The entrance to the Department of History’s office in Sidney Smith Hall

William Nelson

Assistant Professor

Office Location:  Humanities Wing, 1265 Military Trail, Room 522 (UTSC)


William Nelson specializes in the history of the Enlightenment and the French Revolution. His research focuses on the ways that ideas about time, race, and biopolitics emerged in 18th-century France and the Atlantic world. He co-edited the book The French Revolution in Global Perspective (Cornell 2013) with Suzanne Desan and Lynn Hunt, and is the author of a book manuscript about the birth of biopolitics in the 18th century. His article “Making Men: Enlightenment Ideas of Racial Engineering” appeared in the American Historical Review as part of an AHR Forum on “New Perspectives on the Enlightenment.” Essays on the effects of colonial history on the French Revolution and on a distinctively Atlantic Enlightenment have appeared in edited volumes. Other research and teaching interests include the development of early modern globalization, social theory, the phenomenological tradition, modernist prose, and experimental forms of writing history.

Before coming to the University of Toronto, Professor Nelson was a Research Fellow at The Institute for Historical Studies at The University of Texas at Austin, a Visiting Assistant Professor at the University of Miami, and at Cambridge University he was a Mellon Postdoctoral Research Fellow and Associate Director of Studies at the Centre for History and Economics (where he is currently a Research Associate).

Edited Publications:


  • MA and PhD, University of California–Los Angeles
  • MA, University of Chicago
  • BA, University of Wisconsin–Madison
Photo of William Nelson