Thomas Bender is University Professor of the Humanites and Professor of History at New York University, where he has been since 1974. He was trained as an intellectual historian, and most of his work reflects that training, from his first book, Toward an Urban Vision: Ideas and Institutions in Nineteenth Century America (1975), which won the Frederick Jackson Turner Award of the Organization of American Historians, through Community and Social Change in America (1978), New York Intellect: A History of Intellectual Life in New York City, 1750 to the Beginnings of Our Own Time (1987), Intellect and Public Life: Essays on the Social History of Academic Intellectuals in the United States (1993), and The Unfinished City: New York and the Metropolitan Ideal (2002), as well as several essays and edited volumes on academic disciplines and the history of universities.
But he has also been interested in the structure of historical narratives, a theme in Community and Social Change and in such essays as “Wholes and Parts: The Need for Synthesis in American History,” Journal of American History (1986) and “Strategies of Narrative Synthesis in American History,” American Historical Review (2002). His concern for reframing American history in a global context derives in part from that interest, but it is also a recovery of an older way of writing American history quite common before 1940. This newer work has been published as Rethinking American History in a Global Age (2002) and A Nations Among Nations (2006). This work has led him to think about empire and the relation of cities to empire, a line of thought developed in a four year project on “Cities and Urban Knowledges” at NYU’s International Center for Advanced Studies at NYU, which he directed.He has held many fellowships, including a Guggenheim and Rockfeller Humanities fellowships, and he was a Getty Scholar, a fellow of the Center for Writers and Scholars at the New York Public Library, the Center for Advanced Studies in Behavioral Sciences, and the Davis Center for Historical Studies at Princeton University. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He has been the chair of the New York Council for the Humanities and writes for various general magazines and newspapers.