Lunden was born in Naustdal. He originally studied agronomy at the Norwegian College of Agriculture, graduating in 1957. He then worked six years as a civil servant in the Norwegian Ministry of Church Affairs and Education, before taking up history studies. There he graduated as cand.philol. in 1965. He was appointed by the King-in-Council as Professor of History at the University of Oslo in 1976.
He is a member of the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters.
He was an able javelin thrower while studying. He represented the sports team of the Norwegian College of Agriculture, NLHI, and threw 50.27 metres in 1954.
- Norge under Sverrætten, volume 3 of Cappelens Norgeshistorie, 1976
- Biletet av fortida: innhogg i historisk fagteori, 1991
- Norsk grålysing, 1992
- Den vakre snikkarkona: frå Geoffrey Chaucers Canterbury-forteljingar og andre mellomaldervers (ed.), 1992
- Nasjon eller union? Refleksjonar og røynsler, 1993
- Dialog med fortida. Historie om .., 1995
- Norges Landbrukshistorie, volume 2, 2002
- "Kåre Lunden – Norsk biografisk leksikon". Nbl.snl.no. 1933-08-22. Retrieved 2013-07-23.
- "Gruppe 1: Historie" (in Norwegian). Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters. Retrieved 26 October 2009.
- Johansen, Tore (1 August 2009). "Norge / Norway 1954 – Menn / Men" (PDF). Norwegian Athletics. Retrieved 2 January 2012.