Matthew M. Heidtmann

Historian  | Writer  |  Educator

As a historian, I  study the broader concepts of capitalism, reform, progressivism, conservatism, and political culture in the United States during late 19th and early 20th centuries. I earned my PhD in history from Stony Brook University, and I taught courses at the college-level for ten years. In addition to my academic focus, I also occasionally write about topics pertaining to history, politics, and political culture.



I come from a rural, working-class background, but I have been privileged enough to have lived, studied, and worked in three different countries (United States, Germany, and United Kingdom). This experience has deeply shaped my social, political, and economic understanding, and it has allowed me to develop an internationalist and class-based perspective, which I apply in my personal and professional commitments. Studying the broader connections between different peoples, regions, cultures, and ideas, I strive to cultivate a better understanding and a more open-minded public discourse.

Academic Positions Held

    • Lecturer / Adjunct Professor | Deptartment of History | Stony Brook University (2021-2023)
    • Adjunct Professor of History | Dept. of Social Sciences | Suffolk County Community College (2016-2023)

Courses Taught

HIS 103 - American History to 1865

HIS 104 - American History since 1865

HIS 261 - Change & Reform in America, 1870-1920

HIS 262 - American Colonial Society

HIS 292 - American Social History 1890-1930

HIS 312 - Empire to Third Reich: Germany 1890-1945

HIS 370 - US Social History 1860-1940

HIS 396 - Protest Music of the 1960s

Research Focus

My research and area of expertise is in American political history with a focus on the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. I study the intersections between the broader concepts of capitalism, reform, progressivism, and conservatism, and their effects on policy-making and political culture.

Doctoral Dissertation / Book Project

“For The Present Orderly Progress:” Congressional Conservatives in an Age of Reform, 1881 - 1913.

At the intersections of the study of ‘corporate liberalism’ and the history of capitalism, this project examines conservative congressional entities and their active involvement in moderate reforms during the late Gilded Age and the early Progressive Era. The central argument posits that a political and socio-economic system dominated by conservatism and capitalist ideologies more specifically, the ruling classes within that system can and will adopt and embrace reformist impulses to avoid fundamental change to said system and protect its basic tenets and class interests.

Description: The Progressive Era is commonly considered as a period of profound and unprecedented change in American society and politics. Yet, in many ways American “progressivism” during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries often reflected what Gabriel Kolko called the “triumph of conservatism.” Many of the reform-minded progressive icons, such as Theodore Roosevelt, were in fact part and parcel of society’s upper strata, and, despite their commitments to progress, they were often first and foremost concerned with preserving the power, wealth, and influence of their own class. Consequently, rather than effecting radical change, they often produced incremental reform, or “present orderly progress,” as the chief Rough Rider himself had once remarked. Roosevelt’s reform policies like railroad regulation, illustrated in this newspaper clipping, exemplify the dichotomous concept of “conservative reform.” The image depicts a railroad executive who is visibly pleased with the conservative elements of railroad regulation that protect the interests of his class, while he abhors the idea that reform proposals should also consider public benefit. By the early twentieth century, these business tycoons, as well as many of the ostensibly conservative policymakers who shepherded corporate-friendly legislation through Congress, increasingly understood how to harness the growing reform spirit in order to safeguard their own interests. This project focuses on a handful of these conservative policymakers, including senators Nelson W. Aldrich and John C. Spooner, as well as Speaker of the House Joseph G. Cannon. The project seeks to demonstrate how these key conservative figures constituted distinct and conscious elements of American “progressivism,” both within and outside of their institutional contexts.

Source: Chicago Daily Tribune, (May 31, 1907). Joseph G. Cannon Papers, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library, Springfield, IL.



Check out some some of my articles below.

The Washington Post (November 2020): ‘Even Without A Transformative Agenda, President-Elect Biden Can Tackle Covid-19’

Dissident Voice (October 2020):‘Howard Zinn Was Right: We Need To Stop Obsessing Over The Supreme Court’

Truthout (November 2019): ‘Democrats Should Abandon the Third-Party “Spoiler” Argument’


Dissident Voice (October 2019): ‘Why Making Young School Children Observe Veterans Day Is Problematic’


ROAR Magazine (June 2019): ‘The Hidden Agenda Behind Corporate-Led Reform’


The Washington Post (February 2019): ‘Progressives, Beware Centrists’ Attempts to Co-Opt your Platform’


Patch (July 2018): ‘I’m Sticking With the Union…And You Should, Too’


Real Progressives (March 2018): ‘Why You Should Stop Sharing Content From IJR Blue’


Dissident Voice (February 2018): ‘The Myth of “The Left” in America’s Distorted Political Landscape’

Media & Events

Speaking Events / Guest Lectures


Academic Conferences


  • 10th Annual Graduate Conference, American Political History Institute, Boston University (April 2018)
    Paper: “Undercurrents of Progress: Nelson Aldrich and the Concept of ‘Conservative Reform’ in Progressive Era America” 

Course Material

This is a Spotify playlist I have curated for my course HIS 396 Protest Music of the 1960s.


Do you have questions, comments, feedback? Would you like to propose a collaboration, project, or speaking engagement (guest lecture, discussion, informal talk etc.)? Please feel free to reach out, either by using the adjacent contact form, e-mail, LinkedIn or