Prof. Dr. Axel Schäfer

Univ-Prof. Dr., Chair of American History
I was recently appointed to the new professorship in American Studies at Johannes Gutenberg University. Prior to coming to Mainz I was Professor of American History and Director of the David Bruce Centre for American Studies at Keele University in the UK. As a historian, my research focuses on nineteenth and twentieth-century US intellectual and cultural history, with a particular emphasis on religion and politics, transatlantic social thought, and public policy. I’ve written three monographs: Piety and Public Funding: Evangelicals and the State in Modern America (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2012) explores how the expansion of federal funding for faith-based foreign aid, health care, educational, and social welfare providers after World War II contributed to the resurgence of conservative Protestantism in the US in recent decades. Countercultural Conservatives: American Evangelicalism from the Postwar Revival to the New Christian Right (University of Wisconsin Press, 2011) traces the evolution of the diffuse and pluralistic evangelical movement into the modern Christian Right. And American Progressives and German Social Reform, 1875-1920: Social Ethics, Moral Control, and the Regulatory State in a Transatlantic Context (Wiesbaden: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2000) charts how perceptions and translations of German social thought and reform shaped the profound intellectual sea change that engulfed the US in the late nineteenth century.  My most recent book publication is an edited volume American Evangelicals and the 1960s (University of Wisconsin Press, 2013). It suggests that evangelicals did not simply reject the countercultural ideas of the 1960s, but absorbed and extended key aspects of the insurgent worldview.

Current Research

My current research project examines the role immigration policies and discourses have played in the formation of modern welfare states. In this context I also explore the coalescence of art, design, technology, social reform, and radical politics in areas such as urban planning, social housing, and the cooperative movement in the United States, Britain, and Germany in the decade after World War I. Moreover, I’m working on various studies that explore the international engagement of American evangelicals in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and review the binaries of isolationism/internationalism and realism/idealism that are often ill-suited to describe the range of U.S. foreign policy positions in the period after World War II.

A few years ago I helped set up a new organization of historians of the twentieth-century US (HOTCUS).  I’m also active in international professional bodies, including the Membership Committee of the Organization of American Historians (OAH) and the Council of the Society of Historians of the Gilded Age and the Progressive Era (SHGAPE).


My main teaching fields are:

  • Twentieth Century U.S. Political and Cultural History
  • Nineteenth and Twentieth Century U.S. Intellectual History
  • Religion and Politics in the United States
  • History of the American West
  • Cultural History of U.S. Social Policy
  • Transatlantic Social Thought and Reform

In my teaching I approach American Studies from an interdisciplinary perspective. In many of my courses I explore the interaction of history and culture, combining, for example, analyses of the myth of the West with explorations of the region’s history; cultural images of poverty and the making of social policy; religious imagery and political mobilization; and social ideas and social movements. I have extensive experience teaching on both undergraduate and postgraduate levels in a number of different countries.


Prof. Dr. Axel Schäfer
Philosophicum II
Jakob-Welder-Weg 20
Room 02.211

Phone: +49-6131-39-26767

Office hours during semester:
Wednesday, 5-6 p.m

Please contact Anette Vollrath for an appointment.