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Margaret O'Mara

Professor
Margaret O'Mara headshot

Contact Information

(206) 685-2928
SMI 204B
Office Hours: 
TuTh 1:30-2:30, sign up here: https://tinyurl.com/yb6r7c39

Biography

Ph.D. University of Pennsylvania, 2002
PDF icon Curriculum Vitae (173.55 KB)

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. I am the author of Cities of Knowledge: Cold War Science and the Search for the Next Silicon Valley (Princeton, 2005), which explored how Silicon Valley came to be and what the Cold War had to do with it, as well as a number of articles and book chapters examining various intersections between cities, politics, and technology. My second book, Pivotal Tuesdays (University of Pennsylvania, 2015) grew out of my History Lecture Series I delivered here at the UW the fall of 2012. It explores four game-changing Presidential elections of the 20th century (1912, 1932, 1968, 1992) and places these campaign sagas in broader social and cultural context. My next book is a history of Silicon Valley and its relationships to the worlds of American politics and finance, and will be published by Penguin Press in 2019.

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 founding member of Urban@UW, a university-wide initiative dedicated to inclusive, data-driven innovation for the future of cities. I am also a faculty affiliate of the West Coast Poverty Center, the Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies, and an advisory board member for Startup Hall. 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 information and links to selected publications, syllabi, and past public speaking can be found on my personal website, margaretomara.com.

Research

Courses Taught

Graduate Study Areas

Division: United States

Twentieth Century

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.

Urban History

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.

Affiliations

Professional Affiliations: 
American Historical Association, Organization of American Historians, Urban History Association, Social Science History Association

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