History Department


Faculty: Timothy Alborn

alborncv publications music limericks fanzine
I've been at Lehman since 1999, when I joined the History Department. I became chair of that department in July 2005, then served as Dean of Arts and Humanities from July 2009 through July 2012; now I'm back teaching in History, and loving it. I also teach at the CUNY Graduate Center, both in the History Department and the Masters of Arts in Liberal Studies (MALS) program. Before I came to Lehman, I taught for eight years in the History and Social Studies Departments at Harvard (with a brief sojourn at the University of Puget Sound in the Fall of 1998); my BA and Ph.D. are also from Harvard, in the History of Science Department.

I've published widely on British history, with a focus on the intersection of big business and culture in the nineteenth century. My first book, Conceiving Companies: Joint-Stock Politics in Victorian England (Routledge, 1998) compared banks and railways by focusing on their status as quasi-political institutions in the nineteenth century: I consider topics like shareholder participation in corporate governance, government regulation, and companies as providers of public goods. My second book, Regulated Lives: Life Insurance and British Society, 1800-1914 (University of Toronto Press, 2009), describes the rise of the life insurance industry as a complicated instance of modernity. I argue that several distinct, and often competing, meanings of modern life emerged in tandem with the business of life insurance, including melodrama, medicine, statistics, and commodification; and the process of folding these different meanings into a single business strategy was usually much more complicated than most theorists of modernity have assumed. And I recently co-edited a collection of primary sources on life insurance in Britain and the United States, published by Pickering and Chatto in 2013 (click here for more information). Besides these books, I've published articles on such topics as the Indian census, national health insurance, bank failures, gold coins, an Irish gold mine, and tuberculosis (click here for pdf files). My current research is on the cultural and financial history of gold in Great Britain between 1780 and 1850, in the decades leading up to the gold rushes in California and Australia. I'm especially interested in the conflicting meanings of gold during this time: as a symbol of exoticism and idolatry on one hand, and of virtue and stability on the other.

My teaching at Lehman and the Graduate Center has mainly focused on Modern European History. I've taught various courses on modern British history, as well as courses on 20th-century Europe, European imperialism, science and society, popular music in Britain and North America, and American business history. Besides being department chair and dean, my administrative experience at Lehman includes the directorship of the MA Program in Liberal Studies (2015-present), chairmanship of the Senate Graduate Studies Committee (2007-2009), and membership on committees relating to the bell schedule, student evaluation of teaching, the General Education program, campus life, and Reassessing Access and Excellence at Lehman. My first year as chair I also participated in the inaugural year of the Bridging the Colleges program, which brought together faculty from Lehman, Hostos, and Bronx Community Colleges.

Although my scholarly and administrative work has kept me busy, in less stressful days I did manage to have a life outside of academia. Between 1989 and 1998 I ran a small record label, Harriet Records, which promoted bands of the slightly quieter than punk rock variety from the Boston area and around the world; and since a few years before that until 1998, a fanzine called Incite!, which was mainly about what the kids used to call indie pop. From 2004 through 2007 I was an active contributor to the Omnificent English Dictionary in Limerick Form (OEDILF), for which I wrote over a thousand limericks describing and/or illustrating the use of words from the letter A through C (click here for my greatest hits). Now, I read a lot about gold, listen to a lot of music, and watch a lot of TV in Riverdale (on the nights that I teach) and in Port Jefferson, where I live with my wife Alix Cooper (an historian at Stony Brook) and my cat Hermione.

Tim Alborn

Last modified: Feb 9, 2017

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