Guy Ortolano

Associate Professor of History

Northwestern University, PhD 2005

Office Address: 

King Juan Carlos Center, Room 420



Field of Study: 

Modern Europe

Areas of Research/Interest: 

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

Research Description:

Guy Ortolano is a historian of modern Britain. He teaches surveys of British and European history since the eighteenth century, and seminars on urban history and the history of science. He offers a course on British migrations since the Roman Empire for NYU’s College Core Curriculum, as well as the History Department’s introduction to historical studies for new majors. Ortolano is currently Director of Undergraduate Studies in History, Chair of the University Seminar in British History at Columbia University, and co-organizer of the Post-1945 Collaborative. He is also the North American editor of the journal Twentieth Century British History.

Ortolano writes about subjects that recently enjoyed wide acclaim, only to have fallen dramatically out of favor: a novelist no longer in print, a literary critic out of fashion, an architecture widely loathed, a theorist long since discredited. By recovering the context in which these reputations once thrived, often through archival sources that contradict today’s common sense, his work challenges some of the most pervasive interpretations of the postwar era, from economic “decline” to the 1970s “crisis.” The Royal Historical Society named his first book, The Two Cultures Controversy, runner-up for the Whitfield Prize; the ACLS has awarded his current project, on Britain’s New Towns, a Charles A. Ryskamp Fellowship.

Ortolano welcomes inquiries from prospective graduate students in all areas of modern British history. Graduate students in British history at NYU are part of a new collaboration with colleagues at Columbia and Cambridge , including semi-annual meetings in Cambridge and New York at which associated PhD students discuss works-in-progress. Ortolano also works with graduate students on post-1945 history, urban history, the history of science, and intellectual history (especially the history of academic disciplines).


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 (forthcoming).

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 04/15/2015