photo of Michael Pfeifer
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1998 PhD University of Iowa
1993 MA University of Iowa
1991 BA Washington University, St. Louis

Michael Pfeifer's teaching and research interests revolve around the history of collective violence and criminal justice in the United States, the social history of American Catholicism, the social history of orchestral performance in the United States, and the role of Alaska in the history of Russian and American relations.  He is the author of Rough Justice: Lynching and American Society, 1874-1947 (University of Illinois Press, 2004), The Roots of Rough Justice: Origins of American Lynching (University of Illinois Press, 2011), and the editor of Lynching Beyond Dixie: American Mob Violence Outside the South (University of Illinois Press, 2013),  Global Lynching and Collective Violence, Vol. 1: Asia, Africa and the Middle East (University of Illinois Press, 2017), and Global Lynching and Collective Violence, Vol. 2: Europe and the Americas (University of Illinois Press, 2017), as well as numerous articles on the history of lynching and criminal justice, including “At the Hands of Parties Unknown?: The State of the Field of Lynching Studies,” The Journal of American History, Vol. 101, no. 3 (December 2014), 832-846.  U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana cited his book Rough Justice and entered his list of Louisiana lynchings into the Congressional Record on June 13, 2005, as she introduced Senate Resolution 39, which apologized to lynching victims and their descendants for the U.S. Senate’s historical failure to pass anti-lynching legislation.  Professor Pfeifer has been quoted or cited on the history of American lynching in a number of media outlets, including the Atlanta Black Star, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, the Baltimore Sun, the Voice of America, the Guardian, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Newsday, Smithsonian Magazine, the New Orleans Times-Picayune, the New Orleans Gambit, the Baton Rouge Advocate, the Shreveport Times, the Albuquerque Journal, the Kansas City Star, the Bakersfield Californian, Wisconsin Public Radio, Michigan Radio, the Lansing State Journal, the Winnipeg Free Press, Vox, and Media Matters.  His article on the relationship between racialized police violence and the history of American lynching is available at Prof. Pfeifer discussed the lynching of Native Americans in a Voice of America piece available at Prof. Pfeifer writes about the history of The Star-Spangled Banner, symphonic music, and the performance of American nationalism at Prof. Pfeifer writes about the killings of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, and the history of racial violence in the United States at

Professor Pfeifer's new book,  The Making of American Catholicism: Regional Culture and the Catholic Experience (New York University Press, 2021) argues that region is central to understanding American Catholic history, as are transnational relationships, ethnicity, race, gender, and social class. With close analysis of the experiences of Latinx, African American, and European-descended Catholics, The Making of American Catholicism closely traces the history of Catholic communities in New Orleans, Iowa, Wisconsin, Los Angeles, and New York City.  Prof. Pfeifer discusses the book in a podcast on the New Books Network.  

Prof. Pfeifer is currently working on Symphonic Worlds: A Global History of Orchestral Cultures, a projected book-length study (co-authored with David Lin) of the social history of global  orchestral performance in transnational context, interpreting the social bases of the performance and reception of symphony orchestras across the regions of Europe, the  United States, Latin America, Asia, and Oceania, from the eighteenth through the twentieth centuries. The project explores the role of cultural and national origin, colonialism, class, ethnicity, race, gender, and sexuality in the rise (and fall) of orchestral performance across global cultures.

Prof. Pfeifer has also begun work on  a book-length project that uses Alaska as a prism into the history of U.S.-Russian relations and the interaction of Russian and American cultures from the eighteenth century through the current day.

Finally, Professor Pfeifer is editing two multi-volume reference works with ABC-CLIO, History of American Racial Violence: an Encyclopedia of Conflicts, Riots, and Revolution and Terrible Legacy: Encyclopedia of Lynching in America, both projected for publication in 2024.

A native of Middleton, Wisconsin, before joining the John Jay History Department in August 2007, Professor Pfeifer served for seven years as a Faculty Member at the Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, and for a year as an Assistant Professor of History at the University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario, Canada.  As an undergraduate at Washington University in St. Louis, he wrote a senior thesis (1991) under Rowland Berthoff.  Prof. Pfeifer also serves as a book review editor for H-Law, the H-Net Humanities Social Science On-line discussion network sponsored by the American Society for Legal History. Dr. Pfeifer served as Fulbrightprofessor at Erfurt University in Germany in 2014 and as Gastprofessor at Erfurt University in 2021.

Courses Taught

His 201 American Civilization – From Colonialism through the Civil War
His 202 American Civilization – From 1865 to the Present
His 323 History of Lynching and Collective Violence
His 381 Social History of Catholicism in the Modern World
His 240 Historiography
His 127 Microhistories: A Lens into the Past: Catholicism after the Reformation
His 205 Global History: The Modern World






Scholarly Work

The Making of American Catholicism: Regional Culture and the Catholic Experience.

New York University Press, 2021.

Global Lynching and Collective Violence, Vol. 2: Europe and the Americas.

(editor and contributor).
University of Illinois Press, 2017.

Global Lynching and Collective Violence, Vol. 1: Asia, Africa and the Middle East.
(editor and contributor).
University of Illinois Press, 2017.

Lynching beyond Dixie: American Mob Violence outside the South 
(editor and contributor).  
University of Illinois Press, 2013.

The Roots of Rough Justice: Origins of American Lynching.
University of Illinois Press, 2011.
Paperback edition, 2014.

Rough Justice: Lynching and American Society, 1874-1947.
University of Illinois Press, 2004. 
Paperback edition, 2006.

Articles and Book Chapters

"A Symphonic Midwest: The Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra and Regionalist Identity, 1903-1922."
In Jon K. Lauck, ed., The Midwestern Moment: The Forgotten World of Twentieth-Century Midwestern
Regionalism, 1880-1940
(Hastings, Neb: Hastings College Press, 2017), 101-112.

"The Making of a Midwestern Catholicism: Identities, Ethnicity, and Catholic Culture in Iowa City, 1840-1940."
The Annals of Iowa, Vol. 76, No. 3 (Summer 2017), 201-226. 

"The Strange Career of New Orleans Catholicism: Race and Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, 1905-2006."
Louisiana History, Vol. LVIII, No. 1 (Winter 2017), 59-72. 

“At the Hands of Parties Unknown?: The State of the Field of Lynching Studies.”
The Journal of American History, Vol. 101, no. 3 (December 2014), 832-846.

“Final Thoughts on the State of the Field of Lynching Scholarship.”
The Journal of American History, Vol. 101, no. 3 (December 2014), 859-860.

“The Bitter Seed of Albion and Eire: Extralegal Violence and Law  in the Early Modern British Isles and the Origins of American Lynching.” In Manfred Berg and Simon Wendt, eds., Globalizing Lynching History: Vigilantism and Extralegal Punishment from an International Perspective  (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011).

“The Lynching of Slaves: Race, Law, and the White Community in the Antebellum South,”  in Louis Kyriakoudes, Michele Gillespie, Susanna Delfino, eds., The Transformations of Southern Society, 1790-1860 (University of Missouri Press, 2011). 

“The Northern U.S and the Genesis of Racial Lynching: The Lynching of African-Americans in the Civil War Era.”  The Journal of American History, Vol. 97, no. 3 (December 2010), 621-635. 

"The Origins of Postbellum Lynching: Collective Violence in Reconstruction Louisiana."
Louisiana History, Vol. L, No. 2 (Spring 2009), 189-201.

"The 1857 Eastern Iowa Vigilante Movement: Law, Society, and Violence in the Antebellum Midwest." The Annals of Iowa, Vol. 64, no. 2 (Spring 2005), 139-166.

"Wisconsin's Last Decade of Lynching, 1881-1891: Law and Violence in the Postbellum Midwest." American Nineteenth Century History, Vol. 6, no. 3 (September 2005), 227-239.  Subsequently republished in William D. Carrigan, Lynching Reconsidered: New Perspectives in the Study of Mob Violence, Routledge Press, 2008.

"'Midnight Justice': Lynching and Law in the Pacific Northwest." Pacific Northwest Quarterly, Vol. 94, no. 2 (Spring 2003), 83-92.

"Lynching and Criminal Justice: The Midwest and West as American Regions, 1874-1947." Western Legal History, Vol. 14, no. 2 (Summer/Fall 2001), 103-122.

"Lynching and Criminal Justice in South Louisiana, 1878-1920." Louisiana History, Vol. XL, no. 2 (Spring 1999), 155-177.

"Insanity, Sexuality, and the Gallows in Late Nineteenth-Century Iowa: The Case of Chester Bellows."The Annals of Iowa, Vol. 57, no. 3 (Fall 1998), 321-336.

"Iowa's Last Lynching: The Charles City Mob of 1907 and Iowa Progressivism." The Annals of Iowa, Vol. 53, no. 4 (Fall 1994), 305-328.

"The Ritual of Lynching: Extralegal Justice in Missouri, 1890-1942." Gateway Heritage, Vol. 13, no. 3 (Winter 1993), 22-33. 

Short Articles

“Homicide in the South.”  In James G. Thomas and Amy Louise Wood, eds.,  The New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture, Vol. 22, Violence.  University of North Carolina Press, 2011.      

"Lynchings."  In William A. Darity, Jr., ed., International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, 2nd Edition, 526-527. Macmillan Reference USA (Thomson Gale), 2008.

"Lynching."  In Rudy Abramson and Jean Haskell, eds., Encyclopedia of Appalachia.  University of Tennessee Press, 2006.

 "Lynchings."  In Robert S. McElvaine, ed., Encyclopedia of the Great Depression.  Macmillan Reference USA, 2003.

Book Reviews

47 book reviews in publications that include The Annals of Iowa, Annals of Wyoming, The Journal of American History, American Historical Review, Journal of American Studies, Missouri Historical Review, Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era, Patterns of Prejudice, Journal of American Legal History, H-South, Journal of Southern History, New Mexico Historical Review, Louisiana History, The Historian, Journal of the History of Sexuality, Michigan Historical Review, Indiana Magazine of HistoryNorth Carolina Historical Review, and H-SHEAR.