Matthew S. Hedstrom


I am a historian of the United States specializing in religion and culture in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. My overarching research interests are the social history of religious sensibilities and the cultural mechanisms of their production and propagation. My particular areas of teaching and research thus far have been religious liberalism, spirituality, the cultures and politics of pluralism, religion and race, and print culture. 



The Rise of Liberal Religion: Book Culture and American Spirituality in the Twentieth Century

Oxford University Press (2013)

Release Date: November 2012

Winner of the 2013 Frank S. and Elizabeth D. Brewer Prize of the American Society of Church History

Featured in The New York Times

“A Religious Legacy, With Its Leftward Tilt, Is Reconsidered

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From Oxford University Press

“This is a strikingly original, crisply argued contribution to cultural and religious history.”

—David A. Hollinger, Preston Hotchkis Professor of History, University of California, Berkeley

“An original and eye-opening study...”

—Richard Fox, Professor of History, University of Southern California

“Matthew Hedstrom delivers a deeply thoughtful and thoroughly researched study.... The legacy of liberal religion is larger than we might have thought.”

—David Morgan, Professor of Religion, Duke University

“The expectation that the right religious books—mystical, adventuresome, psychologically attuned, and affordable—would arrest modernity’s dissolutions was perhaps another instance of liberal Protestantism’s unrequited optimism, but Hedstrom makes a compelling case for just how potent this publishing mission was....”

—Leigh Eric Schmidt, Edward Mallinckrodt University Professor, Washington University in St. Louis

Hedstrom's work will reshape historians' understanding of religion in 20th-century America.”

 —Lauren F. Winner, Assistant Professor of Christian Spirituality, Duke Divinity School

Postdoctoral Fellowships

Postdoctoral Research Associate, Center for the Study of Religion, Princeton University

Lilly Fellow and Lecturer in Humanities and American Studies, Valparaiso University


PhD, American Studies, The University of Texas at Austin

MA, American Studies, The University of Texas at Austin

BA, History, Haverford College

About Me

Postal Address

Department of Religious Studies

Gibson Hall

University of Virginia

PO Box 400126

Charlottesville VA 22904-4126



Phone: 434-924-6314 (no voicemail)

Twitter: @HedstromMatt

Office: Gibson Hall S013 | Map | South Lawn |

Street Address: 1540 Jefferson Park Ave.

My first book, The Rise of Liberal Religion: Book Culture and American Spirituality in the Twentieth Century, employs novel sources in book history to tell the surprising story of religious liberalism’s cultural ascendancy in the twentieth century. The religious middlebrow culture of mid-century, I argue, brought psychological, mystical, and cosmopolitan forms of spirituality to broad swaths of the American middle class.

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I have also authored various articles, reviews, and reference works in American studies and American religious history. I am beginning work on a new book project on race and the search for religious authenticity from the Civil War through the 1960s.

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