Thomas E. Donnelley Professor Emerita

of American History and in the College

Kathleen Neils Conzen has retired and no longer directs BA theses or accepts new graduate students.

PhD 1972 University of Wisconsin-Madison

The University of Chicago
Department of History
1126 East 59th Street
Chicago, IL 60637

Field Specialties

American urban history; immigration and ethnicity; rural history; western settlement; nineteenth-century social history


Kathleen Neils Conzen's research and teaching focus on the social and political history of the United States in the nineteenth century, with a special interest in issues of immigration, ethnicity, religion, western settlement, and urban development. She teaches courses and seminars on American urban history, nineteenth-century social history, the peopling of the United States, western and rural history, and nineteenth-century political culture. Much of her research and writing has used the German immigrant experience to explore the links between migration processes and community formation, the construction and reconstruction of ethnic identities, the the relationship between religious, ethnic, and regional cultures, and the political integration of immigrants into the national community. Current projects include books nearing completion on nineteenth-century German American efforts to develop and defend a theory of pluralistic democratic nationalism and on German peasant settlement in the frontier Midwest, and work-in-progress on America's diasporic German-Catholic milieu and on patterns of rural-to-urban migration in the nineteenth- and early twentieth-century United States.


Germans in Minnesota. Saint Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2003.
—"Ethnicity and Musical Culture among the German Catholics of the Sauk, 1854–1920." In Land without Nightingales: Music in the Making of German-America, edited by Philip V. Bohlman and Otto Holzapfel, 31–71. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2002.
—"German-Catholic Communalism and the American Civil War: Exploring the Dilemmas of Transatlantic Political Integration." In Bridging the Atlantic: Europe and the United States in Modern Times, edited by Elisabeth Glaser-Schmidt and Hermann Wellenreuther, 119–44. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002.
—"Phantom Landscapes of Colonization: Germans in the Making of a Pluralist America." In The German-American Encounter: Conflict and Cooperation between Two Cultures, 1800–2000, edited by Frank Trommler and Elliott Shore, 7–21. New York: Berghahn Books, 2001.
—"Pi-ing the Type: Jane Grey Swisshelm and the Contest of Midwestern Regionality." In The American Midwest: Essays on Regional History, edited by Andrew L. Cayton and Susan Gray, 91–110. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2001.
—"German Catholics in America." In The Encyclopedia of American Catholic History, edited by Michael Glazier and Thomas J. Shelley, 571–83. Collegeville, Minn.: The Liturgical Press, 1997.
—"The Winnebago Urban System: Indian Policy and Townsite Promotion on the Upper Mississippi." In Cities and Markets: Studies in the Organization of Human Space, edited by Rondo Cameron, 269–310. Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, 1997.
—"Forum: The Place of Religion in Urban and Community Studies." Religion and American Culture 6 (1996): 108–14.
—"The Stories Immigrants Tell." Swedish American Historical Quarterly 46 (1995): 49–57.
—"A Saga of Families." In Oxford History of the American West, edited by Clyde A. Milner II, Carol A. O'Conner, and Martha A. Sandweiss, 315–57. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994.
—"Ethnic Patterns in American Cities: Historiographical Trends." In Swedes in America: New Perspectives, edited by Ulf Beijbom, 24–32. Växjö, Sweden: Swedish Emigrant Institute, 1993.
—"Mainstreams and Side Channels: The Localization of Immigrant Cultures." Journal of American Ethnic History 11 (1991): 5–20.
—"Immigrants in Nineteenth-Century Agricultural History." In Agriculture and National Development: Views on the Nineteenth Century, edited by Louis Ferleger, 303–42. Ames: Iowa State University Press, 1990.
—Co-authored with David A. Gerber, Ewa Morawska, George E. Pozzetta, and Rudolph J. Vecoli. "The Invention of Ethnicity." Journal of American Ethnic History 12 (1992): 3–41.
—"Ethnicity as Festive Culture: German-America on Parade." In The Invention of Ethnicity, edited by Werner Sollors,  44–76. New York: Oxford University Press, 1989.