Sean P. Cunningham

Sean P. Cunningham

Associate Professor and Interim Chair - Modern American Politics, Texas, Sunbelt

Ph.D., University of Florida

Sean P. Cunningham teaches broadly in twentieth-century U.S. history, while specializing in the history of post-1945 American political culture.  His geographic emphasis is on the American Sunbelt, Texas in particular.  His first book, Cowboy Conservatism: Texas and the Rise of the Modern Right, was published by the University Press of Kentucky in 2010 and won the Texas Tech University President’s Book Award in 2012.His second book, American Politics in the Postwar Sunbelt: Conservative Growth in a Battleground Region, will be published by Cambridge University Press in 2014.

 Cunningham also recently finished several book chapters, including one on John Tower and the Texas GOP during the 1960s and 1970s.  That chapter appears in Robert Mason and Iwan Morgan’s edited volume, Seeking a New Majority: The Republican Party and American Politics, 1960-1980, published by Vanderbilt University Press in 2013.  Cunningham also authored a chapter on the so-called Texas “Far Right” during the 1950s and early 1960s, to be included in David Cullen and Kyle Wilkison’s edited volume, The Texas Right: The Radical Roots of Lone Star Conservatism, scheduled for publication by Texas A&M University Press in 2014.  Cunningham has two additional chapters scheduled for publication in 2014, both with the University of Oklahoma Press. One covers the recent historiography on modern Texas, to be included in Discovering Texas History, a volume edited by Bruce A. Glasrud, Light Townsend Cummins, and Cary D. Wintz.  The other offers a survey of more than a century of West Texas political culture and will be published in Paul Carlson and Bruce Glasrud’s forthcoming anthology, The Giant Side of Texas: A History of West Texas.  Cunningham has also presented his research at the Southern Historical Association, as well as several state and local conferences, and has published articles and numerous book reviews for theJournal of American HistoryJournal of Southern HistoryAmerican Historical Review, and Southwestern Historical Quarterly, among others.

In 2013, Texas Tech honored Cunningham with the President’s Excellence in Teaching Award.  In 2012, he was selected as a recipient of the “Professing Excellence” award, presented by University Student Housing.  In 2011, Cunningham was honored with the Department of History’s Distinguished Faculty Award.  He was also honored with this award in 2008.  In 2010, Cunningham was selected as the College of Arts & Sciences winner of the Texas Tech Alumni Association’s New Faculty Award.  He was also nominated for this award in 2009.  In 2007, Cunningham was awarded the Calvin A. VanderWerf Award in recognition of his selection as the outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistant at the University of Florida, where he earned his Ph.D.  Prior to his graduate work in Gainesville, Cunningham completed his B.A. in Public Relations from Texas Tech University in 1999, before earning his M.A. in History and his M.Ed. in Higher Education, also at Texas Tech, in 2002.  In 2003, he worked as a Counseling Specialist with the Advising Center at Texas Tech where he coordinated several programs and research projects dealing with first-generation college students and undergraduate retention.

Published Works

American Politics in the Postwar Sunbelt: Conservative Growth in a Battleground Region

This book analyzes the political culture of the American Sunbelt since the end of World War II. It highlights and explains the Sunbelt's emergence during the second half of the twentieth century as the undisputed geographic epicenter for conservative Republican power in the United States. However, the book also investigates the ongoing nature of political contestation within the postwar Sunbelt, often highlighting the underappreciated persistence of liberal and progressive influences across the region. Sean P. Cunningham argues that the conservative Republican ascendancy that so many have identified as almost synonymous with the rise of the postwar American Sunbelt was hardly an easy, unobstructed victory march. Rather, it was consistently challenged and never foreordained. The history of American politics in the postwar Sunbelt resembles a rollercoaster of partisan and ideological adaptation and transformation.

Cowboy Conservatism: Texas and the Rise of the Modern Right

Cowboy Conservatism: Texas and the Rise of the Modern Right by Dr. Sean Cunningham

During the 1960s and 1970s, Texas was rocked by a series of political transitions. Despite its century-long heritage of solidly Democratic politics, the state became a Republican stronghold virtually overnight, and by 1980 it was known as "Reagan Country." Ultimately, Republicans dominated the Texas political landscape, holding all twenty-seven of its elected offices and carrying former governor George W. Bush to his second term as president with more than 61 percent of the Texas vote.Sean P. Cunningham examines the remarkable history of Republican Texas in Cowboy Conservatism: Texas and the Rise of the Modern Right. Utilizing extensive research drawn from the archives of four presidential libraries, gubernatorial papers, local campaign offices, and oral histories, Cunningham presents a compelling narrative of the most notable regional genesis of modern conservatism. Spanning the decades from Kennedy's assassination to Reagan's presidency, Cunningham reveals a vivid portrait of modern conservatism in one of the nation's largest and most politically powerful states. The newest title in the New Directions in Southern History series, Cunningham's Cowboy Conservatism demonstrates Texas's distinctive and vital contributions to the transformation of postwar American politics.

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Contact Information

Office: 131 Holden Hall