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The University of Missouri Press was founded in 1958 by William Peden, writer and dedicated member of Missouri's English Department faculty. The press has now grown to publish 70 titles per year in the areas of American and World history, including intellectual history and biography; African American studies; women's studies; American, British, and Latin American literary criticism; journalism; political science, particularly philosophy and ethics; regional studies of the American Heartland; and creative nonfiction.

Series published by the press include The Collected Works of Langston Hughes; The Collected Works of Eric Voegelin; the Eric Voegelin Institute Series in Political Philosophy; the Give 'Em Hell Harry Series, edited by Robert H. Ferrell, which makes available in reasonably priced paperback editions the best books about Harry Truman; the Mark Twain and His Circle Series, edited by Tom Quirk; the Missouri Biography Series, edited by William E. Foley; the Missouri Heritage Readers Series, edited by Rebecca B. Schroeder, consisting of books about Missouri history for new adult readers; the New Currents in the History of Southern Economy and Society Series, edited by Susana Delfino and Michele Gillespie; the Paul Anthony Brick Lectures, which include works by such notable scholars as John Hope Franklin and Sissela Bok; the Shades of Blue and Gray Series, edited by Herman Hattaway, Jon Wakelyn, and Clayton E. Jewett; the Southern Women Series, edited by Theda Perdue, Betty Brandon, and Virginia Bernhard and the Sports and American Culture Series, edited by Bruce Clayton.

Other premier scholars and writers published by the University of Missouri Press include Rowland Berthoff, Cleanth Brooks, Bruce Clayton, Noble Cunningham, Henry Steele Commager, Eugene Davidson, Drew Gilpin Faust, Eugene D. Genovese, George Garrett, Mary Lago, Naomi Lebowitz, John Lukacs, Andrew Lytle, George F. Kennan, Louis Martz, Heather Ross Miller, Howard Nemerov, Amos Perlmutter, Elena Poniatowska, Tom Quirk, John Shelton Reed, Merton M. Sealts Jr., Glenn Tinder, Robert C. Tucker, Eric Voegelin, and Gordon Weaver. But the press is also home to numerous previously unpublished young scholars who will be contributing to the scholarly debates and discoveries of the future.