Zachary Schrag

Zachary Schrag

Zachary Schrag


U.S. History: US history, urban history, history of technology, public policy, research methods.

Zachary M. Schrag [silent c, rhymes with bag and flag] studies cities, technology, and public policy in the United States in the nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first centuries.

He is the author of four books: The Great Society Subway: A History of the Washington Metro; Ethical Imperialism: Institutional Review Boards and the Social Sciences, 1965-2009; The Princeton Guide to Historical Research; and The Fires of Philadelphia: Citizen-Soldiers, Nativists, and the 1844 Riots Over the Soul of a Nation.

Schrag’s scholarly articles have been published in APT Bulletin, the Journal of Policy History, the Journal of Urban History, Research EthicsRethinking HistoryTechnology and Culture, and Washington History. His essays have appeared in the American HistorianAHA Perspectives, Inside Higher Ed, the Journal of American History, Politico, Slate, Tablet Magazine, TR News, the Washington Monthly, and the Washington Post.

He has received grants and fellowships from the National Science Foundation, the Gerald Ford Foundation, and the Library of Congress. His work has been awarded the Society for American City and Regional Planning History’s John Reps Prize, the Journal of Policy History's Ellis Hawley Prize, and the American Historical Association's James Harvey Robinson Prize.

A bicycle commuter to Mason since 2013, Schrag was awarded the Rick Holt Active Transportation Advocate Award in 2022.

Current Research

Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project.

Selected Publications

The Fires of Philadelphia: Citizen-Soldiers, Nativists, and the 1844 Riots Over the Soul of a Nation. Pegasus Books, 2021.

The Princeton Guide to Historical Research. Princeton University Press, 2021.

Ethical Imperialism: Institutional Review Boards and the Social Sciences, 1965-2009. Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010.

The Great Society Subway: A History of the Washington Metro. Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006.


Expanded Publication List

Refereed Journal Articles          

2021   Scott W. Berg and Zachary M. Schrag, “It Takes Two: Combining English and History to Team Teach Narrative Writing,” Journal of American History 107, no. 4 (March 2021): 968–73.

2020   “Interviewing Everyman: William Sheridan Allen, Theodore Rosengarten, and the Allure of Pseudonymous History,” Rethinking History 24 (2020): 69–93.

2009   “How Talking Became Human Subjects Research: The Federal Regulation of the Social Sciences, 1965-1991.” Journal of Policy History 21 (Winter 2009): 3-37. [Material later incorporated into Ethical Imperialism.]

2000   “‘The Bus is Young and Honest’: Transportation Politics, Technical Choice, and the Motorization of Manhattan Surface Transit, 1919-1936,” Technology and Culture 41 (January 2000): 51-79.

Invited Journal Articles and Book Chapters

2022    “‘Things That Should Look Permanent Forever’: The Challenges of Preserving the Washington Metro.” APT Bulletin: The Journal of Preservation Technology 53 no. 1 (2022), 21-29.

2019   “Vexed Again: Social Scientists and the Revision of the Common Rule, 2011-2018.” Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics 47 (2019): 254-263.

2016   “Ethical Pluralism: Scholarly Societies and the Regulation of Research Ethics,” in The Ethics Rupture: Exploring Alternatives to Formal Research-Ethics Review, edited by Will C. van den Hoonaard and Ann Hamilton. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2016.

2014   “What Is This Thing Called Research?” in Human Subjects Research Regulation: Perspectives on the Future, eds. I. Glenn Cohen and Holly Fernandez Lynch. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2014.

2013   “‘Rather Strong Advisory’: William Walton’s Commission and the Challenge of the FBI Building,” in Civic Art: A Centennial History of the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, edited by Thomas Luebke. University of Massachusetts Press, 2013.

2012   “Transportation and the Uniting of the Nation,” in To Promote the National Welfare: The Case for Big Government, edited by Steve Conn. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012.

2011   “The Case Against Ethics Review in the Social Sciences.” Research Ethics 7 (2011): 120–131. (United Kingdom)

2009   “The Making of an Auto-Dependent Edge City: The Case of Fairfax County, Virginia,” in Daniel Rubey, ed. Redefining Suburban Studies: Searching for New Paradigms. Hempstead, New York: Center for Suburban Studies at Hofstra University, 2009. [Adapted from The Great Society Subway, chapter 9.]

2004   “The Freeway Fight in Washington, D.C.: The Three Sisters Bridge in Three Administrations,” Journal of Urban History 30 (July 2004): 648-673. [Material later incorporated into The Great Society Subway, chapter 5.]

2001   “Mapping Metro, 1955-1968: Urban, Suburban, and Metropolitan Alternatives,” Washington History 13 (Spring/Summer 2001): 4-23, 90-92. [Material later incorporated into The Great Society Subway.]

Reports, Essays, and Journalism

2021 “Martyrs to the Nation,” Slate Magazine, September 1, 2021.

2018   “Lewis Levin Wasn’t Nice,” Tablet Magazine, 22 October 2018.

            “Subway Stories: DC Metro and the Problem of Maintenance,” AHA Today, 4 January 2018.

2016   “How Congress Undercut Its Own City’s Subway System,” POLITICO Magazine, 16 March 2016.

2015   “Will the Federal Government Finally Deregulate Oral History?,” American Historian, November 2015, 20-22.

2014   “You Can’t Ask That.” Washington Monthly, September/October 2014.

2012   “Regulation of Research on Human Subjects: Academic Freedom and the Institutional Review Board.” Report of a subcommittee of the American Association of University Professors Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure. With Judith Jarvis Thomson, Catherine Elgin, David A. Hyman, Jonathan Knight, and B. Robert Kreiser. Published, September 2012. Final version, March 2013.

2012   “The Ethical Imperialism of Moral Science,” Bioethics Forum, 4 January 2012.

2011   “Virginia’s History Textbooks Still Aren’t Accurate—The Publishers Need to Get Historians Involved,” History News Network, 3 October 2011.

            “Obama’s Impossible Request,” Bioethics Forum, 19 January 2011.

2010   “Milestone: Peter S. Craig,” Washington History 22 (2010): 97-98.

            “Belmont’s Ethical Malpractice,” Bioethics Forum, 30 November 2010.

2009   “UIC IRB Asserts Power Over Oral History,” Illinois Academe, Spring 2009.

2007   “Thinking Big: Lessons from the Washington Metro,” TR News 249 (March-April 2007): 18-20.

“Ethical Training for Oral Historians,” Perspectives: Newsletter of the American Historical Association, March 2007.

2006   “How Metro Shapes D.C.,” Washington Post, 7 May 2006.

Courses Taught

HNRS 240: Reading the Past

HIST 378: History of Aviation

HIST 499: RS: Senior Seminar in History

HIST 623: US Political History 1940-1990

HIST 650: Technology and Power

HIST 797: Research Seminar in History


AB magna cum laude, social studies, Harvard University, 1992

PhD, history, Columbia University, 2002

Dissertations Supervised

Jordan Patty, Transit, Labor, and the Transition to Public Ownership in Atlanta and Oakland (2021)

Richard Hardesty, Magic in "a Tragic City": The Orioles and the Redevelopment of Baltimore, 1954-1992 (2021)

Alan S. Brody, Peculiar Capitalism: Fast-Food Franchising and Entrepreneurship in Postwar America (2020)

Roger Connor, Rooftops to Rice Paddies: Aerial Utopianism, Helicopters, and the Creation of the National Security State (2020)

Alan Capps, The Antecedents of the U.S. Border Patrol, 1812-1940 (2018)

Ray Clark, A Public Airport for the District of Columbia: The History of Washington Dulles International Airport (2017)

Mary Sullivan Linhart, Up to Date and Progressive: Winchester and Frederick County, Virginia, 1870-1980 (2014)