Tracy Campbell

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  • E. Vernon Smith and Eloise C. Smith Professor of American History
  • History
1769 Patterson Office Tower
Research Interests:

Ph.D., Duke University, 1988

M.A., Duke University, 1985

B.A., University of Kentucky, 1984



Tracy Campbell specializes in twentieth century United States political and social history. He has written five books, including The Politics of Despair: Power and Resistance in the Tobacco Wars (Kentucky, 1993); Short of the Glory: The Fall and Redemption of Edward F. Prichard, Jr. (Kentucky, 1998), which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize and was featured on NPR’s “Morning Edition”; Deliver the Vote: A History of Election Fraud, an American Political Tradition, 1742-2004 (Basic Books, 2005), and The Gateway Arch: A Biography (Yale, 2013), which was featured on NPR's "Weekend Edition" with Scott Simon, XM Radio's "The Bob Edwards Show," and was selected by the History Book Club. The Gateway Arch was also chosen as one of the "Best Books of 2013" by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and won the 2014 Missouri History Book Award. 

His most recent book, The Year of Peril: America in 1942, was published by Yale University Press in 2020, and is available as an audio book by Blackstone Publishing. In his review published in the Wall Street Journal, Paul Kennedy wrote that The Year of Peril "is a compelling narrative showing how a large, complex nation grappled with a giant, transcendent event." George Will, in the Washington Post, wrote "To place today's myriad social traumas and dislocations in perspective, read The Year of Peril." "The way history ought to be written," concluded Lewis Lapham, who found it to be "as timely as tomorrow's newspaper." "A war-torn world menaced by fascism, a fragile democracy crippled by racism, as ordinary citizens confront the crisis," Timothy B. Tyson writes, "Campbell's riveting history reveals our current predicament to be the same poisons that almost killed America in 1942."

The Year of Peril won the 2021 Barbara and David Zalaznick American History Book Prize from the New-York Historical Society. It was selected by Yale Climate Connections and EcoWatch as one of “Twelve Books Surrounding Elections That Add Perspective to the Climate Crisis" in October 2020. It also won the 2020 "Book of the Year" award from the World News Group in the "Accessible History" category. 

Prof. Campbell teaches a variety of courses in recent U.S. social and political history, as well as a UK Core course on "The Making of Modern Kentucky."  In 2010, he received the "Great Teacher" award from the UK Alumni Association, and in 2015-16 served as Interim Department Chair.  Prof. Campbell has organized symposia and lectures that connect history with current public policy debates. Some of those who have participated in these events are former Vice President Walter Mondale, former presidential candidate and U.S. Senator George McGovern, former U.S. Senator Walter Huddleston, former RNC Chair Mike Duncan, U.S. Senate Historian Donald Ritchie, and former OAH President William Chafe.  In 2018, he was named the E. Vernon Smith and Eloise C. Smith Professor of American History.  In 2019, he was awarded a grant from the Stanton Foundation to develop a new course, "The History of Misinformation." 



Interview with Scott Simon on NPR's "Weekend Edition":

Selected Publications: 
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