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John McCallum Office: 1155 E 60th Street, room 411 Office hours: Sign up for office hours here Phone: Email Interests:

Moral and ethical judgment in American history

Assistant Instructional Professor in the Master of Arts Program in the Social Sciences


John McCallum is an Assistant Instructional Professor in the Master of Arts Program in the Social Sciences. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and an undergraduate degree from Northwestern University.

John’s research interests cluster around questions of moral and ethical judgment in American history. His current book project “Democratic Violence and the Transformation of Moral Sentiments in the ‘Good War,’” examines the popular embrace of a vernacular “realism” in the World War II years that could encompass stunning new forms of international violence alongside a growing commitment to democracy, human rights, racial liberalism, and the end of empire. The book rejects a durable tradition—in both critical and popular writing—that treats the politics of war as basically undemocratic, and the American public as essentially cloistered from the realities of total war by distance, censorship, and elite manipulation. To the contrary, World War II Americans encountered the horrors of modern conflict in strikingly intimate detail. The pro-war consensus of the 1940s was anything but superficial, and a fuller picture of this period is necessary to make sense of the Cold War democracy of the ensuing decades.


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At the University of Chicago, John’s teaching has included the following courses:

  • War, Law, Norms: Violence and its Limits
  • Writing History: Methods of Narrative Analysis and Persuasion
  • Historical Methods
  • History and Social Scientific Explanation
  • Crises in American Democracy
  • Watergate and American Democracy
  • Human Rights II: History and Human Rights
  • Turning Right? Conservative Politics in a Long Twentieth Century
  • America in World Civilization, colonial period and twentieth century


U.S. Censorship, Violence, and Moral Judgement in a Wartime Democracy, 1941–1945,” Diplomatic History, Volume 41, Issue 3, June 2017, Pages 543–566.

War and the Historical Sociology of Human Rights: Violent Entanglements,Humanity: An International Journal of Human Rights, Humanitarianism, and Development 8, no. 3 (2017): 559-578.

“World War II—A Historiographical Survey,” in The Routledge History of the Twentieth Century United States (2018).

The Book of the Dead,” The New Rambler Review (2020).