Jim Cullen’s Books

Now Available:

FROM MEMORY TO HISTORY: Television Versions of the Twentieth Century (Rutgers, 2021).

“This is a terrific book, fun and learned and provocative. Ranging across television from The Waltons to The Americans, Cullen provides an entertaining and thoughtful account of the ways that we remember and how this is influenced and directed by what we watch. The discussions of popular television series are excellent, and together they provide a compelling account of historical television, reminding us that nothing artistic happens by chance and that we should be careful of what we believe.”– Jerome de Groot ― author of Consuming History: Historians and Heritage in Contemporary Popular Culture

“Jim Cullen has been writing incisively about how Americans remember the past and make sense of the present through various forms of popular culture for a quarter-century. This time his focus is prime-time television with deep dives into seven celebrated series from the 1960s through the 2010s, which will inspire readers to return to these beloved programs with renewed insight and appreciation.”– Gary R. Edgerton ― Professor of Creative Media and Entertainment at Butler University and coeditor of the Journal of Popular Film and Television


THOSE WERE THE DAYS: The American History of All in the Family (Rutgers, 2020).

“Little did I know about the world Archie Bunker and All in the Family were born into until I read Jim Cullen’s informed and perceptive “Those Were the Days: Why All In The Family Matters.” –Norman Lear

Previously Published:

DEMOCRATIC EMPIRE: The United States Since 1945 (Wiley-Blackwell, 2016)

A brief survey of U.S. history since the end of World War II, focusing on popular beliefs, fears, and hopes that have shaped American culture and history over the last eight decades.


“An excellent introduction to the technologies, industries, cultural forms, and genres that constitute our media landscape.  Cullen shows that the history of our media is in many ways the history of our sociality and our intimacies.” — Matthew Frye Jacobson, Yale University

THE SECRET LIVES OF TEACHERS (University of Chicago, 2015).

Welcome to “East Hudson,” an elite private school in New York where the students are attentive, the colleagues are supportive, and the tuition would make the average person choke on its string of zeroes. You might think a teacher here would have little in common with most other teachers in America, but as this veteran educator—writing anonymously—shows in this refreshingly honest account, all teachers are bound by a common thread. 

SENSING THE PAST: Hollywood Stars and Historical Visions (Oxford, 2013).

Sensing the Past will change the way readers think about movie stars and American history. Through a series of penetrating profiles, Jim Cullen examines how actors have embodied the central themes of our past and weds them to the present. Every page glistens with insights about actors we admire and movies we think we know.” — Louis P. Masur, author of The Civil War: A Concise History

ESSAYING THE PAST: How to Read, Write and Think about History (2009; third ed., Wiley-Blackwell, 2017).

“There’s a level of sophistication in Essaying the Past that is disguised by its utterly clear and engaging style. Jim Cullen tells students just what they need to know to write about the past.” –Mari Jo Buhle, Brown University

IMPERFECT PRESIDENTS: Tales of Misadventure and Triumph (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007).

“Jim Cullen has dared to write an old-fashioned book about the virtues of American presidents. But instead of wooden tales about cherry trees and log cabins, he has given us complex portraits of flawed men who performed acts of moral courage at critical moments in the nation’s history. Imperfect Presidents invites us to admire these leaders–and even to find lessons in their stories–without indulging in hero-worship.” ― Steven Biel, Executive Director, Humanities Center, Harvard University, and author of American Gothic: A Life of America’s Most Famous Painting

Editor (with Lyde Cullen Sizer), THE CIVIL WAR ERA: A Narrative Anthology (Blackwell, 2005).

“The pulling together of all this material into one coherent volume represents a considerable editorial achievement, and one that highlights not just the most recent scholarly approaches to Civil War but also some of the reasons for the subject’s perennial fascination for students, academics and the public alike.” — Journal of American Studies

THE AMERICAN DREAM: A Short History of an Idea that Shaped a Nation  (Oxford, 2003. Chinese edition forthcoming).

“Its straightforward and engaging narrative style ought to appeal to general readers of American history, and its broader explorations of freedom, equality and shared ideals offers a nice dose of depth as well.” — Publishers Weekly

RESTLESS IN THE PROMISED LAND: Catholics and the American Dream (Sheed & Ward, 2001).

“In Restless in the Promised Land, author Jim Cullen has turned a much-needed academic microscope on the seminal concept of the American Dream. He also examines Catholicism–with its ‘immediacy, beauty, and misery’–in its complex relationship to that Dream. In a lively narrative, Cullen searches out key intersections of the story of Catholics in the United States with the wider American milieu.” — Clyde Crews, author of American & Catholic: A popular history of Catholicism in the U.S.

Editor, POPULAR CULTURE IN AMERICAN HISTORY (Blackwell, 2001; second ed. 2013).

“Cullen’s outstanding collection helps readers understand the significance of key cultural changes, ranging from the movies to the web. Groundbreaking essays as well as insight into how historians work make this a valuable volume.” — Lizabeth Cohen, author of A Consumers’ Republic: The Politics of Mass Consumption in Postwar America

BORN IN THE USA: Bruce Springsteen and the American Tradition (HarperCollins, 1997. Literary Guild alternate selection. Second ed. Wesleyan 2005; also published in Britain).

“Jim Cullen writes with authority and empathy about the blue-collar roots that shaped Bruce Springsteen and gave rise to his music of rebellion. This is a provocative look at one of America’s cultural icons. –Eleanor Clift, Newsweek

THE ART OF DEMOCRACY: A Concise History of Popular Culture in the United States (Monthly Review Press, 1996).

“A thoroughly engaging look at American culture … Cullen’s articulate prose is spiced with wicked wit and he loves a good story … Demonstrates a sophisticated understanding of complex cultural forces.” — Publishers Weekly

THE CIVIL WAR IN POPULAR CULTURE: A Reusable Past (Smithsonian Institution Press, 1995). History Book Club alternate.

To most Americans today, the Civil War is known through popular culture, not through the professional historical literature. In this book Jim Cullen examines popular renderings of the war — from books & films to songs & drama — showing how they have come to represent various truths about the war to certain groups, precisely because they resonate with contemporary points of division & struggle. Cullen takes specific examples from twentieth-century popular culture, such as books, films, rock n roll, & historical reenactors. For each, the recollection of the Civil War serves & is shaped by current concerns.