn

Cost: $239/night

Information: 0.7 miles to campus

Link: Vanderbilt-American Political History Conference (

Call: 1-615-369-5900; mention “American Political History Conference;” code if needed is 90A.

Element Nashville

Cost: $209/night

Information: 1.5 miles to campus; shuttle available


Deadline to reserve: May 8, 2023

The conference will offer a small pool of Uber ride vouchers for folks for whom mobility is difficult. The rideshare code will be shared closer to the conference start date. 

A free shuttle will run from Wyatt Center rotunda (on Peabody's campus) to Diskin Brewery from 7pm-10pm on Saturday, with drop-off in front of the Graduate Hotel (on the corner of 20th Avenue and West End Avenue). Otherwise, Diskin is a short Uber ride away from campus, in a neighborhood with many great restaurants (see recommendations in your program). 

Plenary Session (6:00p – 7:00p)

           "The Courts and American Democracy" with Karen Tani, Julian Mortenson, and Gautham Rao, moderated by Rachel Shelden

Tab: Friday, June 7th

Session 1 (9:00a – 10:30a)

  • The Press, Print Media, and Power in Reconstruction Era Politics
  • Repression and the Early American Labor Movement
  • Black in Power in Washington Negotiating Grassroots and Political Leadership
  • Oil Politics Beyond the Crisis
  • Biography as Political History
  • New Book Roundtable: DARE to Say No: Policing and the War on Drugs in Schools

Session 2 (10:45a – 12:15p)

  • New Book Roundtable
    • Hollow Parties: The Many Paths and Disordered Present of American Party Politics:
  • A Century of Immigration Restriction: Nativism and Policy, 1884-2000
  • A Punk Politics Mixtape: A Roundtable on the Sound, Imagery, and Ideology of Punk in the Reagan-Era United States
  • The Second Amendment: History, Politics, and the Future of Democracy
  • Political Histories of the U.S. and the World and the World and the U.S.

Lunch Break (12:15p – 1:30p)

Session 3 (1:30p – 3:00p)

  • New Book Roundtable
    • The Suburban Crisis: White America and the War on Drugs
  • Federalism, Jurisdiction, and Mobility in the 19th Century United States
  • Building the Presidential Club: Lineage and Legacy from the Early Republic to the Vietnam Era
  • Popular Culture and Politics in Modern America
  • Beyond “The Rise of the Right”: The Future of the Study of Conservatism
  • Writing Histories of Rural America

Session 4 (3:15p – 4:45p)

  • Beyond Moderates and Radicals: New Approaches to the Causes of Civil War
  • Education and Political Power
  • Cultural Histories of Election Years
  • New Directions in Latinx American Political History
  • Founding Narratives and the Battles over Democratic Futures

Keynote Speaker (6:00p – 7:00p)

Reception (7:00p)

Hosted by the Vanderbilt University Department of History


Session 1 (9:00a – 10:30a)

  • New Book Roundtable
    • We Refuse: A Forceful History of Black Resistance
  • The Importance of State Legislatures in U.S. Political History
  • New Directions in the History of the Military-Industrial Complex
  • The Press, the Presidency, and Rebuilding Trust in Democracy
  • The Uses and Misuses of 'Scandal' in Modern Politics

Session 2 (10:45a – 12:15p)

  • New Directions in the Study of Citizenship and the State in the 19th Century
  • War and Capitalism: Accumulation by Dispossession Since World War II
  • The Nixon Resignation, 50 Years Later
  • Deploying the Power of the State: The Role of Bureaucracy in the Long 20th Century

Zoom Accessible

  • Foreign Policy and Public Opinion

Lunch Break (12:15p – 1:30p)

Session 3 (1:30p – 3:00p)

  • New Book Roundtable
    • John Ganz’s When the Clock Broke and the Place of the Early 1990s in Recent U.S. History
  • Movie Screening
    • The Movement and the Madman
  • New Directions in Writing the History of the Founding Era

Zoom Accessible

  • Speedbumps in the Archives: Navigating Silences, Gaps, and Absences in the Historical Record
  • Tangled Up in Blue: Modern American Liberalism’s Past, Present, and Future

Session 4 (3:15p – 4:45p)

  • Roundtable: The Making of “The Movement and the Madman”
  • Democratic Ideas and Processes in the 19th Century
  • Machine Politics: Technology as/in American Political History
  • Building Power through Communications on the Right
  • Histories of Post-Watergate Populism


__________ (7:00p – 9:00p)

“The 2024 Election in Historical Perspective” with Elizabeth Hinton, Kevin Kruse, Cecilia Márquez, Kate Masur, Joshua Sellers, Caroline Janney, and Jamelle Bouie

Diskin Cider*

1235 Martin St

Nashville, TN 37203

*A shuttle will be available for transportation to Diskin Cider. Please review the transportation tab.

Kathryn Cramer Brownell, Purdue University (co-chair)

Nicole Hemmer, Vanderbilt University (co-chair)

Leah Wright Rigueur, Johns Hopkins University (co-chair)

Lindsay M. Chervinsky, Southern Methodist University

Brent Cebul, University of Pennsylvania

Bobby Cervantes, Harvard University

Elizabeth Hinton, Yale University

John S. Huntington, Houston Community College

Michael Koncewicz, New York University

Cecilia Márquez, Duke University

George Derek Musgrove, University of Maryland Baltimore County

Rachel A. Shelden, Penn State University