Margaret Pugh O’Mara

Postdoctoral Fellow in the Study of the North American West

History Department


Building 200, Room 245

Stanford, CA 94305-2024

(650) 732-9342




Margaret O’Mara is a political and urban historian of the 20th century United States.  Her research interests include the role of research universities in regional economic development, the history of Silicon Valley and other high-tech regions, and the effect of Cold War science policy on the arrangement of urban space.  Dr. O’Mara’s new book, titled Cities of Knowledge: Cold War Politics and the Suburbanization of Science (Princeton University Press, forthcoming), explores why high-tech industry moved to the suburbs and what the federal government had to do with it.  As well as teaching in History Department, she manages the development of programming and curricula for Stanford’s Program for the Study of the North American West.  She received her Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania and has been at Stanford since 2002.  Prior to graduate school, Dr. O’Mara served in the Clinton Administration as a political aide and policy analyst, working on welfare reform at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and on urban economic development policy in the Office of the Vice President.




HIST 261S: Building Silicon Valley – Undergraduate Research Seminar


This course explores the 20th century history of what might be the world’s ultimate post-industrial city: Silicon Valley, California.  The readings, discussion, and research assignments address a number of issues:  Why is Silicon Valley where it is?  Why does it look the way it does?  What political, economic, and cultural changes during the past 60 years have shaped its development?  Who were the individuals and institutions influencing its growth?  Is Silicon Valley a suburb, or is it a new kind of city?  This course examines the region’s development in the context of the rise of the Sunbelt and mass suburbs, the Cold War growth of the military, deindustrialization and globalization, and changing ideas about the design of cities.  It focuses on Stanford’s role as a land developer and political force in Silicon Valley, and explores how this region influenced the development and design of high-tech regions nationally and globally.


HIST 271A: The Suburban West – Undergraduate Colloquium


The seminar explores the postwar suburban West as a place that both generated and reflected crucial political, social, and economic transformations in late-20th-century America.  Readings, assignments, and discussion cover:

* the role of politics and policy in regulating natural resources, subsidizing the growth of the suburban landscape, and shaping its economic development;

* the many different kinds of suburbs that have emerged in the West – from middle-class subdivisions to blue-collar immigrant communities to high-tech office parks;

* the political and social transformations of the past sixty years that have redefined the West as a region that extends beyond national political borders; and

* taking a closer look at our piece of the suburban West – Stanford, Palo Alto, and the rest of Silicon Valley – and understanding how its history fits into the larger story of the region.

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