History Associate Professor

Office: 541-737-3530

Autzen House

811 S.W. Jefferson Avenue

811 S.W. Jefferson Avenue
Corvallis, OR 97331
Ph.D. in History (University of Virginia, 2008)

Profile Field Tabs

Affiliated with: 
School of History, Philosophy, and Religion
Courses Taught: 

HST 203: HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES (U.S. since the 1910s)




HST 464/564: AMERICAN DIPLOMATIC HISTORY/U.S. and the World (through 1898)

HST 465/565: AMERICAN DIPLOMATIC HISTORY/U.S. and the World (1898-present)

HST 465H: AMERICAN DIPLOMATIC HISTORY/U.S. and the World (1898-present)



Research/Career Interests: 

Since January 2017 Nichols has been Director of the Oregon State University Center for the Humanities. In 2021 Nichols was named the Sandy and Elva Sanders Eminent Professor in the OSU Honors College. He specializes in the history of the United States and its relationship to the rest of the world, particularly in the areas of isolationism, internationalism, and globalization. In addition to his work on the intellectual history of the U.S. role in the world, Nichols is an expert on modern U.S. intellectual, cultural, and political history, with an emphasis on the Gilded Age and Progressive Era (1880-1920) through the present.

In 2016 Nichols was awarded an Andrew Carnegie Fellowship (2016-2019). In 2017 Nichols became an Organization of American Historians (OAH) Distinguished Lecturer. Nichols’ 2018 TED Talk is entitled “The Untold Story of American Isolationism” (aka “Why History Matters Today”).

Dr. Nichols has served over five years in a variety of prominent roles with the OSU Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa Academic Honors Society. He was elected three times for 1-year terms as faculty president of the Oregon State University Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa (Epsilon of Oregon): Faculty President 2019-20, 2018-19, 2017-18; elected Vice President 2016-17; elected Historian 2015-16, and from 2013-2015 he helped to establish the new chapter at Oregon State.

He serves on a number of high-level university committees, including for strategic planning, centers and institutes, COVID research resumption practices, and as Chair of the Provost's Lecture Committee. 


Dr. Nichols is the author, editor, or co-editor of six books, including one out in 2021 and another forthcoming in 2022. His most prominent work is Promise and Peril: America at the Dawn of a Global Age (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2011, paperback in 2015), which explains the origins of modern American isolationism and the dynamic interplay of international engagement, isolationist thought, and domestic reform from the 1890s through the 1940s.

*Promise and Peril named a top-12 “best global book of 2011” by Bailard International/Institutional.

*Promise and Peril selected as a top-25 “overlooked political book of 2011” by the Huffington Post.

Nichols co-edited and co-authored, with Elizabeth Borgwardt and Andrew Preston, Rethinking American Grand Strategy (New York: Oxford University Press, 2021).

Nichols and co-editor Nancy Unger published Wiley-Blackwell Companion to the Gilded Age and Progressive Era (March 2017). 425,000 words.

Nichols was Senior Editor, with David Milne, and Editor-in-Chief Timothy Lynch, of the Oxford Encyclopedia of American Military and Diplomatic History (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013). Two volumes. 650,000 words.

*Selected as a “best reference book of 2013” in “law and politics” by the Library Journal.

Nichols co-edited and co-authored, with Charles Mathewes, Prophesies of Godlessness: Predictions of America’s Imminent Secularization from the Puritans to the Present Day (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008). 

Coming Soon: Nichols co-edited and co-authored, with David Milne, Ideology and U.S. Foreign Relations: New Histories (New York: Columbia University Press, forthcoming in 2022).


Before coming to Oregon State University, Dr. Nichols was the Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in U.S. History, Department of History, University of Pennsylvania, and was Postdoctoral Fellow in U.S. History at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture at the University of Virginia. Previously, he studied at Harvard College, Wesleyan University, and the University of Virginia, where he received his M.A. and Ph.D. in History (May 2008). 

Nichols was deeply gratified to be honored as the Oregon State University Honors College Outstanding Professor of the Year for 2014, nominated and selected by students. He also was pleased to be nominated for the 2013 OSU Faculty Research Mentor of the Year Award. During his time as an instructor at UVa Nichols was honored to receive three awards for outstanding teaching, nominated and selected by both students and faculty. At Penn Nichols was nominated for two teaching awards.

Nichols was delighted to be honored by the Society for Historians of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era with the Roger D. Bridges Distinguished Service Award in 2015. He was honored as one of four Oregon State University Faculty Members of the Game in Fall 2016. 

Nichols has done over one hundred conference and invited presentations. He also has moderated or chaired another hundred panels and events, including panels and interview events with such figures as Ta-Nehisi Coates, Madeline Albright, Henry Louis Gates Jr., Michael Beschloss, and Nicholas Kristof, among others. 

Presentations, Publications, Public Work: 

Dr. Nichols has authored numerous published articles, essays, reviews, and opinion pieces in academic journals and newspapers on subjects including U.S. engagement with the world, transnationalism, grand strategy, the Spanish-American War, race and segregation, isolationism and internationalism, pacifism, WWI, progressivism, pluralism, citizenship, trans-Atlantic liberal reform, the philosophy of history, neutrality legislation, deliberative democracy, anti-imperialism, "interwar" American political economy, unilateralism, patriotism, the media and politics, religion and secular thought, secularization, the Monroe Doctrine, and the historical foundations of current American foreign policy.

Nichols is also an expert on the 1918 influenza pandemic. Since early 2020 Nichols has done over 150 interviews with US and world press, totally thousands of media mentions and millions reached worldwide with his analysis of the COVID-19 pandemic in light of the history of the 1918 flu pandemic and world history, including a series of popular talks for C-SPAN and the Southern Methodist University's Center for Presidential History, the Oregon Historical Society and WorldOregon, and the OSU College of Public Health and Human Sciences.

Nichols also is a frequent writer and commentator on current American foreign and domestic policy and on historical insights regarding contemporary political and diplomatic events. He often appears on National Public Radio and Oregon Public Broadcasting, including on OPB's syndicated program "Think Out Loud" with Dave Miller, as well as on a wide range of radio, television, podcast, and other forms of media. Nichols serves on the editorial board of the Washington Post's "Made by History" section, his writing and analysis has appeared in the Washington Post, Oregonian, Chicago Sun-Times, Huffington Post, New York Daily News, Politico, Christian Science Monitor, Foreign PolicyHistory News Network, and numerous other venues. 

Nichols helped to conceive and currently hosts "Historians and the News" (#HATN), a signature remote program of the Oregon Historical Society, which brings in one top historian to talk with Nichols (and involving audience questions) for an hour about the historical dimensions of some of the most pressing issues and news in the world today (2020-present).

An engaged public scholar, Nichols is a passionate advocate for history and the humanities. 


At Oregon State Dr. Nichols teaches courses on the U.S. role in the world (1776-1898, 1898-present), isolationism and internationalism, religion and U.S. foreign relations, the Gilded Age and Progressive Era, international and transnational history, international relations and diplomacy, intellectual, cultural, and political history, and U.S. history since 1865. At Penn and UVa Nichols taught courses on isolationism and internationalism, the U.S. role in the world, the Gilded Age and Progressive Era, civil rights, American politics and culture since 1945, technology and world history (STS), international relations and diplomacy, intellectual, cultural, and political history.

Memberships and Professional Service:

Dr. Nichols was elected as a permanent member of the Council on Foreign Relations and he is a Member of the Board of Trustees of the Oregon Historical Society. Nichols is active in various professional societies including the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations (SHAFR), on several committees and as an appointed official society blogger, the Society for U.S. Intellectual History (S-USIH), and the Society for Historians of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era (SHGAPE), and serves as a member of various SHGAPE Executive Council committees.

Conference Organizing:

Dr. Nichols organized a path-breaking international conference and book project on "Rethinking Grand Strategy" at Oregon State in Corvallis, OR (May 12-16, 2016). The conference, which held panels and talks in Corvallis and Portland, was covered by C-SPAN and national as well as international media. One goal of the project is to develop a field defining book (published by Oxford University Press in 2021).

Three years later, with support from several foundations along with private donors and internal OSU support, Nichols organized an international history conference on "Ideologies and U.S. Foreign Policy" at Oregon State in Corvallis, OR (May 31-June 3, 2019), which also received widespread media coverage, including C-SPAN, and is resulting in an edited volume (to be published by Columbia University Press in 2022).

Select Forthcoming Publications: 

Dr. Nichols is at work on several new projects including a book on the election of 1952 and conservative visions for foreign relations in the early Cold War with Oxford University Press, tentatively entitled Republican Revival. 

Nichols is at work on a sweeping study of "American Isolationism" and the historical development of ideas about isolation and the U.S. role in the world from the founders to the present, and a project on global anti-imperialism and spheres of influence.

Programming Initiatives:

Dr. Nichols is helping to lead a range of new arts and humanities programming initiatives, including serving as Director of the OSU Center for the Humanities, which is the hub for interdisciplinary research, teaching, outreach, and engagement in the humanities at Oregon State University and aims to have wide community engagement in the Corvallis, Oregon, and Pacific NW communities, and beyond.

In 2014 Nichols founded and has spearheaded a major multi-year interdisciplinary project on Citizenship and Crisis housed in the OSU School of History, Philosophy, and Religion, drawing on faculty, staff, and students from across the College of Liberal Arts, around OSU, and beyond.

Please contact Nichols directly for more information about interviews and quotes, events, publications, the OSU Center for the Humanities, or the OSU Citizenship and Crisis Initiative.


Oxford Encyclopedia of American
Military and Diplomatic History

New York:  Oxford University Press, 2013.

(senior co-editor with David Milne,
and editor-in-chief Timothy Lynch)

 The Oxford Encyclopedia of American Military and Diplomatic History
 Promise and Peril

Promise and Peril:

America at the Dawn of a Global Age

Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2011, paperback in 2015.

Prophesies of Godlessness:

Predictions of America’s Imminent Secularization from the Puritans to the Present Day

New York: Oxford University Press, 2008.

Co-author and co-editor with Charles Mathewes




Wiley-Blackwell Companion to the Gilded Age and Progressive Era

Malden, MA: Wiley Blackwell, March 2017.

Co-editor with Nancy Unger




 Prophesies of Godlessness




Selected Recent Honors and Awards:

Phi Beta Kappa Member of the Year, Awarded by the Oregon State University Phi Beta Kappa Student Chapter, Epsilon of Oregon (May 2018)

TEDxPortland TED Talk speaker (April 2018)*in front of 3,000+ audience at the Keller Auditorium, Portland, OR, and thousands more watching streaming online.

Organization of American Historians Distinguished Lecturer (2017)

OSU Faculty Member of the Game (Fall 2016)

Andrew Carnegie Fellowship, Carnegie Corporation of New York (2016 -- term: 2016-2019)

Bill and Caroline Wilkins Faculty Development Award, Oregon State University, College of Liberal Arts (September 2015)

Elected permanent (life) member of the Council on Foreign Relations (June 2015)

Roger D. Bridges Distinguished Service Award, Society for Historians of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era (April 2015)

Emerging Scholar Award, Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society, Oregon State University (May 2015)

Oregon State University Honors College Professor of the Year 2014 (June 2014)

Nominee, Oregon State University Faculty Mentor of the Year 2013 

My Publications