Our Faculty and Staff

Kyle G. Volk

Professor of History


LA 252

Personal Summary

Professor Kyle G. Volk's award-winning research and teaching focus on the broad history of the United States, with emphasis on political, intellectual, legal, and social history. 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 contested 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 religion, race, 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. Volk's scholarly excellence was celebrated in 2016 by the University of Montana when he was named the Provost's Distinguished Faculty Lecturer. Cover for Unsung History

  • Listen to Professor Volk discuss his research on democracy and minority rights on the Unsung History podcast

Professor Volk's excellence in the classroom has been recognized on several occassions. He was the 2014 recipient of the Helen and Winston Cox Award for Excellence in Teaching, the University of Montana's 2015 nominee for CASE Professor of the Year, and the 2019 winner of the College of Humanities and Sciences' William Reynolds Award for Excellence in Teaching Across the Curriculum. Most recently, Volk garnered the 2022 University Distinguished Teaching Award, the University of Montana's highest teaching honor.

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 as well as the Department of Public Administration and Policy.

Graduate Advising

Dr. 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, foreign policy, and governance in the American West. They have gone on to successful careers as college professors, secondary educators, and public historians, and in varied positions in higher education.

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.


PhD, MA, University of Chicago
BA, Boston College

Courses Taught

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

HSTA 380: American Constitutional History
HSTA 382: United States Legal History
HSTA 391: Dissent, Disobedience, & U.S. Democracy
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)

Field of Study

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

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, Preliminary Edition, 2019; First Edition, 2020; Second Edition 2022.  (co-authored with Patrick Mulford O'Connor)

"Personal Liberty," in Democracies in America, eds., D. Berton Emerson and Greg Laski (Oxford, 2023)

"Advancing Equity in the Promise of Pharmacogenomics," in Clinical Decision Support for Pharmacogenomic Precision Medicine. Elsevier, 2022. (co-authored with Alison E. Fohner, Shayna Killam, and Erica L. Woodahl)

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


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