School of Cultures, Languages and Area Studies

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Image of Christopher Phelps

Christopher Phelps

Associate Professor of American History, Faculty of Arts



Christopher Phelps is a historian of modern American political and intellectual life. Born near Washington, D.C., he has taught at universities in five countries: Britain, the United States, Poland, Hungary, and Canada. He is author of the intellectual biography Young Sidney Hook (Cornell, 1997; 2d ed., Michigan, 2005) and Radicals in America (Cambridge, 2015), a comprehensive history of the American left since the Second World War co-authored with Howard Brick.

His articles have appeared in The Journal of American History, The Journal of American Studies, The Journal of the History of Sexuality, and other scholarly journals, as well as such popular outlets as the Financial Times, Times Higher Education, The Chronicle of Higher Education, The Nation, Dissent,, and Salon. While his intellectual interests are broad, at present his research agenda is primarily focused on sexuality at midcentury.

His work has been awarded the Historians of the Twentieth-Century United States (HOTCUS) article prize, the Labor and Working-Class History Association (LAWCHA) prize for best article published in the journal Labor, and the Michael Fellman Award for historical writing, among other awards. He has received two Fulbright fellowships and research grants from the New York Public Library, the Huntington Library, and the Eisenberg Institute for Historical Studies at the University of Michigan. A Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, he serves on the editorial board of Radical Americas (UCL Press) and is a contributing editor of Labor: Studies in Working-Class History (Duke University Press).

Phelps welcomes post-graduate student supervisions in the history of sexuality or any other field his scholarship engages, including American political, intellectual, and labor history. His completed PhD students include Lorenzo Costaguta on race and socialism in the Gilded Age, Kim Moody on geographical mobility and the American working class, John Tiplady on McCarthyism and the anti-Stalinist left, and Bart Verhoeven on the John Birch Society. He currently supervises MRes student AJ (Emem-Abasi) Awak-Essien on transgender bathroom rights and PhD students Graham Ashurst on Diane Ravitch and American education, Katrina Rolfe on German translations of Trump and Obama, and Daniel Watson on debates over automation.

Expertise Summary

Available for comment on most U.S.-related news events and items, particularly regarding these topics:

  • American politics and elections
  • Radicalism, protest, social movements
  • Race and racism
  • History of American capitalism
  • Labor, class, and strikes
  • History of sexuality
  • American intellectual and cultural history

Media appearances include the following. Television: CNN International, BBC News, BBC World News, Sky News, Deutsche Welle, France 24, Al Jazeera. Radio: ABC (Australia), BBC Radio 4 ("The World at One," "In Our Time"), BBC World Service ("Newshour"), ​BBC Radio 2 ("The Chris Evans Show"), BBC 5 Live ("Afternoon Edition"), BBC Radio Scotland ("Good Morning Scotland"), Bloomberg Radio ("First Word Europe"), LBC ("The Nick Ferrari Show," "The Andrew Castle Show"). Newsprint and internet media: quoted in The New York Times, The Chronicle of Higher Education, InsideHigherEd, and other news providers.

Teaching Summary

Autumn 2018

- American Radicalism (Level 2, Q42322)

Spring 2019

- Sexuality in American History (Level 3, Q43533; M.A., Q44353)

- Researching Contemporary America (M.A., Q44028)

Potentially to be taught again in future years:

- History of American Capitalism (Level 2, Q42301)

- American Labor History (Level 3, Q43340; M.A., Q44340)

Selected Publications

School of Cultures, Languages and Area Studies

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