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Michael Breidenbach, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of History
Email:
michael.breidenbach@avemaria.edu
Phone:
(239) 280-1570
WhatsApp:
Office:
Henkels 2014A

Michael Breidenbach, Ph.D.

Prof. Michael Breidenbach is an historian of American politics, religion, law, and culture. He is an Associate Professor of History at Ave Maria University and a Senior Affiliate for Legal Humanities at the Program for Research on Religion and Urban Civil Society at the University of Pennsylvania.

He is the author of Our Dear-Bought Liberty: Catholics and Religious Toleration in Early America (Harvard University Press, 2021), which was runner-up for the Journal of the American Revolution Book of the Year Award. He is co-editor of The Cambridge Companion to the First Amendment and Religious Liberty (Cambridge University Press, 2020), which has been cited in Supreme Court amicus briefs. His next two projects are on the politics of naming in Revolutionary America and on nineteenth–century American Catholicism. His writing has also appeared in The Atlantic, Washington Post, and First Things.

Dr. Breidenbach was elected Fellow of the Royal Historical Society in 2022. He has held research positions at Princeton University; St. John's College, Oxford; Corpus Christi College, Oxford; Rothermere American Institute, Oxford; Wolfson College, Cambridge; McNeil Center for Early American Studies, University of Pennsylvania; University of Florida; Villanova University; and Collegium Institute. He has also appeared on national television and radio programs.

He lives in Southwest Florida with his wife, Janice Chik Breidenbach, Associate Professor of Philosophy at Ave Maria University, and their son.

Education

  • Ph.D. History, University of Cambridge
  • M. Phil. Political Thought & Intellectual History, University of Cambridge
  • B.A. American Studies & History, Northwestern University

About

Prof. Michael Breidenbach is an historian of American politics, religion, law, and culture. He is an Associate Professor of History at Ave Maria University and a Senior Affiliate for Legal Humanities at the Program for Research on Religion and Urban Civil Society at the University of Pennsylvania.

He is the author of Our Dear-Bought Liberty: Catholics and Religious Toleration in Early America (Harvard University Press, 2021), which was runner-up for the Journal of the American Revolution Book of the Year Award. He is co-editor of The Cambridge Companion to the First Amendment and Religious Liberty (Cambridge University Press, 2020), which has been cited in Supreme Court amicus briefs. His next two projects are on the politics of naming in Revolutionary America and on nineteenth–century American Catholicism. His writing has also appeared in The Atlantic, Washington Post, and First Things.

Dr. Breidenbach was elected Fellow of the Royal Historical Society in 2022. He has held research positions at Princeton University; St. John's College, Oxford; Corpus Christi College, Oxford; Rothermere American Institute, Oxford; Wolfson College, Cambridge; McNeil Center for Early American Studies, University of Pennsylvania; University of Florida; Villanova University; and Collegium Institute. He has also appeared on national television and radio programs.

He obtained his Ph.D. in History from King’s College, Cambridge, where he was a Cambridge Overseas Trust Scholar. He was a visiting graduate student in History at the Sorbonne in Paris and earned his M.Phil. with Distinction in Political Thought and Intellectual History at Cambridge. He graduated magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa, and with departmental honors from Northwestern University with a B.A. in History and American Studies. He also received a Level 3 Award with Merit in Wines from the London-based Wine & Spirit Education Trust.

He lives in Southwest Florida with his wife, Janice Chik Breidenbach, Associate Professor of Philosophy at Ave Maria University, and their son.

www.michaelbreidenbach.com

  • “Aquinas on Tyranny, Resistance, and the End of Politics,” Perspectives on Political Science 44, no. 1 (2015): 10–17 (co-author)

Book Reviews

  • Review of Catherine O’Donnell, Elizabeth Seton: American Saint (Ithaca, NY: Three Hills, an imprint of Cornell University Press, 2018) in William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd ser., 79, no. 4 (October 2022): 672–76

Reference Works

  • “John Carroll,” The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, 4th Edition, eds. F. L. Cross, E. A. Livingstone, and Andrew Louth (New York: Oxford University Press, 2022) (contributor)

Other Publications

  • “The Allegory of the Dinner Party: Hitchcock’s Rope and Axel’s Babette’s Feast,” Church Life Journal (May 2023).
  • “Catholics and the First Amendment,” Starting Points (July 2020).
  • “Why the Right to Privacy Should Exist Even After Someone Dies,” Washington Post (September 2018).
  • “Raising the American Flag Made in China,” The Atlantic (July 2018).
  • “What Would Have Stopped Martin Luther,” First Things (April 2018).
  • “The Push and Pull of Conciliarist Thought and Religious Liberty: A Reply to Daniel Mark,” Arc of the Universe (January 2018).
  • “Beginning and Ending with Footnotes,” Uncommon Sense (Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture) (September 2016).
  • “The Necessary, Hazardous Quality of Patriotism,” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (August 2008).

My teaching spans American history and the history of political, legal, and religious thought in the United States and Europe. I have taught courses and advised theses at the undergraduate and graduate levels in history, political science, theology, and interdisciplinary programs, both in class and online. I have developed new courses at the intersection of religion and politics and have co-taught with philosophers and theologians. My courses offer intensive writing sessions, historical methods, seminar-style discussions, digital and archival research, and public speaking opportunities, among other transferrable skills. According to student reviews, 97% would take my courses again.

Our Dear-Bought Liberty: Catholics and Religious Toleration in Early America

In colonial America, Catholics were presumed dangerous until proven loyal. Yet Catholics went on to sign the Declaration of Independence and helped to finalize the First Amendment to the Constitution. What explains this remarkable transformation? Michael Breidenbach shows how Catholic leaders emphasized their church's own traditions―rather than Enlightenment liberalism―to secure the religious liberty that enabled their incorporation in American life.

The Cambridge Companion to the First Amendment and Religious Liberty

This book is an interdisciplinary guide to the religion clauses of the First Amendment with a focus on its philosophical foundations, historical developments, and legal and political implications. The volume begins with fundamental questions about God, the nature of belief and worship, conscience, freedom, and their intersections with law.

"Church and State in Maryland: Religious Liberty, Religious Tests, and Church Disestablishment" (Book Chapter)

“Church and State in Maryland: Religious Liberty, Religious Tests, and Church Disestablishment,” in Disestablishment and Religious Dissent: Church-State Relations in the New American States, 1776-1833, eds. Carl H. Esbeck and Jonathan Den Hartog (Columbus: University of Missouri Press, 2019), 309–326

“Jacques Maritain and Leo XIII on the Problem of Church-State Relations” (Book Chapter)

The Things that Matter: Essays Inspired by the Later Work of Jacques Maritain. Edited by Heidi M. Giebel. Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press/American Maritain Association, 2018

Conciliarism and the American Founding

Conventional understandings of Catholicism, especially the claim that the pope held temporal power over all civil rulers, presented a signal challenge to early American Catholics' civil and religious liberty. Yet reform-minded Catholics in the North Atlantic world asserted their independence from the temporal powers of external authorities, including the pope.

  • “Aquinas on Tyranny, Resistance, and the End of Politics,” Perspectives on Political Science 44, no. 1 (2015): 10–17 (co-author)

Book Reviews

  • Review of Catherine O’Donnell, Elizabeth Seton: American Saint (Ithaca, NY: Three Hills, an imprint of Cornell University Press, 2018) in William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd ser., 79, no. 4 (October 2022): 672–76

Reference Works

  • “John Carroll,” The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, 4th Edition, eds. F. L. Cross, E. A. Livingstone, and Andrew Louth (New York: Oxford University Press, 2022) (contributor)

Other Publications

  • “The Allegory of the Dinner Party: Hitchcock’s Rope and Axel’s Babette’s Feast,” Church Life Journal (May 2023).
  • “Catholics and the First Amendment,” Starting Points (July 2020).
  • “Why the Right to Privacy Should Exist Even After Someone Dies,” Washington Post (September 2018).
  • “Raising the American Flag Made in China,” The Atlantic (July 2018).
  • “What Would Have Stopped Martin Luther,” First Things (April 2018).
  • “The Push and Pull of Conciliarist Thought and Religious Liberty: A Reply to Daniel Mark,” Arc of the Universe (January 2018).
  • “Beginning and Ending with Footnotes,” Uncommon Sense (Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture) (September 2016).
  • “The Necessary, Hazardous Quality of Patriotism,” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (August 2008).

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