Guy Ortolano

Associate Professor of History

Northwestern University, PhD 2005

Office Address: 

King Juan Carlos Center, Room 420



Field of Study: 

Modern Europe

Research Interests: 

Britain since 1688, urban history, history of science, cultural and intellectual history, historiography, post-1945 history.

Research Description:

I am a cultural and intellectual historian of modern Britain, with interests in urban history and the history of science. I co-edit the Oxford journal Twentieth Century British History and, with colleagues in US, East Asian, and African history, I convene NYU’s Post-1945 Research Collaborative. I teach European history since the French Revolution, and work with graduate students on all aspects of British history, but I am especially drawn to the period just before our own: the post-WWII era that seems so familiar, but in fact played by its own rules. My work aims to reveal those rules.

My first book, The Two Cultures Controversy (Cambridge, 2009), explained how a cliché about intellectual life – that it is divided between “Two Cultures,” the humanities and sciences – ignited a ferocious debate during the 1960s, as this banal lament became invested with rival readings of England’s past, the West’s present, and Africa’s future. My current project, Thatcher’s Progress, follows the Prime Minister on a driving tour through Britain’s last and largest new town, Milton Keynes, on September 25, 1979. Thatcher’s journey reveals a dynamic welfare state during the decade of its purported crisis, requiring an understanding of neo-liberalism that is more culturally capacious, if more economically circumscribed, than historians have recognized. As I complete this book, I am also developing a new project on the ways that British history has figured in conceptions of world history since Adam Smith. A first installment, on British history and modernization theory, has been published in Modern Intellectual History.

I welcome inquiries from prospective PhD students. In an effort to sustain field training in an era of shrinking graduate programs, and to foster links between historians across the Atlantic, NYU has joined with Columbia and Cambridge to launch a new collaboration in modern British history. The New York-Cambridge Training Collaboration (NYCTC) sponsors annual workshops in Cambridge and New York, at which affiliated students discuss dissertations-in-progress within the context of broader discussions of the field. I have also worked with PhD students in European history, Atlantic history, US history, and African history, and from the Institute for French Studies (IFS), Hebrew and Judaic Studies (HJS), and Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies (MEIS).


ACLS, Charles A. Ryskamp Fellowship (2012-2013).
St John's College, Oxford University, Invited Visiting Scholar (2012).
American Philosophical Society, Franklin Grant (2011).
American Historical Association, Bernadotte Schmitt Research Grant (2009).
Cornell University, Society for the Humanities (2007-2008).
University of Texas, Harry Ransom Center, British Studies Fellowship (2006).
Northwestern University, Harold Perkin Dissertation Prize (2005).
Northwestern University, Society of Fellows (2003-2005).
Josephine de Karman Dissertation Fellowship (2002-2003).

Selected Works:


TheTwoCulturesBOOK.jpgThe Two Cultures Controversy: Science, Literature, and Cultural Politics in Postwar Britain (Cambridge, 2009; paperback, 2011)
     *Whitfield Prize, Royal Historical Society, proxime accessit.
       [Cambridge Press]  []
     *Reviewed in the English Historical Review
     *Reviewed in the American Historical Review
     *Reviewed in H-Net Reviews



"The Typicalities of the English? Walt Rostow, The Stages of Economic Growth, and Modern British History," Modern Intellectual History 12 (November 2015): 657-684.

Planning the Urban Future in 1960s Britain,” The Historical Journal 54:2 (2011): 477-507, featured in the August 2011 issue of the BBC History Magazine, and named Honorable Mention for the Walter D. Love Prize from the North American Conference on British Studies.

‘Decline’ as a Weapon in Cultural Politics,Penultimate Adventures with Britannia, ed. Wm. Roger Louis (London: I. B. Tauris, 2008), pp. 201-214.

The Literature and the Science of ‘Two Cultures’ Historiography,Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 39 (2008): 143-150.

F. R. Leavis, Science, and the Abiding Crisis of Modern Civilization,History of Science 43 (2005): 161-185.

Human Science or a Human Face?  Social History and the ‘Two Cultures’ Controversy,Journal of British Studies 43 (2004): 482-505, runner-up for the Ivan Slade Prize from the British Society for the History of Science, awarded to the "best critical contribution to the history or historiography of science/technology/medicine" over a two-year period.

Two Cultures, One University,Albion 34 (2002): 606-624.

“The Role of Dorcas in ‘Roger Malvin’s Burial’,” Nathaniel Hawthorne Review 25 (1999): 8-16.

            Reprinted in Short Story Criticism, vol. 190, ed. Lawrence J. Trudean (New York, 2014).

Book reviews for The English Historical Review, Isis, Journal of Modern History, Journal of British Studies, Twentieth Century British History, The European Legacy, H-net.

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Updated on 10/08/2015