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Richard White is a Pulitzer-Prize nominated historian specializing in the history of the American west, environmental history and Native American history. He is the Margaret Byrne Professor of American History at Stanford University, a faculty co-director of the Bill Lane Center for the American West and the former President of the Organization of American Historians. He received a MacArthur fellowship was awarded a Mellon Distinguished Professor grant in 2007.

White is the principal investigator for the "Shaping the West", a project in the Spatial History Lab at Stanford University, which explores the construction of space by transcontinental railroads during the late nineteenth-century. By connecting data analysis and complex visualization graphical algorithms with traditional historical sources, Professor White's team is examining historic perceptions of space in the newly settled American West.

He is a member of the Spatial History Project, a collaborative community of scholars who utilize visual analysis and digital technology to identify patterns and anomalies in their research.

White previously taught at the University of Washington, University of Utah, and Michigan State University. His areas of expertise include corruption in the Gilded Age, dependency and social change among Native Americans and the history of the environment, including railroads, rivers and lakes.

He studied at the University of California, Santa Cruz and the University of Washington. He has been at Stanford since 1998 where he took a Sophomore class to Washington D.C. to explore imagery and mythmaking in the American West.

His book, The Middle Ground: Indians Empires and Republics in the Great Lakes Region, was a Pulitzer Prize nominated finalist. It also won the Francis Parkman Prize for the best book on American History, the Albert B. Corey Prize for U.S.-Canadian History, the James A. Rawley Prize for the history of race relations, and the Albert J. Beveridge Award for best English-language book on American History.

His latest book, Railroaded: The Transcontinentals and the Making of Modern America won the Los Angeles Times Book Award.

Key works

Railroaded: The Transcontinentals and the Making of Modern America. W.W. Norton & Co, 2011

"Corporations, Corruption, and the Modern Lobby: A Gilded Age Story of the West and the South in Washington, D.C.", Southern Spaces, 16 April 2009

Remembering Ahanagran: A History of Stories. New York: Hill and Wang, 1998

The Organic Machine: The Remaking of the Columbia River. New York: Hill and Wang, 1996

"It's Your Misfortune and None of my Own": A History of the American West. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1991

The Middle Ground: Indians, Empires, and Republics in the Great Lakes Region, 1650-1815. Cambridge University Press, 1991

The Roots of Dependency: Subsistence, Environment, and Social Change Among the Choctaws, Pawnees, and Navajos. University of Nebraska Press, 1983

Land Use, Environment, and Social Change: The Shaping of Island County, Washington. University of Washington Press, 1979

Prof. White in the News

June 26, 2015
Stanford history professor Richard White discusses how at the turn of the last century, industrial...
May 18, 2015
Richard White, professor of history, talks about how and why the country's railroad problems are so...
November 13, 2014
Richard White, professor of history, talks about how John Muir's late-19th-century, Anglo-Saxon...
October 31, 2014
Richard White, professor of history, writes an Op-ed on the role of money in elections.
February 24, 2014
The story quotes Richard White, professor of history, on Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta residents. It...
February 12, 2012
San Francisco Chronicle, February 12, 2012
November 27, 2011
The Cutting Edge, November 27, 2011
September 19, 2011
The Nation, September 19, 2011
June 27, 2011
Sacramento Bee, June 27, 2011
June 6, 2011
Slate, June 6, 2011
June 5, 2011
Boston Globe, June 5, 2011
May 9, 2011
Palo Alto Patch, May 9, 2011
April 23, 2011
The New York Times Op-Ed, April 23, 2011
October 14, 2009
The Nation, October 14, 2009
Chicago Tribune, November 18, 2011
Stanford Magazine, May/June, 2008
Stanford Magazine, December, 2007

Audio and Video

Youtube video of an interview at the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, 16 September, 2009

August 28, 2016

Youtube video of a seminar for the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, 17 April, 2009

August 28, 2016

Youtube video from a visit to Emory University for the J. Harvey Young Lecture Theatre, 3 April, 2009

August 28, 2016

The History News Network's Recording of Professor White at the Organization of American Historians, March 31, 2009

August 28, 2016

NPR's Morning Edition Interview, July 11, 2011

NPR's The Diane Rehm Show, June 13, 2011


  • Native American History
  • Environmental History
  • The American West
  • Race Relations
  • The American Northeast
  • Canadian history
  • Digital History

Contact information


B.A., UC Santa Cruz
M.A., University of Washington
Ph.D., University of Washington