Historian Michael G. Kammen, 77, who explored the conflicting strains of American culture with irony and an appreciation of the quirky, died Nov. 29 in Ithaca, N.Y., said a spokesman for Cornell University, where he taught for more than four decades.

The author or editor of more than three dozen books, Mr. Kammen was awarded the 1973 Pulitzer Prize in history for People of Paradox: An Inquiry Concerning the Origins of American Civilization. His 1986 book, A Machine That Would Go of Itself: The Constitution in American Culture, earned him the Francis Parkman Prize and the Henry Adams Prize.

In People of Paradox, Mr. Kammen examined the contradictory underpinnings of American culture: idealism and materialism, the Puritan and the hedonistic, the peace-loving and war-mongering.

"For him, the doubleness of American civilization is not the result of a mingling of Old World inheritance and New World environment," wrote a reviewer in the New York Times. "Rather, the American scene itself blends the two." - L.A. Times