I teach and write about the political, economic, and metropolitan history of the modern United States. I became a professional historian after spending the early years of my career working in national politics and policymaking, an experience that showed me the critical role of historical knowledge in understanding the present and informing the future. My research, teaching, and work with people and organizations beyond academia is inspired and shaped by my desire to make history relevant, exciting, and central to the way we understand our world. At the UW, I offer undergraduate and graduate courses on modern America, political history, urban history, and economic history.
My research focuses on the high-tech industry, American politics, and the connections between the two. My most recent book is a history of the technology industry from the 1940s to the present, titled The Code: Silicon Valley and the Remaking of America (Penguin Press, 2019). I also am the author of Cities of Knowledge (Princeton, 2005), which explored how Silicon Valley came to be and what the Cold War had to do with it, and Pivotal Tuesdays (University of Pennsylvania, 2015), about four game-changing U.S. Presidential elections of the 20th century (1912, 1932, 1968, 1992) and their broader social and cultural context. I also write frequently for public audiences and am a contributing opinion writer at The New York Times.
I collaborate with faculty, students, and staff across the UW and the Seattle region as co-chair of the Washington Chapter of the Scholars Strategy Network and as a member of the Standing Committee of the Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies, a co-founder and faculty affiliate of Urban@UW, and the faculty affiliate of the West Coast Poverty Center. My professional affiliations beyond the UW have included leadership roles in the Social Science History Association and the Urban History Association, speaking to a wide range of groups as an OAH Distinguished Lecturer, and serving as a fellow of the National Forum on the Future of Liberal Education.
More biographical information and links to selected publications, syllabi, and speaking appearances can be found on my personal website, margaretomara.com.
- O'Mara, Margaret. Pivotal Tuesdays: Four Elections That Shaped the Twentieth Century. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2015. Print.
- O'Mara, Margaret. Cities of Knowledge: Cold War Science and the Search for the Next Silicon Valley. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2005. Print.
- Margaret O'Mara, The Code: Silicon Valley and the Remaking of America (New York: Penguin Press, 2019)
Division: United States
Development of the U.S during the "very long" 20th C., from 1877 to the present, with particular emphasis on the changing relationship between state and society, economic and technological shifts, and struggles for civil and economic rights.
- For a first field HSTAA 522 is required, as well as at least one directed reading in coordination with the HSTRY 596-7 paper.
- For those working on 20th C. US as a second field, HSTAA 522 is required. Depending on the previous preparation of the applicant, an additional directed reading may also be recommended.
- For a third or fourth field in this subject a directed reading (HSTRY 600) with me is required; HSTAA 522 is recommended.
Urbanization and the suburbanization of the U.S. from the colonial era to the present, including consideration of comparative examples. Students will read seminal works from the urban historiography and key contributions to the field from social history, intellectual history, and political history, as well as from the disciplines of urban planning, public policy, and sociology.
- Required course work for a first field includes HSTAA 590 (Urban History) or a directed reading (HSTRY 600) in urban history. I strongly encourage coordinating this supervised directed reading to occur at the same time as the first quarter of the HSTRY 596-7 seminar paper sequence.
- For a second field students should complete HSTAA 590 (Urban History) or a directed reading (HSTRY 600) in urban history.
- For a third or fourth field in this subject a directed reading (HSTRY 600) is required.
All students of urban history are strongly encouraged to take or audit one or more of the many urban-related graduate courses regularly offered in other departments and colleges, many of which can be found by consulting the database of faculty affiliates of Urban@UW (http://urban.uw.edu). Students also can work with me to identify relevant courses and faculty.
Policy and Political History
Development of the U.S. state and political culture, with particular emphasis on the 20th C. Readings will consider the role of the federal government, contested and dynamic definitions of citizenship, expansion and contraction of the national state, the role of extra-governmental institutions, and grassroots activism on the left and the right.
- Required course work for a first field includes completing HSTAA 590 (American Political History), or a directed reading (HSTRY 600) in political history. I strongly encourage coordinating this supervised directed reading to occur at the same time as the first quarter of the HSTRY 596-7 seminar paper sequence.
- For a second field HSTAA 590 (American Political History) is required, or a directed reading (HSTRY 600) with me in political history.
- For a third or fourth field a directed reading (HSTRY 600) is required.
All students of political history are strongly encouraged to take or audit one or more courses in other Social Science programs.
History of Capitalism
Development of capitalism as a political economic form in the U.S. and globally since the early nineteenth century. Readings will be both historiographic (examining the evolution of economic and business history and changing interpretations of the role of market institutions in society) and thematic (addressing topics such as: the state-market relationship, business organization and power, labor and capital, economic globalization, technological change, economic thought and policy, the effect of economic structures on individual and group opportunity and mobility).
- Required course work for a first field includes HSTAA 590 (History of Capitalism), or directed reading (HSTRY 600) in the history of capitalism. I strongly encourage coordinating this supervised directed reading to occur at the same time as the first quarter of the HSTRY 596-7 seminar paper sequence.
- For a second field students should complete HSTAA 590 (History of Capitalism), or a directed reading (HSTRY 600) with me in the history of capitalism.
- Those working on this subject as a third or fourth field should complete a directed reading (HSTRY 600).
All students of the history of capitalism are strongly encouraged to take or audit one or more courses in other social science units.
- History Hosts Panel on Executive Power and Deploying Federal Officers - August 21, 2020
- History Behind the Headlines panel discusses crises throughout history in light of COVID-19 - June 9, 2020
- Life in Seattle, America’s Coronavirus Capital: The crisis is forcing a tech boomtown to hit pause - March 9, 2020
- Investigating Technology and the Remaking of America - December 3, 2019
- Opinion: Don’t Blame Tech Bros for the Housing Crisis - December 3, 2019
- Undergraduates: Parse Fact from Fiction in History Courses this Winter - November 15, 2019
- History Faculty Hosts an Abundance of Book Launches - November 11, 2019
- The Church of Techno-Optimism - October 1, 2019
- 'The Code' looks at big tech's role in remaking America - July 11, 2019
- Why we need history majors to understand our future - April 24, 2019
- A Warning From Seattle to Amazon’s HQ2 - January 8, 2019
- The End of Privacy Began in the 1960s - January 8, 2019
- The Tech Talent is Rumbling in Silicon Valley - January 8, 2019
- History that Speaks to Your Moment - April 6, 2018
- Historicizing Our Own Political and Economic Worlds: HSTAA 345 US Political and Economic History 1920-Present - March 12, 2018
- Google to give #1 billion to nonprofits and help Americans get jobs in the new economy - October 16, 2017
- Class Taught by Professor Margaret O'Mara Featured on C-SPAN - June 6, 2017
- Faculty Featured in Local, National News Media - April 24, 2017
- Distinguished Lecturers - July 7, 2014
- History Department Celebrates Excellence, Awards $200,000 in Scholarships and Prizes - May 15, 2014
- History Professor Margaret O'Mara Talks Tech on "GeekWire" Radio Show - April 3, 2014
- Three History Faculty Members to Receive Awards of Excellence - March 25, 2014
- Prof. Margaret O'Mara Awarded Burkhardt Residential Fellowship - March 22, 2014
- Cities are the Living Embodiments of Past Decisions - April 22, 2013