University at Buffalo Department of History


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Picture of Tamara Plakins ThorntonPicture of Thornton's Book


Tamara Plakins Thornton, Professor
office: 568 Park Hall
phone: (716) 645-8419




Education: A.B., Harvard, 1978; Ph.D., Yale, 1987

Courses Regularly Taught:

HIS 161: U.S. to 1877
HIS 216: Crime and Punishment in America
HIS 361/62: American Cultural and Intellectual History I and II

HIS 429: American Landscape History
HIS 537: Readings in American Cultural History
HIS 551: Intellectual Life in America
HIS 576: American History Core I

Field(s): American

Hub(s): Knowledge; Culture and Society

Research Interests:  American cultural and intellectual history; early republic and antebellum America; capitalist culture; American elites; history of reading and writing; the structure of intellectual life.

Current Research: I am currently working on a biography of Nathaniel Bowditch (1773-1838)--mathematician and astronomer, business executive, and the author of the New American Practical Navigator--whose life illuminates the interlocking development of science and capitalism in nineteenth-century America.

Selected Publications:
"Capitalist Aesthetics: Americans Look at the London and Liverpool Docks," in Capitalism Takes Command: The Social Transformation of Nineteenth-Century America, eds. Michael Zakim and Gary J. Kornblith (University of Chicago Press, 2012): 169-98.

"'A Great Machine' or a 'Beast of Prey': A Boston Corporation and Its Rural Debtors in an Age of Capitalist Transformation," Journal of the Early Republic, 27.4 (Winter 2007): 567-97.

"Deviance, Dominance and the Construction of Handedness in Turn-of-the-Century Anglo-America," in Moral Problems in American Life, Karen Halttunen and Lewis Perry, eds., (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1999).

Handwriting in America: A Cultural History ( Yale University Press, 1996)

Cultivating Gentlemen: The Meaning of Country Life among the Boston Elite, 1785-1860 (Yale University Press, 1989)



Summer 2008: Co-director (invited) of SHEAR-Mellon Summer Seminar in Early American History. The seminar, funded by the Mellon Foundation and given under the auspices of SHEAR and the University of Pennsylvania’s McNeil Center for the Study of Early America, awards fellowships to ten undergraduates from around the country who come to Philadelphia for three weeks of directed study and research in Philadelphia archives.

2008: Ralph D. Gray Article Prize, Society for Historians of the Early American Republic (SHEAR).

2001: Milton Plesur Excellence in Teaching Award

1993-94: National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship

1985-86: Whiting Foundation Fellowship


Last updated: Thursday, January 19, 2012

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