Institute for Historical Studies
Tel: +1 512-471-3261
William Nelson is a Visiting Research Fellow at the Institute for Historical Studies at the University of Texas at Austin and a Research Associate of the Centre for History and Economics. He has been a Visiting Assistant Professor for two years in the History Department at the University of Miami. He was a Mellon postdoctoral research fellow in 2006-2008 and associate director of studies at the Centre for History and Economics in 2007-2008. He received a B.A. in History with Honours from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, an interdisciplinary A.M. in the Social Sciences from the University of Chicago, and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Modern European History from the University of California, Los Angeles.
Dr. Nelson's research focuses primarily on the intellectual history of France in the eighteenth century. His doctoral dissertation, “The Weapon of Time: Constructing the Future in France, 1750 to Year I,” dealt with how an active orientation toward the future emerged in the French Enlightenment. He is working on revising and expanding the dissertation into a book manuscript. In the course of these revisions, and as a participant in the Centre's research programme Exchanges of Economic and Political Ideas since 1760, Dr. Nelson's research has expanded to include several issues in the French colonies in the Caribbean and in the Indian Ocean in the eighteenth century. Dr. Nelson is also a coordinator of the Centre's research programme on the history of French Empires.
Dr. Nelson has a particular interest in how developments in seemingly disparate fields—such as the life sciences, economic theory, and epistemology—were conceptually related. He is also interested in methodologies for intellectual history and the history of ideas that can account for the role of tacit knowledge and practical know-how in the development and transformation of ideas.
While working on his dissertation he was the recipient of several awards including the Marjorie M. Farrar Memorial Award from the Society for French Historical Studies for an outstanding dissertation in progress, a Chancellor's Dissertation Year Fellowship from the University of California, Los Angeles, and a Mellon Foundation Dissertation Research Fellowship.