Lara Putnam

Professor of History, University of Pittsburgh

About Lara

Putnam is a historian of race, gender, and migration in the modern Americas.  Her interest in grassroots social movements has led her into local civic organizing in Pittsburgh’s 11th Ward.  She is UCIS Research Professor and Chair of the Department of History at the University of Pittsburgh and president of the Conference on Latin American History of the American Historical Association.


Local Political Parties as Networks: A Guide to Self-Assessment

  • Daniel Schlozman
  • Tabatha Abu El-Haj
  • Joseph Anthony
  • Jacob M. Grumbach
  • Alexander W. Hertel-Fernandez
  • Adam Seth Levine
  • Caroline Tervo

How to Revitalize America's Local Political Parties

  • Kenneth T. Andrews
  • Hahrie Han
  • Alexander W. Hertel-Fernandez
  • Daniel Schlozman
  • Theda Skocpol
  • Vanessa S. Williamson
  • Sarah E. James
  • Caroline Tervo
  • Michael Zoorob

Why Democrats Need to Open Doors - And How They Can

  • Robert D. Putnam

No Jargon Podcast

In the News

Opinion: "Why We Need To Say No to Vigilantism After Election Day Too," Lara Putnam, The Pennsylvania Capital Star, November 7, 2022.
Opinion: "Door-Knocking in a Life-or-Death Campaign," Lara Putnam (with Dana R. Fisher), The American Prospect, October 1, 2020.
Quoted by Perry Bacon Jr. in "Why Aren’t More Democrats Endorsing Warren? ," FiveThirtyEight, October 21, 2019.
Quoted by Meghan Daum in "Getting Serious about Elizabeth Warren’s Electability," Medium, October 1, 2019.
Quoted by Gary Younge in "'Nothing to Lose': How Trump has Energized America's Women ," The Guardian, September 5, 2019.
Opinion: "The Progressive Base is More Pragmatic than you Might Think," Lara Putnam, Vox, March 25, 2019.
Guest on Democracy Works Podcast, August 27, 2018.
Opinion: "Women Are Rebuilding the Democratic Party From the Ground Up," Lara Putnam (with Theda Skocpol), The New Republic, August 21, 2018.
Quoted by Michelle Goldberg in "Women Might Save America Yet," The New York Times, July 2, 2018.
Research discussed by Chris Edelson, in "Here's How Trump's Opponents Can Ride a 'Blue Wave' to Victory in the November Elections ," Market Watch, June 6, 2018.
Research discussed by Michael Tomasky, in "I’m Ready for the Female Takeover of the Democratic Party," The Daily Beast, May 18, 2018.
Opinion: "There is No Civil War," Lara Putnam, Democracy: A Journal of Ideas, May 17, 2018.
Research discussed by David Leonhardt, in "Dems in Disarray!," The New York Times, May 10, 2018.
Quoted by Campbell Robertson in "These Women Mostly Ignored Politics. Now, Activism is Their Job.," The New York Times, May 10, 2018.
Quoted by Julian Zelizer in "Democrats Focus on Midterms," CNN, May 6, 2018.
Quoted by Michelle Goldberg in "Hope in Arizona," The New York Times, April 23, 2018.
Quoted by Matt Grossmann and David A. Hopkins in "Why There is No ‘Liberal Tea Party’," The New York Times, April 17, 2018.
Quoted by Francis Wilkinson in "Democrats' 'Civil War' is More Civil than War," Bloomberg View, April 17, 2018.
Quoted by Michelle Goldberg in "Turning Revulsion into Votes," The New York Times, April 9, 2018.
Quoted by Eric Levitz in "Trump Has Turned Millions of Americans into Activists," New York Magazine, April 6, 2018.
Opinion: "Digital Fixes Won’t Solve the Democrats’ Problems," Lara Putnam, The American Prospect, April 5, 2018.
Quoted by Dan Sisken in "Change is Coming: Grassroots Organizing, Democratic Politics and the 2018 Elections," Nation of Change, April 4, 2018.
Opinion: "Who Really Won PA 18?," Lara Putnam, Democracy: A Journal of Ideas, March 15, 2018.
Quoted by Jonathan Malesic in "Please, Millennials, Don’t Destroy Us Just Yet," The New Republic, March 7, 2018.
Quoted by David Leonhardt in "The Left is Energized. Now It Needs to Vote.," New York Times, February 25, 2018.
Quoted by Heather Digby Parton in "If Democracy Makes a Comeback, White Suburban Women Will Lead It," Salon TV, February 23, 2018.
Opinion: "Middle America Reboots Democracy," Lara Putnam (with Theda Skocpol), Democracy Journal, February 20, 2018.
Opinion: "The Real Scandal the DNC Should Avoid," Lara Putnam (with Robert D. Putnam), Washington Post, November 12, 2017.
Opinion: "Family and the Cost of Borders," Lara Putnam, University of North Carolina Press Blog, January 30, 2013.
Opinion: "The Growing Class Gap," Lara Putnam (with Robert D. Putnam), Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, April 20, 2008.


"Middle America Reboots Democracy" (with Theda Skocpol). Democracy: A Journal of Ideas (2018).

Reports that the political practices of college-educated, middle-aged women are the most changed under Trump. Discusses the revitalization of the local Democratic party and that newly mobilized and interconnected grassroots groups are rebuilding the foundations of U.S. democracy. 

"The Transnational and the Text-Searchable: Digitized Sources and the Shadows They Cast" American Historical Review 121, no. 2 (2016): 377-402.

Argues that historians’ practice has been silently transformed by the advent of disintermediated digital search, in ways that open new opportunities but risk undercutting crucial disciplinary strengths. 

"Radical Moves: Caribbean Migrants and the Politics of Race in the Jazz Age" (University of North Carolina Press, 2013).

Argues that key social and cultural movements—from Marcus Garvey’s UNIA to the precursors of reggae dance—arose from the clash of Afro-Caribbean labor migration with race-based anti-immigrant laws in the interwar Americas.

"The Company They Kept: Migrants and the Politics of Gender in Caribbean Costa Rica, 1870-1960" (University of North Carolina Press, 2002).

Explores the ways gender roles, kinship patterns, and intimate practice shaped labor migration to the Central American coastal regions where the United Fruit Company’s banana empire was born.