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Your humble narrator among dreaming spires at Oxford University

Timothy Nunan

Timothy Nunan is a scholar of international and global history. His work focuses on the history of Russia and Eurasia–Central Asia, Iran, and Afghanistan–in an international context. He has received language and thematic training in both European, Russian, and Eurasian history; material and intellectual encounters across this space form one of his main areas of interest and expertise.   

Timothy received his intellectual training to this point at Princeton (A.B., 2008), the Georg-August-Universität Göttingen and the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, where he was a Fulbright Scholar from 2008-2009, and Corpus Christi College of the University of Oxford (M.Phil., 2011), where he was a Rhodes Scholar. After receiving a D.Phil. in History at Oxford, he began as a Harvard Academy Scholar at the Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies.

While at Harvard in 2013-2014, he re-wrote his dissertation into an academic monograph, entitled Humanitarian Invasion: Global Development in Cold War Afghanistan. The book examines the history of international development and humanitarianism in Afghanistan from roughly the beginning of the Cold War through to the rise of the Taliban. Based on archival research in several languages and dozens of interviews, Humanitarian Invasion follows the American hydrologists, German foresters, Soviet gas engineers, French doctors, and Swedish NGO activists who contested the transformation of the Afghan state from the mid-1950s to the early 1990s. The book seeks, in other words, to write the global history of development and humanitarianism through the prisms of the Soviet Union & Central Asia. Humanitarian Invasion is forthcoming as a monograph in the Global and International History Series of Cambridge University Press, edited by Erez Manela, John McNeill, and Aviel Roshwald.

During the 2014-2015 academic year, Timothy is a visiting scholar at the Zentralasien-Seminar of the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. There, with the support of a fellowship from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, he is conducting research for a second book project on interactions between intellectuals and state-builders in 20th century Eurasia (the Soviet Union, Iran, Afghanistan, and Turkey). In addition to his research, Timothy is also pursuing advanced language training in Persian, Uzbek, and Turkish. In 2015-2016, he intends to return to Cambridge for a second year at the Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies.

In addition to working on these projects at the intersection of regional studies and global history, Timothy also has a strong interest in the history of international thought. While supported by the Fulbright Scholarship in 2008-2009, he completed translations of several of Carl Schmitt’s most important inter-war works on war and international order. A collection of these works–complete with a critical introduction to Schmitt’s inter-war writings and an extensive scholarly apparatus–was published by Polity Press in 2011 as Writings on War.

Finally, beyond his primary academic activities, Timothy is the Executive Director of the Toynbee Prize Foundation, where he runs the Global History Forum, interviewing other historians on global and international history. In his spare time, Timothy enjoys cooking, travel to foreign lands, and typesetting. In past lives, he was also involved in the Princeton Debate Panel. He is originally from Southern California.


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