Timothy Nunan is a historian with a strong interest in 20th century international history, in particular that of Germany and the former Soviet Union with an emphasis on Eurasia. He wrote his dissertation on the history of international development and social science interventions in Cold War Afghanistan, titled “Developing Powers: Modernization, Economic Development, and Governance in Cold War Afghanistan.” Tim is also interested in modernism in the arts, especially documentary photography and architecture, and occasionally writes both scholarly and popular pieces on those themes, too.
He 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.
There, he re-wrote his dissertation into an academic monograph, provisionally titled Humanitarian Invasion: Development, Humanitarianism and the Soviet Union in Cold War Afghanistan. The book examines the history of international development through the lens of Afghanistan, a country whose 20th century history offers a window into the changing registers of modernization. Based on archival research in multiple 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 across three decades of revolution and civil war. The project seeks to give development and humanitarianism a history through the lenses of the Soviet Union & Central Asia.
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 the comparative history of state-building in 20th century Eurasia (the Soviet Union, Afghanistan, Iran, and Turkey) and pursuing advanced language training. In 2015-2016, he will return to Cambridge for a second year at the Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies.
Beyond his main 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 grew up in Southern California, with interludes in Mexico and Argentina prior to leaving for the East Coast.