James T. Sparrow

Associate Professor of United States History and the College
Master, Social Sciences Collegiate Division; Associate Dean, College; Deputy Dean, Social Sciences Division
PhD 2002 Brown University

Social Sciences Research Building, room 225B – Office
(773) 834-1271 – Office telephone
(773) 702-7550 – Fax

Mailing Address

The University of Chicago
Department of History
1126 East 59th Street, Mailbox 67
Chicago, IL 60637

Field Specialties

Modern United States political and social history; war and society; social science and the state; technology; history and new media


My research and teaching focus on the state and social citizenship in the modern United States. I am especially interested in national political culture and its formation within specific social, cultural, and institutional contexts. My first book, Warfare State, is a history of the social politics of the national state as its foundations shifted from welfare to warfare during World War II. Its central concern is to examine the ways in which different groups of citizens encountered the burgeoning warfare state and in the process accepted, rejected, or otherwise contested the legitimacy of expanding federal authority in everyday life. My second book project, “The New Leviathan,” examines changing notions and practices of sovereignty during the Unites States’ rise to globalism. Blending political and intellectual history with social and cultural methodology, it traces the shifting intersections of international and national, global and local levels of power, to explain the modalities of rule at home and abroad that resulted from a world politics rigidified by bipolar nuclear contention.

My teaching commitments and interests include courses on the "new" political history; social movements; war and society; the history of the American state; internationalizing domestic history; consumption; metropolitan America; the interwar period; the New Deal; World War II. In the future I plan to add courses on the rights revolution; social engineering; the social politics of the Cold War; the history of technology in American society; and the United States since WWII.

I have also done work in the emerging field of history and new media, developing a nascent methodology for using the web and other electronic media to generate "born digital" primary historical materials in a series of grant-funded projects which combine the qualitative and participatory approach of oral history and ethnomethodology with more conventionally archival aspirations to document and preserve primary materials.

Current Project

The New Leviathan: Sovereign America and the Foundations of Rule in the Atomic Age (book ms).


Warfare State: World War II Americans and the Age of Big Government. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011. Review by Walter Russell Mead in Foreign Affairs (March/April 2012).


"Behind the Atomic Curtain: School Desegregation and Territoriality in the Early Cold War." Tocqueville Review 33, no. 2 (December 2012): 115–139.

"Freedom to Want: The Federal Government and Politicized Consumption in World War II." In Mobilizing the Movement: Civil Rights and the Second World War, edited by Kevin Kruse and Stephen Tuck. New York: Oxford University Press, forthcoming 2011.

"A Nation in Motion: Norfolk, the Pentagon, and the Nationalization of the Metropolitan South, 1941–1953." In The Myth of Southern Exceptionalism, edited by Matthew Lassiter and Joseph Crespino. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010.

"'Buying Our Boys Back": The Mass Foundations of Fiscal Citizenship in World War II." Journal of Policy History 20, no. 2 (April 2008): 263–86.

Coauthored with Andrew Abbott. "Hot War, Cold War: The Structures of Sociological Action, 1940–1955." In Sociology in America: The American Sociological Association Centennial History, edited by Craig Calhoun. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007.

"Making Public History on the Web: The September 11 Digital Archive." In Public History: Essays from the Field, revised edition, edited by James B. Gardner and Peter S. LaPaglia. Malabar, FL: Krieger, 2004.