Jim Cullen was born in Queens, New York in 1962, the son of a New York City firefighter and a homemaker; he has a younger sister. He grew up on Long Island, principally Northport, New York, where he attended public schools. Jim holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Tufts University, and a master’s and doctoral degree in American Studies from Brown. In addition to those schools, he has taught at Harvard, Fordham and Sarah Lawrence College.
Jim’s first book, The Civil War in Popular Culture, was based on his dissertation, and published by the Smithsonian Institution Press in 1995. Since then, he has published seventeen more (and edited two anthologies), which include Born in the USA: Bruce Springsteen and the American Tradition (HarperCollins, 1997) The American Dream: A Short History of an Idea that Shaped a Nation (Oxford University Press, 2003), Sensing the Past: Hollywood Stars and Historical Visions (Oxford, 2013), and the Kindle Single President Hanks (2011). Jim’s textbook Democratic Empire: The United States Since 1945, was published by Wiley in 2016. In 2020-21, he published three projects with Rutgers University Press: Those Were the Days: Why All in the Family Still Matters, followed by From Memory to History: Television Versions of the 20th Century; and then Martin Scorsese and the American Dream. His most recent book, Best Class You Never Had, is a history of the United States rendered in the form of a classroom discussion. Jim’s articles and reviews have appeared in The Washington Post, USA Today, the Cleveland Plain-Dealer, Rolling Stone, and the American Historical Review, among other publications.
In 2020, Jim joined the faculty of the newly formed upper school division of Greenwich Country Day School in Greenwich, Connecticut. From 2001 to 2020, he taught history at the Ethical Culture Fieldston School in New York, specifically at its Fieldston campus in the Riverdale section of the Bronx. His specialty there was interdisciplinary work, where he collaborated with colleagues in other departments to teach courses such as “Scientific America: A History of Technology in the United States” and “LP: 12 Albums that Changed the World.” Jim also helped launch an interdisciplinary senior seminar as well as a joint English/Ethics/History Humanities program. He served as department chair as well as a term on the school’s board of trustees. He now working to build an integrated curricular experience at GCDS.
Jim has been married to historian Lyde Cullen Sizer since 1989; they have four children. He lives in Hastings-on-Hudson, New York. Jim is (alas) a Jets and Mets fan.