Texas Tech University

Sean P. Cunningham

Associate Professor and Chair
Modern American Politics, Conservatism, Texas, Sunbelt

Email: Sean.Cunningham@ttu.edu

Office: 131 Holden Hall 

Website: http://myweb.ttu.edu/secunnin

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 third book, Bootstrap Liberalism: Texas Political Culture in the Age of FDR, is in production with the University Press of Kansas, slated for publication in early 2022.

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 Liaison 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 and Advisory Committee since 2017.

Cunningham is also a decorated teacher. In 2020, he was elected to membership in the university's prestigious Teaching Academy. In 2013, Texas Tech honored him 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. Finally, 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.

Sean P. Cunningham

Select Publications

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

Sunbelt Politics, Reaganomics, Southern Conservatism, History of Republican PartyThis 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

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