Department Chair:
Pablo Mitchell

Administrative Assistant:
Kathy King

Department Email:

Phone: 440 775 8520
Fax: 440 775 6910

Rice Hall 316
10 North Professor St.
Oberlin, OH, 44074

Office Hours: Mon.-Fri. 8:00-4:30

Clayton Koppes

Clayton Koppes

Professor of History

Contact Information


Rice Hall 305
(440) 775-8317

Clayton Koppes

Professor Clayton Koppes

Educational Background

  • Bachelor of Arts, Bethel College Kansas, 1967
  • Master of Arts, Emory University, 1968
  • Doctor of Philosophy, University of Kansas, 1974

I’m a historian of the United States from the 1890s to the present. My particular interest is in political and social history; I also teach about U.S. foreign policy, particularly the Cold War. In fall 2010 I’m teaching History 253 “U.S. Since 1960” and a new colloquium, History 457, “The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual Experience in Twentieth Century America.” In spring 2011 I’ll team-teach History 104 “U.S. Since 1877” with Renee Romano and a colloquium on movie censorship in the United States.

The censorship colloquium draws on the book I’m writing about American movie censorship from the 1890s through the 1960s. In this book I challenge some assumptions about how censorship worked and introduce a comparative perspective from other arts and with the British experience. My book project grew from my longstanding interest in the boundaries of freedom and how they are determined. I addressed one phase of this in Hollywood Goes to War: How Politics, Profits, and Propaganda Shaped World War II Movies (coauthored with Gregory D. Black), which was published in 1987 and remains in print.

My teaching and scholarly interests have included environmental history and the history of technology. Soon after I began teaching at Oberlin in 1978, I introduced the first environmental history course at the college and was a founding member of the Environmental Studies Program. (I served as president of the American Society for Environmental History in 1985-86.) I came to Oberlin from the California Institute of Technology, where I served as a senior research fellow in history, and wrote JPL: A History of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (Yale University Press, 1982), which won the Dexter Prize from the Society for the History of Technology.

From 1996 to 2005 I served in various administrative positions at Oberlin, including Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Provost, and in 2000, Acting President. As chief academic officer I was able to add fourteen faculty positions, promote diversity in faculty hiring, helped launch new programs in Comparative American Studies and Cinema Studies, establish the first offerings in Middle Eastern and North African Studies, and initiate planning for the Academic Commons in Mudd Library. In 2000 I orchestrated the college’s role in helping save the Allen Memorial Hospital from imminent closure. My national service included membership on the Academic Advisory Board of the National Institute for Technology in the Liberal Arts (a Mellon Foundation initiative), the Executive Committee of the American Council for Academic Deans, and the Executive Committee of the Consortium for a Strong Minority Presence in Liberal Arts Colleges.

In 2007 my partner, William Norris, a now retired sociology professor, and I were deeply honored to stand among the first recipients of the Oberlin Lambda Alumni’s Q Awards for service to the Oberlin College gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community.