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Guy Aiken

PhD 2018


  • University of Virginia: PhD (expected 2017)
  • Wake Forest University: M.Div. studies, 70 of 90 hours (2009-2011)
  • University of North Carolina at Charlotte: MA in History (2008)
  • Queens University of Charlotte: BA in History (2002)


"Sowing Peace, Reaping War: Quaker Humanitarianism in Germany and Appalachia, 1919-1941," is about the American Friends Service Committee's massive child-feeding programs in Germany and southern Appalachia between the world wars, and its attempt to save Germany's Jews in 1938-9. Chapter 1, “Feeding Germany,” critically examines the AFSC’s American nationalism during its mass feedings of German children even as it tried to maintain a posture of absolute political neutrality. Chapter 2, “Quakerizing Germany,” discusses an AFSC worker’s proposal for converting hundreds of thousands of Germans to Quakerism, and suggests that the explosion of American international humanitarianism during and after the Great War contributed to the liberalization of American Protestant foreign missions. Chapter 3, “Quakers and Labor,” shifts the story to the Appalachian coalfields in the 1920s and argues that Quakerism’s radically democratic ecclesiology accounted for the AFSC’s pragmatic and immediately personal response to class and labor conflict. Chapter 4, “A Quaker New Deal,” uncovers the direct link between the AFSC’s emphasis on “rehabilitation” in the midst of its mass child-feedings in Appalachia during the early 1930s, and the early New Deal’s preference for work-relief over “handouts.”    Chapter 5, “The AFSC’s Mission to the Gestapo,” tells the remarkable story of the AFSC’s three-man delegation to the Gestapo in Berlin in December of 1938, a story that lays bare the tragic choices humanitarians often have to make when faced with a violent government whose permission they need in order to save people from that government’s own brutality. Chapter 6, “The Totalitarian Claims of Christ,” examines an important AFSC worker’s ethical mysticism as he came to articulate it after his visit to Nazi Germany during the summer of 1938, and argues that his meeting with the rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel that summer solidified for him the link between mysticism and the responsibility to alleviate suffering. The unifying theme of the dissertation is the tension between the justice that peace requires and the neutrality that humanitarianism demands—a tension especially poignant for the AFSC, whose ultimate goal was (and is) to eliminate war of any kind.

Research Interests

  • American religious history
  • Liberal religion
  • Religion and social reform
  • Quakerism
  • Spirituality




  • “Business, Ethics, and Society” (Fall 2014), 2000 level



  • “Theology, Ethics, and Medicine” (Fall 2013), 2000 level
  • “Religion in America since 1865” (Spring 2013), 2000 level
  • “Introduction to Western Religious Traditions” (Fall 2012), 1000 level
  • “Spiritual But Not Religious: Spirituality in America” (Spring 2012), 2000 level
  • “Festivals of the Americas” (Fall 2011), 3000 level

UNC Charlotte

  • Liberal Studies: "Eastern Origins of Western Civilization" (Fall 2006), 1000 level
  • Liberal Studies: "Development, Dictatorship, and Democracy in Latin America" (Spring 2007), 1000 level



  • “Educating Tocqueville: Jared Sparks, the Boston Whigs, and Democracy in America.”  The Tocqueville Review 34, no. 1 (2013): 169-192. See coverage of this article in Boston Globe’s “brainiac” blog.
  • “Beyond Liberalism: Rufus Jones and Thomas Kelly in the History of Liberal Religion.”  Quaker Theology 11, no. 2 (2012): 74-90.
  • “Who Took the Christ out of Quakerism?  Rufus Jones and the Person and Work of Christ.”  Quaker Religious Thought 116-117 (2011): 37-53.
  • “Then and the Eternal Now: Thomas Kelly In and Beyond Historical Context.”  The Canadian Quaker History Journal 74 (2010): 34-44.


  • “Religious Society of Friends (Quakers),” co-author with Matthew Hedstrom, The SAGE Encyclopedia of War: Social Science Perspectives, Paul Joseph and J. Geoffrey Golson, eds. (SAGE, 2016).  (1500 words, submitted)
  • “Quakers,” Women in American History: An Encyclopedia, Peg Lamphier and Rosanne Welch, eds. (ABC-CLIO, 2016).  (1500 words, submitted)
  • “Christian Science,” The Encyclopedia of Miracles, Patrick J. Hayes, ed. (ABC-CLIO, 2015).  (800 words, submitted)



  • “With Bread in Both Hands: American Quakers in Germany after WWI.”  Duke Graduate History Conference, Durham, NC, January 2014, and Conference of Quaker Historians and Archivists (CQHA), Westtown School, West Chester, PA, June 2014.
  • “Beyond Liberalism: Rufus Jones and Thomas Kelly.”  Conference of Quaker Historians and Archivists (CQHA), Pickering College, Newmarket, Ontario, June 2012.
  • “Holy Terror: John Brown and His Judges since 1970.”  Graduate History Forum, UNC Charlotte, March 2007.


  • “Rufus Jones, Thomas Kelly, and the American Friends Service Committee.”  Charlottesville (VA) Friends Meeting, March 2014.

Awards and Honors

  • The Albert Gallatin Graduate Research Fellowship (2014), University of Virginia
  • Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences Summer Research Award (2013), University of Virginia