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James Chappel is an associate professor of history at Duke University. He is primarily an intellectual historian, concerned with questions of gender, religion, and human rights. He researches and teaches broadly on the history of politics and social movements in the 20th century.

His first book was published from Harvard University Press in the Spring of 2018: “Catholic Modern: The Challenge of Totalitarianism and the Remaking of the Church.” The book is primarily an intellectual history of European Catholics between the 1920s and 1960s, focusing on their conceptualization of the family, the economy, and the state. It argues that the experience of the 1930s were a watershed in the history of the Church, as the twin threats of fascism and (especially) Communism pushed Catholic thinkers towards a wholly renovated form of social Catholic ethics. Essentially, Catholics ceased struggling against modernity, and began struggling for Catholic forms of modernity — as they do today.

He is currently at work on a new project on the history of “old age” in the 20th century United States (under contract with Basic). The project explores the myriad ways in whicht he elderly have been excluded from, and included in, the American national project. It argues that a full acceptance of demographic aging, and a recognition of the universal plight of aging and disability, can help us reorient our polities and our hearts towards human rights.