Hugh Wilford

Hugh Wilford, Ph.D.

Dr. WilfordTitle:



Ph.D. Exeter University

B.A. Bristol University

Contact Information:

(562) 985-4422

Office: FO2-216

California State University, Long Beach
1250 Bellflower Blvd., MS 1601
Long Beach, CA 90840-1601


Hugh Wilford joined the CSULB History Department in 2006, having taught previously at the University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom. Trained in the U.K. as a U.S. intellectual historian, he has published widely on such topics as the New York Intellectuals, the history of the American left, Americanization and anti-Americanism in Europe, and the “Cultural Cold War.” His most recent works concern the role of the CIA in shaping Cold War American and western culture, and the role of culture in shaping the Cold War operations of the CIA. The Mighty Wurlitzer: How the CIA Played America (Harvard University Press, 2008) examines the relationship between the CIA and various apparently private U.S. citizen groups the Agency secretly funded in the Cold War “battle for hearts and minds.” America’s Great Game: The CIA’s Secret Arabists and the Shaping of the Modern Middle East (Basic Books, 2013) tells the surprising story of a group of pro-Arab operatives in the early CIA, locating them in longer traditions of American missionary and British imperial engagement with the Arab world.

Dr. Wilford published The CIA: An Imperial History in June 2024 with Basic Books. Building on the idea of “covert empire” conceptualized by Priya Satia in her 2008 Spies in Arabia, the book explores how generations of CIA officers tried but ultimately failed to transcend the gravitational pull of western imperial history.

Selected Publications

Some Reviews of The Mighty Wurlitzer:
Nathan Glazer, New York Times Book Review
Michael Kazin, Washington Post Book World
Peter Preston, Observer

Some reviews of America’s Great Game:
Michael Doran, Wall Street Journal
Tony Perry, Los Angeles Times
David M. Shribman, Boston Globe
New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice

Honors and Awards

Gilder Lehrman Scholarly Fellowship, 2020.
National Endowment for the Humanities, Award for Faculty, 2016.
California State University, Long Beach, Distinguished Faculty Scholarly and Creative Achievement Award, 2016.
Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, 2015.
Honorary Senior Research Associate, Institute of the Americas, University College London, 2015.
Gold Medal Award, Washington Institute for Near East Policy Book Prize, 2014.
Research Grant, Princeton University Library, 2009.
Visiting Scholar, Cold War Studies Center, University of California, Santa Barbara, 2004-2005.
Fellow in American Civilization, Gilder Lehrman Institute, New York, 2001.
Fleur Cowles Research Fellow, Harry Ransom Research Center for the Humanities, University of Texas, Austin, 1997.
Fulbright Scholar, 1996-1997.