John Thornton

Professor of African American Studies and History

  • Title Professor of African American Studies and History
  • Office AAS 205
  • Phone 617-358-1423
  • Education B.A. History, University of Michigan; M.A., Ph.D. History, University of California, Los Angeles

John Thornton received his Ph.D. in African history in 1979, and after stints at the University of Zambia, Allegheny College, the University of Virginia and then Millersville University after 1986, he joined the Boston University faculty in fall 2003. His specializations include Africa and Atlantic History, as well as world history. He is the author of over 70 scholarly articles, and his books include The Kingdom of Kongo: Civil War and Transition, 1641-1718 (1983); Africa and Africans in the Formation of the Atlantic world, 1400-1680 (1992); The Kongolese Saint Anthony: Dona Beatriz Kimpa Vita and the Antonian Movement, 1684-1706 (1998); Warfare in Atlantic Africa, 1500-1800 (1999);  and in 2007 with Linda Heywood published Central Africans, Atlantic Creoles, and the Foundation of the Americas (Cambridge University Press, 2007), which won the Melville J. Herskovits Prize that year. His book, A Cultural History of the Atlantic World, 1350-1820 (Cambridge University Press, 2012) won the World History Association’s Prize for the Best New Book in World History in 2012. His book, A History of West Central Africa to 1850 (Cambridge University Press, 2020) was just recently published. Dr. Thornton was recently elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences as part of the Class of 2020.

Current CV.

Additional information:

Professor John Thornton’s African Texts

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