About

I am the Hunt Family Assistant Professor of History at Duke University. My main interest is in the intellectual history of modern Europe, focusing on themes of religion, welfare, and the family. I can be contacted at james.chappel@duke.edu.

My first book appeared from Harvard University Press in 2018 under the title Catholic Modern: The Challenge of Totalitarianism and the Remaking of the Church. The book is primarily an intellectual history of  European Catholics between the 1920s and 1960s, focusing on their conceptualization of the family, the economy, and the state. It argues that the experience of the 1930s were a watershed in the history of the Church, as the twin threats of fascism and (especially) Communism pushed Catholic thinkers towards a renovated form of social Catholic ethics. Essentially, Catholics ceased struggling against modernity, and began struggling for Catholic forms of modernity — as they do today.

I am at work on a new project on the history of old age, tentatively entitled The Ends of Life: Old Age and the Quest for Meaning in Modern Germany.