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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


Professor of history, UC Davis, 2005-present
Associate professor of history, UC Davis, 2003-2005
Assistant professor of history, UC Davis, 2001-2003
Lecturer, UC Davis, 1993-2001

Research Focus

Kathryn Olmsted’s research develops one of the central themes of 20th-century U.S. history: the influence of anticommunism on American politics and policy. Her first book, Challenging the Secret Government, examined conservatives’ use of anticommunist rhetoric to undermine efforts to reform intelligence agencies in the 1970s; her second book, Red Spy Queen, analyzed how the spy scare of the 1940s enabled anticommunists to move the nation’s political discourse to the right. Her third book, Real Enemies, explored how conspiracy theories about the U.S. government, especially anticommunist conspiracy theories, have been used to enlarge the national security state. Her newest book, Right Out of California: The 1930s and the Big Business Roots of Modern Conservatism (The New Press, 2015), explores 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.

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