Sean P. Cunningham

Sean P. Cunningham

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


Ph.D., University of Florida



Sean P. Cunningham is Interim Chair of the Department of History.  He also 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, was published by Cambridge University Press in 2014.  He continues to research, present, and publish scholarship on Texas politics, conservatism, and modern American politics, broadly defined.


Cunningham has been honored with numerous awards for his teaching and service.  In 2013, the university 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.

Published Works

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

Sunbelt Politics

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.

Contact Information

Email: Sean.Cunningham@ttu.edu 
Office: 131 Holden Hall
Website: http://courses.ttu.edu/secunnin