Are Historians Increasingly Illiberal?

16 Pages Posted: 27 Jul 2023 Last revised: 21 Sep 2023

See all articles by Vincent Geloso

Vincent Geloso

George Mason University - Department of Economics

Chandler S. Reilly

Metropolitan State University of Denver - Department of Economics

Date Written: July 24, 2023


There is a widely-shared perception that history faculty in colleges and universities lean heavily to the left and that this has gotten worse since the 1970s. However, party affiliations or self-proclaimed ideological labels do not automatically imply that historians are unable to check their political views at the doors of their offices and classrooms. In this paper, we assess whether they do by using the rankings of presidential performance made by historians since Arthur Schlesinger’s survey in 1948. We combine these rankings with a “classical-liberalism” index constructed out of changes to size of government and trade tariffs. The index does not change over time as the presidents are fixed. However, because the historians change from survey to survey, unchecked biases would imply that the index has a negative impact on presidential scores. Increasingly unchecked biases would imply an increasingly larger penalty on presidential scores. This is how we can document whether political biases seep into academic work. Using multiple econometric specifications, we are unable to find strong evidence of a bias that is growing over time.

Keywords: Historians, Illiberalism, Presidential Rankings

Suggested Citation

Geloso, Vincent and Reilly, Chandler, Are Historians Increasingly Illiberal? (July 24, 2023). GMU Working Paper in Economics No. 23-33, Available at SSRN: or

Vincent Geloso (Contact Author)

George Mason University - Department of Economics ( email )

4400 University Drive
Fairfax, VA 22030
United States

Chandler Reilly

Metropolitan State University of Denver - Department of Economics ( email )

890 Auraria Pkwy
Denver, CO 80204
United States

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