Thomas Bender

Professor of History; University Professor of the Humanities

University of California Davis, PhD 1971

Office Address: 

King Juan Carlos Center, Room 601



Field of Study: 

United States

Research Interests: 

U.S. intellectual and cultural history, 1750-present; intellectuals and cities; transnational and global approaches to U.S. history; historiography.

Curriculum Vitae

External Affiliations:

To see the lecture topics I offer for the Organization of American Historians Distinguished Speakers Program, click on this link:


Thomas Bender is an intellectual and cultural historian who work focuses on the United States, which has in the past decade or more has increasingly focused on transnational connections and the global framing of the history of North America, beginning with earliest European ventures out onto the Atlantic to the present. He is interested in the ways ideas and institutions shape each other and drive historical change. His early work focused on the cultural meaning of cities and the meaning community in the United States from the colonial period to the end of the nineteenth century. (Toward an Urban Vision and Community and Social Change in America. His work on intellectuals, particularly those based in New York, has extended from the middle of the eighteenth century to the middle of the twentieth. (New York Intellect and Intellect and Public Life) His work on urban culture more generally includes Budapest and New York: Studies in Metropolitan Transformation, 1870-1930; The Unfinished City: New York and the Metropolitan Idea; Urban Imaginaries: Locating the Modern City; and Urban Assemblages: How Actor-Network Theory Changes Urban Studies. He has also written extensively on the academic disciplines and the history of universities, ranging from The University and the City: From Medieval Origins to the Present; American Academic Culture in Transformation; American Higher Education Transformed, 1945-2000 and The Education of Historians for the Twenty-First Century. His interest in historiography has been pursued in a number of articles (“Wholes and Parts: The Need for Synthesis in American History” and “Writing American History, 1789-1945,” and “Strategies of Narrative Synthesis in American History,” as well as editing the volume, The Anti-Slavery Debate: Capitalism and Abolitionism as a Problem in Historical Interpretation. He has also been a leader in the movement to reframe United States history in transnational and global frameworks, most notably with Rethinking American History in a Global Age and A Nation Among Nations: America’s Place in World History. He has served on the editorial boards of several academic journals, including the Journal of American History and The American Historical Review. His scholarship and interviews have been published in a half dozen languages. He is currently writing a history of the United States for a general audience. He believes that historians can and should at times contribute directly to public life as historians, and over the years he has written for various magazines and newspapers, including the New York Times, The Nation, Los Angeles Times, Chronicle of Higher Education, Newsday, Skyline, and Democracy. He has regularly directed a summer Gilder-Lehrman Seminar for Teachers at NYU.


Frederick Jackson Turner Prize of the Organization of American Historians for his book, Toward an Urban Vision (1975), Guggenheim Fellow, Rockefeller Humanities Fellow, Getty Scholar, Mel and Lois Tukman Fellow at the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library, and Bogliasco Foundation Fellow. He was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1994.

Selected Works:


NationAmongNationsBOOK.jpgA Nation Among Nations: America's Place in World History (New York:FSG/Hill & Wang, 2006; Paper edition, 2006)





EducationOfHistoriansBOOK.jpgCo-author (with Colin Palmer and Philip Katz), The Education of Historians in the 21st  Century (Urbana: University of  Illinois Press, 2004)





BenderRethinking.jpgEditor, Rethinking American History in a Global Age (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002; Paper edition, 2002)

UnfinishedCittyBOOK.jpgThe Unfinished City: New York and the Metropolitan Idea (New York: The New Press, 2002; Paper edition, NYU Press, 2007)




IntellectAndPublicLifeBOOK.jpgIntellect and Public Life: Essays on the Social History of Academic Intellectuals in the United States (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993; Paper edition, 1997)



BenderAntislavery.jpgEditor, The Anti-Slavery Debate: Capitalism and Abolitionism as a Problem in Historical Interpretation (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992; Paper edition, 1992)



NYIntellectBOOK.jpgNew York Intellect: A History of Intellectual Life in New York City, from 1750 to the Beginnings of Our Own Time (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1987; Paper edition: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1988)



BenderUniversityCity.jpgEditor, The University and the City: From Medieval Origins to the Present (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988; Paper edition, 1989)

CommunityAndSocialChangeBOOK.jpgCommunity and Social Change in America (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1978; Paper edition: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1982, 1986, 1991)






BenderTowardUrban.jpgToward an Urban Vision (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1978; Paper edition: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1982)



“Wholes and Parts:  The Need for Synthesis in American History,” Journal of American History, 73 (1986), 120-36.

“Intellectual and Cultural History,” in Eric Foner, ed. The New American History (2nd ed., 1997), 181-202.

“Politics, Intellect, and the American University, 1945-1995,” Daedalus (Winter, 1997), 1-38.

“Cities, Intellectuals, and Citizenship,” Citizenship Studies, 3 1999), 203-30.

“Strategies of Narrative Synthesis in American History,” American Historical Review, 107 (2002), 129-53.

“Writing American History, 1789-1945,” in Stuart Macintyre, et. al., eds. The Oxford History of Historical Writing, 1800-1945 (Vol. IV; 2011), 369-89.

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Updated on 05/23/2016