Patricia Cleary

Patricia Cleary, Ph. D.

B.A., Rice University
Ph.D., Northwestern University
Contact Information:
562 985-4419
Office: FO2-212
California State University, Long Beach
1250 Bellflower Blvd., MS 1601
Long Beach, CA 90840-1601

Patricia Cleary is Professor of United States History at California State University, Long Beach. She received a B.A. in History and English Literature at Rice University in Houston, Texas, and a Ph.D. in United States History from Northwestern University, in Chicago, Illinois. She joined the CSULB History Department immediately out of graduate school. 

Cleary’s early research was on the intersections of gender and commerce along the eastern seaboard during the era of British colonization, featured in her biography of Elizabeth Murray, Elizabeth Murray: A Woman’s Pursuit of Independence in Eighteenth-century America (University of Massachusetts Press, 2000), and on the NEH-funded website based on Murray’s life, The Elizabeth Murray Project: A Resource Site in Early American History (, 2002-2013. 

A foray into environmental history in the Mississippi River Valley in the late 1700s led her to the study of St. Louis, a settlement with a diverse and shifting population of Indigenous peoples, Europeans, Africans, and Euro-Americans in its first few decades. A St. Louis native, she examined the complex social, economic, and political dynamics of this predominantly French-speaking outpost of the Spanish empire in The World, the Flesh, and the Devil: A History of Colonial St. Louis (University of Missouri Press, 2011). 

While doing the research for that book, Cleary began to study the life, death, and afterlife of the Indigenous mounds and settlement that pre-dated the founding of the modern city, focusing not only recovering the history of the mounds and the Indigenous peoples of the area but documenting the processes involved in their absence in historical treatments. At various points, Euro-Americans embraced the myth of the “Vanishing Indian” and razed Indigenous monuments. They also celebrated — in order to claim the mantle of antiquity and justify removal policies directed against contemporary Indigenous peoples — the civilization of ancient mound-building peoples and nicknamed St. Louis “Mound City.” Yet dispossession was never complete, and Indigenous peoples continue to resist such efforts and work to reclaim the mounds. These themes are subject of Cleary’s forthcoming book, Mound City, which will be published by University of Missouri Press in 2024.

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Honors and Awards

  • National Endowment in the Humanities Fellowship Award, 2020-2021
  • Lawrence O. Christensen Article Award for best article on Missouri History, 2019 
  • President’s Award for Outstanding Faculty Achievement, California State University, Long Beach, 2019
  • James Neal Primm Distinguished Lecturer in Missouri History, 2019
  • Center for Missouri Studies Fellowship, 2017
  • Mellon Research Fellowship, Huntington Library, San Marino, California, Summer 2011
  • Butcher Scholar Fellowship, Institute for the Study of the American West at the Autry National Center, 2005-2006
  • National Endowment for the Humanities, “We, the People” award, Grants for Teaching and Learning Resources and Curriculum Development, 2004-2007