Faculty in the Department of History

Kyle G. Volk

Kyle G. Volk

Associate Professor of History; Chair of the Department of History

Office: LA 252
Email: kyle.volk@umontana.edu
Fax: 406.243.4076 Office Hours:

Fall 2021: Mondays, 1-3pm; and by appointment. Office-hour meetings will be conducted in person, but I'm also available (by appointment) via Zoom (please use this link to enter the "waiting room").

Personal Website

Personal Summary

Professor Kyle Volk is chair of the UM History Department. His award-winning research and teaching focus on the history of the United States, with emphasis on political, intellectual, and legal history during the long nineteenth century (1776-1933). He is especially interested in the history of American democracy; the problem and politics of dissent and difference in American society; capitalism, law, and the American state; civil rights, civil liberties, and the changing meaning of freedom in American life. 

Volk's research has been supported by the American Society for Legal History, the William Nelson Cromwell Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the American Antiquarian Society. His first book, Moral Minorities and the Making of American Democracy (Oxford University Press, 2014), explores the pioneering popular struggles over minority rights that developed out of conflicts over race, religion, and alcohol in nineteenth-century America. Moral Minorities received two major honors from the Organization of American Historians (OAH) in 2015: the Merle Curti Award for Best Book in American Intellectual History; and honorable mention for the Frederick Jackson Turner Award for the Best First Book in American History. His current work explores the problem and politics of personal liberty throughout U.S. History.

Professor Volk advises graduate students studying various aspects of nineteenth- and twentieth-century U.S. History. His current and former graduate students work on issues ranging from patriotism, racial prejudice, disability, and social welfare to political economy, environmental politics, public health, and governance in the American West. Professor Volk is accepting both MA and PhD students in the next admissions cycle. Please contact him by e-mail if you are interested in working with him as a graduate student. Current doctoral students interested in preparing an examination field advised by Professor Volk should contact him early in their graduate career.

Professor Volk advises the department's chapter of Phi Alpha Theta (the history honor society) and the UM History Society. He founded the department's Lockridge History Workshop and continues to coordinate it each year. Volk is also a Prelaw advisor for history undergraduates and an affiliated faculty member of the African American Studies Program. He was the 2014 recipient of the Helen and Winston Cox Award for Excellence in Teaching and the University of Montana's 2015 nominee for CASE Professor of the Year. In 2016, Professor Volk was named a University of Montana Provost's Distinguished Faculty Lecturer. In 2019, he won the University of Montana College of Humanities and Sciences' William Reynolds Award for Excellence in Teaching Across the Curriculum.

Field of Study

  • United States Political, Intellectual, and Legal History
  • Democracy, Capitalism, & the American State
  • Civil Rights & Civil Liberties
  • Law, Public Policy, & Political Economy


PhD, MA, University of Chicago
BA, Boston College

Selected Publications

Moral Minorities and the Making of American Democracy Oxford University Press, 2014; paperback, 2017.

  • Merle Curti Prize, 2015. (For the best book in American Intellectual History, awarded by the Organization of American Historians.)
  • Frederick Jackson Turner Prize, 2015, honorable mention. (For the best first book in U.S. History, awarded by the Organization of American Historians.)

Empire, Capitalism, and Democracy: The Early American Experience. Cognella, 2019. (with Patrick Mulford O'Connor)

"Democratizing Precision Medicine Through Community Engagement," Clinical Pharmacology & Therapeutics 106, 3 (September 2019), 488-490. (co-authored with Alison E. Forhner and Erica L. Woodahl)

"Beyond Reciprocity: Democracies of Vigilance and Empire." Journal of Politics, Religion, and Ideology 19 (2018), 392-394.

"The Consequential State: Public Law and the Release of Energy in Nineteenth-Century America." American Journal of Legal History 57 (June 2017), 232-237.

"Apply Liberalism Liberally: Incest and the Troubled American State." Reviews in American History 45 (March 2017), 50-56.

"The Perils of 'Pure Democracy': Minority Rights, Liquor Politics, & Popular Sovereignty in Antebellum America."  Journal of the Early Republic 29 (Winter 2009), 641-679.


Reviews in Law & History Review, Journal of the Early Republic, American Nineteenth Century History, The Journal of the Civil War Era, and The American Journal of Legal History


HSTA 101: American History I - Gen Ed: Historical Studies (H); Democracy & Citizenship (Y)
HSTA 103: Honors American History I - Gen Ed: Historical Studies (H); Democracy & Citizenship (Y)
HSTR 200: Introduction to Historical Methods
HSTA 201: History of American Democracy - Gen Ed: Ethics (E); Democracy & Citizenship (Y)
HSTA 315: Early American Republic (Intermediate Writing Course)
HSTA 316: American Civil War Era
HSTA 377: Intoxication Nation: Alcohol in U.S. History

HSTR 400: Historical Research Seminar: Law & Society in Nineteenth-Century America (Advanced Writing Course)
HSTA 401: Public Problems & U.S. Democracy (Advanced Writing Course)
HSTR 500: History Pedagogy (Graduate Course)
HSTA 501: Readings in Early American History (Graduate Course)
HSTA 577: Law, Capitalism, & Democracy in U.S. History (Graduate Course)
HSTA 594: Graduate Research Seminar (Graduate Course)


American Historical Association, Organization of American Historians, American Society for Legal History, Society for Historians of the Early American Republic, Society for U.S. Intellectual History