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Kathryn Olmsted


  • Ph.D., History, UC Davis, 1993
  • M.A., History, UC Davis, 1988
  • B.A., History with honors and distinction, Stanford University, 1985


  • Interim chair, Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies, 2018-present
  • Chair, history department, 2013-2016
  • Professor of history, 2005-present
  • Associate professor of history, 2003-2005
  • Assistant professor of history, 2001-2003
  • Lecturer in history, 1993-2001

Research Focus

Kathryn Olmsted studies the cultural and political history of the United States since World War I. Her first book, Challenging the Secret Government, examined the congressional and journalistic investigations of the CIA and FBI after Watergate, while her second book, Red Spy Queen, analyzed the origins and significance of the spy scare of the 1940s. Her third book, Real Enemies, explored the dynamic relationship between real government conspiracies and anti-government conspiracy theories. Her most recent book, Right Out of California: The 1930s and the Big Business Roots of Modern Conservatism (The New Press, 2015), analyzes the conservative reaction to Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal. Professor Olmsted also co-edited a book on the history of the Central Intelligence Agency and published several journal articles and book chapters that highlight her overlapping areas of expertise: conspiracy theories, government secrecy, espionage, counterintelligence, and anticommunism. She is currently writing a book on newspaper publishers in the US and the UK in the years before World War II.

Selected Publications


History 174B: America in Prosperity, Depression, and War, 1914-1945; History 174C: America since 1945; History 17B: United States since 1865; History 174D: Politics and Paranoia: Conspiracy theories in 20th century America; History 188: America in the 1960s; History 189: California History; History 176B: Social and Cultural History of the Modern United States


  • Fellowship, Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences, and Humanities, University of Cambridge, 2014
  • Fellowship, Clare Hall, University of Cambridge, 2014
  • Herbert Young Society Fellowship, UCD College of Letters and Science, 2012-15
  • Excellence in Teaching Award, Phi Beta Kappa Northern California, 2009
  • Academic Senate Distinguished Teaching Award, 2006
  • Davis Humanities Institute Fellowship, 2006