School of Cultures, Languages and Area Studies

Current students 




Please use the Department links below to find a specific member of staff in Cultures, Languages and Area Studies.  




Image of Peter Ling

Peter Ling

Professor of American Studies, Faculty of Arts



My recent work has been essentially historical sociology, attempting to test the proposition that social capital was critical to the success of the civil rights movement. One aspect of this is to see whether donations are occasional and spontaneous or significantly connected to pre-existing networks of association (see my article in The Sixties). Another aspect is about the durable or volatile nature of networks inside social movement organizations (see my essay on the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee). A third consideration is the relationship between social movement organizations (see my essay on Dr King and the NAACP. I have just completed a biography of John F. Kennedy for Routledge's Historical Biographies series to be published in time for the 50th anniversary of the assassination and like my earlier biography of Martin Luther King in the same series, this book gives some attention to the commemorative life of its subject--the cultural afterlife. This reflects a continuing interest in memory and cultural representation that also inspired my short piece on Malcolm X and the media. The JFK biography inevitably required me to read some of the veritable library on the assassination. I'm happy to work with MRes and doctoral students who wish to work on the civil rights movement using the SCLC papers and CORE (Southern office and SEDFRE) papers which are housed at Nottingham. These are resources not found elsewhere in the UK. My Kennedy biography is reviewed here

Teaching Summary

American History

The Presidency.

The Civil Rights Movement

Research Summary

American history. Political education in the civil rights movement. North American environmental history. Social capital and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Social capital refers to the… read more

Recent Publications

Current Research

American history. Political education in the civil rights movement. North American environmental history. Social capital and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Social capital refers to the networks, norms and sanctions that enable a group to perform more effectively as a group than as individuals. While segregation and discrimination clearly limited the levels of capital held by the African American population, it allowed for the formation of certain forms of social capital that proved basic to the civil rights movement. My research looks at the networks that channeled donations to SCLC and those that enabled grassroots organizing via the Citizenship Schools, using South Carolina and Mississippi as case studies for the latter.. I am writing articles detailing the processes by which SCLC elicited funds in response to media spot-lit events and the role of celebrities in fund-raising.

My biography of John F Kennedy was published by Routledge in October 2013. I have since published an article on the impact of his death on passage of the civil rights act

A new edition of Martin Luther King was published in March 2015. I have a new article pending on the character of his nonviolence in Selma in 1965 and two more: one on his depiction in documentary film and another on lessons from the civil rights movement for present day activists.

Past Research

Introduction of the automobile. Social capital and the civil rights movement.

Future Research

I am building on my two biographies to write the first book-length study of Kennedy and King in national and international memory. I am intrigued by the way in which Kennedy who was a cautious politician who preferred to cling to the safe centre- ground where possible is now depicted as a martyr for the cause of peace and a quintessential liberal and progressive. in contrast, Martin Luther King who was challenging US involvement in Vietnam and demanding full employment and a guaranteed income based on human needs in 1968 is presented as a moderate and all-American dreamer. This is the position in the US, however, since the view globally is different and even more intriguing. So the new book will establish the evolving American memory of these two icons of the television age and will then reflect upon their invocation in other cultures.

  • 2017. Ray Watching: The Highly Protected, British Prison Experience of Martin Luther King’s Killer Comparative American Studies: An International Journal. 15(1-2), 72-90
  • LING PETER J, 2016. "Does the Movement Need a King Journal of American Studies. 50(2), 465-70
  • 2015. Martin Luther King second edition. Routledge (Taylor and Francis).
  • 2015. "Kennedy the Unready": [review essay on Robert Dallek's Camelot's Court: Inside the Kennedy White House"] Reviews in American History. 43(2), 355-360
  • LING, P.J., 2013. John F. Kennedy Routledge.
  • LING PETER, 2012. The Media Made Malcolm History Today. 49-55
  • LING, P. and DUFFY, J., 2012. Backing Dr King: the financial transformation of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1963 The Sixties: A Journal of History Politics and Culture. 5(2), 147-165
  • LING, P., 2012. SNCCs: not one committee but many. In: MORGAN, I. and DAVIES, P., eds., From sit-ins to SNCC: the student Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s University of Florida Press. 81-96
  • LING, P.J., 2009. Uneasy alliance: the NAACP and Martin Luther King. In: VERNEY, K and SARTAIN, L., eds., Long is the way and hard: one hundred years of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) University of Arkansas Press.
  • LING, P.J., 2007. Tracing the Movement's Path: Review essay of Ray Arsenault's Freedom Riders Reviews in American History. 35(2), 289-296
  • LING, P.J., 2006. Social Capital, Resource Mobilization and Origins of the Civil Rights Movement Journal of Historical Sociology. VOL 19(NUMBER 2), 202-214
  • LING, P.J., 2005. Be a Man, My Son: Steve Estes, I am a Man! Race, Manhood, and the Civil Rights Movement Reviews in American History. VOL 33(NUMB 4), 601-606
  • LING, P.J., 2004. Political education in post-Second World War Germany and the American South Comparative American Studies. VOL 2(NUMB 2), 223-240
  • LING, P.J., 2004. Thomas Jefferson and the Environment History Today. VOL 54(PART 1), 48-53
  • LING, P.J., 2003. The Democratic Party : a photographic history San Diego: Thunder Bay Press.
  • LING, P.J., 2002. Martin Luther King, Jr. London: Routledge.
  • LING, P.J., 2002. A White Woman's Word: The Scotsboro Case. In: GORDON-REED, A., ed., Race on Trial: law and justice in American history Oxford: Oxford University Press. 118-138
  • LING, P.J., 2002. Tales of White Birmingham: The Letter and the Bomb Reviews in American History. 30(4), 655-662
  • LING, P.J., 2002. Martin Luther King Jr. In: GRIMM, R.T., ed., Notable American Philanthropists: Biographies of Giving and Volunteering Westport: Greenwood Press.
  • LING, P.J., 2000. Racism for Lunch: The Sit-Ins of 1960 History Today,(February 2000, 50,), 28-31
  • LING, P.J., ADAMS, K.D., VAUDAGNA, M. and LENZ, G.H., eds., 2000. Transatlantic Encounters: Public Uses and Misuses of History in Europe and the United States VU Press.
  • LING, P.J. and MONTEITH, S.J., eds., 1999. Gender in the Civil Rights Movement New York: Garland Publishing.
  • LING, P.J., 1999. Spirituals, Freedom Songs, and Lieux de Memoire: African-American Music and the Routes of Memory Prospects. 24,
  • LING, P.J., 1998. Review of Jennifer Hochschild, Facing up to the American Dream: Race, Class and the Soul of the Nation History. 83(272), 694-695
  • LING, P.J., 1998. Review of Erle Johnston, `Politics: Mississippi Style, 1911-1979' Gulf Coast Historical Review. 13(2), 110-113
  • LING, P.J., 1998. Martin Luther King's Half-forgotten Dream: History Today. VOL 48(MNTH APR), 17-22
  • LING, P.J., 1998. Review of David W. Southern, John LaFarge and the Limits of Interracialism, 1911-1963 History. 83(272), 686-687
  • LING, P., 1997. From family to nation: organizing the Mississippi movement Ethnic and Racial Studies. VOL 20(NUMBER 3), 628-634
  • LING, P.J., 1997. Review of L.A. DeCaro, On the Side of My People: A Religious Life of Malcolm X History. 82(268), 660-661
  • LING, P.J., 1997. The Incomparable Elkins Rethinking History. VOL 1(NUMBER 1), 67-74
  • LING, P., 1997. Promised Lands: Modern Plantation Politics in Chicago and Hilton Head Borderlines: Studies in American Culture. VOL 4(NUMBER 1), 50-58
  • LING, P. J., 1997. Developing Freedom Songs: Guy Carawan and the African-American Traditions of the South Carolina Sea Islands HISTORY WORKSHOP JOURNAL. ISSUE 44, 199-214
  • LING, P., 1995. Local Leadership in the Early Civil Rights Movement: The South Carolina Citizenship Education Program of the Highlander Folk School Journal of American Studies. VOL 29(NUMBER 3), 399-422

School of Cultures, Languages and Area Studies

University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD

Contact us