Sean P. Cunningham
Office: 131 Holden Hall
Ph.D., University of Florida
Sean P. Cunningham is Chair of the Department of History. He teaches broadly in twentieth-century
U.S. history, while specializing in the history of modern American political culture.
His geographic emphasis is on the 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, was published by Cambridge University Press in 2014. His current research focus
is on Texas politics during the 1930s and early 1940s, with particular interest in
the dynamics between the FDR White House and Democratic campaign politics at the state
and local levels.
In addition to his responsibilities as Department Chair, Cunningham also serves on the Board of Directors for both the Texas State Historical Association and Humanities Texas – the state's affiliate to the National Endowment for the Humanities. At Texas Tech, he also serves as Title IX Deputy for Academic Affairs, is on the Advisory Board for Civil Counterpoints (a campus conversation series designed to stimulate thoughtful and respectful dialogue on volatile contemporary issues), is a member of the Editorial Board for Texas Tech University Press, and has been a member of the Provost's Faculty Success Task Force since 2017.
Cunningham is also a decorated teacher. 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.
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. The book also investigates the ongoing nature of political contestation within the postwar Sunbelt, highlighting the underappreciated persistence of liberal and progressive influences across the region. 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
This book explores the major moments, issues, personalities, and creative forces that coalesced during the 1960s and 1970s to reshape the political landscape and culture of Texas, thereby transforming the Lone Star State into the nation's most powerful Republican stronghold. Utilizing extensive research drawn from the archives of four presidential libraries, gubernatorial papers, local campaign offices, and oral histories, Cunningham reveals a vivid portrait of modern conservatism in one of the nation's largest and most politically powerful states.