Jennifer Burns

Assistant Professor

At Stanford Since

September 1, 2012
A.B. Harvard University, 1998; M.A. University of California, Berkeley, 2001; Ph.D. University of California, Berkley, 2005
Headshot of Jennifer Burns

On leave for the 2014-15 academic year.

I am a historian of the twentieth century United States working at the intersection of intellectual, political, and cultural history, with a particular interest in ideas about the state, markets, and capitalism and how these play out in policy and politics.  I have published articles about the history of conservatism in a number of academic and popular journals, including Reviews in American History, Modern Intellectual History, Journal of Cultural Economy, The New York Times, The New Republic, and Dissent.

My first book, Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right (Oxford, 2009), was an intellectual biography of the libertarian novelist Ayn Rand.  For more on this book, watch my interviews with Jon Stewart  and Steven Colbert, or check out my website.

At Stanford, I’ve been involved in a number of new initiatives, including serving as a faculty advisor to the Approaches to Capitalism Workshop at the Stanford Humanities Center, co-founding the Bay Area Consortium for the History of Ideas in America (BACHIA), and consulting with the Hoover Institution Archives on new acquisitions in American political history.

I teach courses on modern U.S. history, religious history, the intellectual history of capitalism, and the history of Silicon Valley.

To prospective graduate students: Yes, I am accepting new students!  I can advise a range of twentieth century topics, but my expertise is intellectual, political, and cultural history, with a particular interest in conservative politics, free market economics, religion, and the history of capitalism.  Thankfully, Stanford’s archival collections in these areas are particularly rich, making it possible to explore a range of possible dissertation topics without leaving campus.

Due to the volume of inquiries, I am not able to correspond or meet with potential applicants.  If you are admitted to our program, you will be invited to campus and will have a chance to meet a range of faculty and current students.  In the meantime, please read carefully the materials about our program on our website, which should answer most questions, or direct any queries to the graduate coordinator, Art Palmon at  Your application may list me as a potential mentor, particularly if our areas of interest overlap or you are interested in the postwar U.S.  You do not need to have identified a potential topic, although you can indicate potential areas of interest.  Your statement should describe the intellectual journey that led you to graduate school, referencing specific books, courses, professors, and research experiences.  If you were not an undergraduate history major, explain why history is your chosen discipline and the academic experiences that have prepared you for graduate study.  Supportive letters from professors who know you well, high grades in history courses, and a polished writing sample using primary sources are the most important parts of your application.  There is no minimum GRE score requirement.

I also request that all prospective applicants familiarize themselves with the realities of the extremely competitive academic job market in history.  The latest data is here.

Research Interests

  • 20th Century U.S.
  • Political
  • Cultural
  • Intellectual

Publications and Presentations

  • Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right (Oxford University Press, 2009).
  • "O Libertarian, Where is Thy Sting?" Journal of Policy History, Vol. 19, No. 4, 2007, 453-471.
  • "Liberalism and Conservative Ideas," in Liberalism for a New Century, eds. Neil Jumonville and Kevin Mattson (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007).
  • "Godless Capitalism: Ayn Rand and the Conservative Movement," Modern Intellectual History, 1, 3 (November 2004): 1-27. Also printed in American Capitalism: Social Thought and Political Economy in Twentieth Century America, ed. Nelson Lichtenstein (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006).
  • "In Retrospect: George Nash’s The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America Since 1945," Reviews in American History, 32 (September 2004): 447-462.
  • "Three Furies of Libertarianism: Rose Wilder Lane, Isabel Paterson, and Ayn Rand," paper presented in panel "Foremothers of Ann Coulter: Right-Wing Women and the Conservative Intellectual Movement in the United States, 1930-1980." American Historical Association Annual Meeting, January 5-8, 2006.