Photo of James T Sparrow
James T. Sparrow Office: History Department, University of Chicago
1126 E. 59 Street (Box 67), Chicago, IL 60637
Office hours: Wednesday, 10:00am-12:00pm Phone: 773-834-1271; 773-702-7550 (fax) Email Interests:

Modern US political history; political economy; war and society; human rights; America in the world; history of social science

Associate Professor in History and the College

Brown University, Ph'D 02 



I am an historian of modern US politics broadly construed, with special interests in the mutual constitution of social categories, democratic publics, and state formation.

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, thereby shaping the horizons of political possibility for decades.

I am currently completing a sequel to Warfare State tentatively titled Sovereign Discipline: The American Extraterritorial State in the Atomic Age. This book examines the mass politics of extraterritorial sovereignty, and the crisis of legitimacy it engendered, from V-E Day to the Cuban Missile Crisis. My third book project is also nearing completion. It is an intellectual history titled New Leviathan: Rethinking Sovereignty and Political Agency after Total War.

Much of this recent work is informed by a long-term collaborative research project on the problem of the democratic state, which has benefitted from two Neubauer Collegium project grants for which I am codirector ("The State as History and Theory" and "The Problem of the Democratic State in US History"), and resulted in the edited collection Boundaries of the State in US History as well as two special issues of the Tocqueville Review.

My teaching interests include both graduate and undergraduate courses on the history of US politics, diplomacy, and war; social engineering; social movements; citizenship; America in the world; the American state; and a set of undergraduate research seminars on the history of the New Deal, the early Cold War, and digital history. I am also committed to teaching in Chicago's distinctive Core Curriculum. It is one of the oldest general education curricula in the United States, engaging foundational works and questions in the humanistic social sciences for decades since the 1930s.

Recent Research / Recent Publications


Warfare State: World War II Americans and the Age of Big Government. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.

  • Honorable mention, 2012 Frederick Jackson Turner Award, Organization of American Historians.
  • Review by Walter Russell Mead in Foreign Affairs (March/April 2012).
Special Issues and Edited Volumes
Articles and Essays
  • Awarded 2023 Quantrell Award for excellence in undergraduate teaching

  • Named an OAH Distinguished Lecturer

  • Co-organizes Major Project on "State as History and Theory" at the Neubauer Collegium