Jason Duncan
Department Chair of History, Professor of History
(616) 632-2837
H 305


Jason K. Duncan was born in Albany, New York, and educated in Catholic schools in that city. He graduated in 1985 from St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York, a college originally in the Universalist tradition, with a B.A. in Government. He later earned an M.A. in Russian Area Studies from Georgetown University, writing his Master’s Essay on “Martin Luther King, Jr. Through Soviet Eyes.” He then worked in politics, including three years as a legislative assistant in Washington, D.C. to U.S. Representative Tom Sawyer of Ohio.

Professor Duncan went on to earn his Ph.D. in American History from the University of Iowa in 1999, writing a dissertation entitled “A Most Democratic Class: New York Catholics and the Early American Republic.” In 2002, he joined the faculty at Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he is currently Professor of History. He teaches classes in American and Russian History, and has twice served as co-director of the college’s semester program in Ireland, where he taught Irish History.

Professor Duncan has presented academic papers at venues such as the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic, the American Catholic Historical Association, and the Society for United States Intellectual History, and the Conference on American Political History. He has also given invited lectures at the Cushwa Center for the Study of American Catholicism at the University of Notre Dame and the Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies at Grand Valley State University. 

In November 2013, Routledge University Press published his most recent book, John F. Kennedy: The Spirit of Cold War Liberalism. His first book, Citizens or Papists? The Politics of Anti-Catholicism in New York, 1685-1821, was published by Fordham University Press in 2005.

His current research is on 1836 presidential election; he is writing a book on it for University Press of Kansas’s series on American Presidential Elections entitled The Little Magician’s Greatest Trick: Martin Van Buren and the Winning of the Presidency, 1836.

Jason Duncan lives in Grand Rapids with his wife Amy, and their sons, Leo and Jack.



The Little Magician’s Greatest Trick: Martin Van Buren and the Winning of the Presidency, 1836, Lawrence, Kansas: University Press of Kansas, American Presidential Elections Series, (forthcoming.)

John F. Kennedy: The Spirit of Cold War Liberalism, New York: Routledge University Press, 2014.

Citizens or Papists?: The Politics of Anti-Catholicism in New York, 1685-1821,  New York: Fordham University Press, 2005.


“Lincoln and the Continuities of Midwestern History,” Indiana Magazine of History, December 2021

“Plain Catholics of the North:’ Martin Van Buren and the Politics of Religion, 1807-1836,” U.S. Catholic Historian, Volume 38, No. 1, Winter 2020.

"John F. Kennedy and the Irish Catholic Political Tradition," THE FORUM 12 (2014), Issue 1, Article 8. 


“How Hamilton Defended the Rights of Catholics in a Young America”  America: The National Catholic Review, October 26, 2016 

“What Does Russia’s Resurgence Mean for the United States?” Grand Rapids Press/MLive May 12, 2014

“What JFK Still Teaches Us” DetroitNews.com  November 22, 2013


The Making of a Cold War President”  Review of Fredrik Logevall, JFK: Coming of Age in the American Century, 1917-1956, University Bookman, March 2021. Posted also on RealClearBooks.com March 27, 2021.

Anti-Catholicism in America, 1620-1860, by Maura Jane Farrelly, The Journal of Religion, April 2019.

In Rome We Trust: The Rise of Catholics in American Political Life, by Manlio Graziano, Review of Politics, Spring 2018. 

Evangelical Gotham: Religion and the Making of New York City, 1783-1860 by  Kyle B. Roberts, American Historical Review, February 2018.

Once in a Great City: A Detroit Story, by David Marannis, Middle West Review, Fall  2017.  

Bobby Kennedy: The Making of a Liberal Icon, by Larry Tye, The University Bookman, Spring 2017, posted on Real Clear Books.com, May 2017.


`”He has shamefully endeavored to mingle religion with politics:” Martin Van Buren,
Religion, and the 1836 Presidential Election,’ Henry Symposium on Religion and Public Life, Calvin University, Grand Rapids, Michigan, April 2022.
“The False and Arrogant Claim of the Van Buren Party:” The Presidential Election of 1836 in Illinois, Midwestern History Conference, (Held Virtually) May, 2021.

“Southern Influence and African Slavery:” Martin Van Buren, Party Building, and the Legacy of the Missouri Crisis, 1819-1836,” A Fire Bell in the Past: The Missouri Crisis at 200, University of Missouri, Columbia Missouri, February 2019. 

“Plain Catholics of the North: Martin Van Buren and Religion in the Making of the Democratic Party,” 40th Annual Meeting of the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic, 

Cleveland, Ohio, July 2018.

“Reconsidering Martin Van Buren’s Victory, 1836,” 2nd Annual Conference on American Political History, Lebanon Valley College, Annville, Pa., June 2018.

“Pope Martin I: Catholics and the Making of the Democratic Party, 1815-1841,” American Catholic Historical Association/American Historical Association, Washington, D.C., January 2018.

“The Privileges of the Humblest Individual:” Martin Van Buren and Religious Minorities in the United States, 1812-1840,” Henry Institute Symposium on Religion and Public Life, Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Michigan, April 2017.

“Pope Martin I: New York Catholics and their Alliance with Martin Van Buren, 1812-1830,” Researching New York: Conference on New York State History, Albany, New York, November 2016.


“Crises in American History” on “Lunch and Learn With Gleaves Whitney,” Executive Director, Hauenstein Center, Grand Valley State University, June 2020.


  • Ph.D., University of Iowa
  • M.A., Georgetown University
  • B.A., St. Lawrence University