Matthew S. Hedstrom


I am a historian of the United States specializing in religion and culture in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. My central questions probe the intersections of American modernity and Protestant and post-Protestant religious modernity in the United States. I also have longstanding and ongoing interests in the history of the book, especially as it applies to American religious history. Race, religion and psychology, the history of spirituality, mass culture, religious liberalism, cosmopolitanism and internationalism all figure into my research and teaching.



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

Oxford University Press, 2013

Release Date: November 2012

Paperback release: January 2015

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

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 am currently working on two new books:  the first, a history of religion, reading, and book culture in America, 1600-present, for the Chicago History of American Religion series from the University of Chicago Press.
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And the next, a study of race and religious liberalism from roughly 1875 to 1945, with a focus on authenticity and experience amid the transformations of modernity.

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I have written on other topics, including religion and politics, photography, and the intellectual history of evangelicalism, and have lectured at Princeton, Yale, Duke, Stanford and other universities in the US, as well as at universities in Canada, the UK, and Germany.