Peter N. Kirstein

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Peter N. Kirstein is a professor of history at Saint Xavier University in Chicago, Illinois. He received his M.A. and Ph.D. from Saint Louis University, and his A.B. from Boston University, where he studied under Howard Zinn. Kirstein also attended Washington University in St. Louis. Kirstein received his university's Excellence in Teaching Award and its SXU Mission Award. He is known for his research on the atomic bomb and academic freedom as well as actively defending the latter. He served eight years as Vice President of the Illinois Conference of the American Association of University Professors and as chair of Illinois Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure. He chairs his university's Faculty Grievance Committee and served as president of his university's AAUP chapter. He is currently its treasurer.


Kirstein has written a book, Anglo over Bracero: The History of the Mexican Worker in the US from Roosevelt to Nixon (San Francisco: R and E Research Associates). His scholarship has been published by The Historian, Western Historical Quarterly, Art in America, Situation Analysis, American Diplomacy, Journal of Mexican American History, Armed Forces & Society, and History News Network (HNN). He has reviewed for the American Historical Review on the cultural impact of the nuclear age. Kirstein has published extensively on the decision to use the atomic bomb at the end of World War II. He has lectured several times at the US Army-Russian Institute in Germany. Kirstein published a book chapter "Academic Freedom since 9/11" in West Point graduate, Matthew Morgan, ed., The Impact of 9/11 and the New Legal Landscape: The Day That Changed Everything (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009). An article on the A-bomb is, "Hiroshima and Spinning the Atom: America, Britain, and Canada Proclaim the Nuclear Age, August 6, 1945," The Historian, Winter 2009, 805-27. Kirstein spoke at the College of Complexes in Chicago on July 10, 2010 on "Remembering Howard Zinn: Giving Voice to the Voiceless." Using recently released FBI files, Kirstein has published an article for HNN, "The People’s Historian and the FBI Zinn Files." His review of Cary Nelson, No University is an Island appears in Logos: A Journal of Modern Society and Culture, 2011. He reviewed Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick, The Untold History of the United States and Robert Samuels, Why Public Higher Education Should be Free: How to Decrease Cost and Increase Quality At American Universities for Logos. A review essay, "Howard Zinn, A.A.U.P. and the Battle for Academic Freedom," appears in Logos, Spring 2015, and was reprinted in Academe, the blog of the American Association of University Professors. His article, "Steven Salaita, the Media, and the Struggle for Academic Freedom," Academe, appeared in Jan/Feb 2016 and chronicled the Salaita academic freedom case at the University of Illinois. His most recent publication is a book chapter, "Marx, Neoliberalism, and Academic Freedom: Toward a Dialectic of Resistance and Liberation," in Erik Juergensmeyer, Anthony Nocella, Mark Seis, eds., Neoliberalism and Academic Repression: The Fall of Academic Freedom in the Era of Trump, Brill Press, 2020. He is peer reviewer for Historical Research, issued by Institute of Historical Research, School of Advanced Study, University of London.

He is the first to publish from the Ralph Bard Papers at the Naval History and Heritage Command, Navy Yard, Washington, D.C. Navy Yard in Washington, D.C. His article "The Interim Committee's Lone Dissenter: Ralph Bard and the Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb," will soon appear in the New Mexico Historical Review. Bard was the highest ranking government official to oppose in writing the use of the A-bomb at the end of World War II and this is the first in depth history of the undersecretary of the navy.

Academic Freedom Efforts[edit]

He is a nationally known advocate of academic freedom and has defended free-speech rights of many scholars who were denied tenure, incarcerated or removed from their position for speech and controversial writings. These include Steven Salaita, Iymen Chehade, John Boyle, Norman Finkelstein,[1] Ward Churchill, Richard Berthold, Loretta Capeheart and Namita Goswami. Kirstein denounced racialism at a conference hosted by David Irving.[2] Professor Kirstein debated conservative David Horowitz on the Iraq War and academic freedom.[citation needed] He has also lectured or appeared on panels at universities across the United States on topics ranging from war and international security to academic freedom. Some of these are University of Texas at Austin, New York University, American University, Ohio Wesleyan University, Valparaiso University and Illinois State University. Kirstein led an investigation of Northeastern Illinois University in the tenure-denial case of linguistics professor John Boyle in his capacity as chair of Illinois Committee A. Their report led to a national AAUP investigation and at their centennial annual meeting in Washington, D.C. on June 14, 2014, there was a unanimous vote to censure NEIU. Illinois Committee A issued a statement in support of Steven Salaita on August 6, 2014 who was fired from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for tweets concerning the Israel-Gaza conflict. AAUP censured the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign as well. The report was covered by CNN, Chicago Tribune, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, Huffington Post, Chicago Reader, Arab Daily News, Jonathan Turley website, Illinois NPR/PBS at the University of Illinois, Salon and the Roanoke Times.

E-mail Exchange[edit]

Kirstein responded early in his career to an e-mail sent to scores of academicians from an Air Force Academy cadet. It was a request to recruit students to attend a conference on "America's Challenges in an Unstable World: Balancing Security with Liberty" at the Academy. Kirstein chose not to attend, due to the impending war with Iraq, and his concerns about militarism. Kirstein's robust e-mail called for conflict resolution, and denounced war. He and the cadet exchanged several substantive e-mail that clarified their views. The United States Air Force Academy and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), in particular, supported Kirstein's efforts to express freely his views on matters of public concern. They opposed denying academic freedom through suspension for pacifist speech that challenged war and the use of force.


  1. Furor over Norman Finkelstein, Z Communications, April 7, 2007. Accessed 3 June 2010.
  2. Peter N. Kirstein, Should Respectable Historians Attend and Speak at Conferences Hosted by David Irving?, History News Network Sept. 20, 2004. Accessed 3 June 2010.

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