Social historian Thomas Taylor, a faculty member at Seattle University since 1988, focuses his scholarship on world travelers and how they shape understanding across cultures. Taylor’s major ongoing project is Journeys in World History, his forthcoming, comprehensive textbook of more than 1,000 pages that presents a history of the world through the experiences of travelers. It’s a work that has occupied him for more than a decade.
Travelers, Taylor says, are historical actors. As he tells their stories, he not only teaches the discipline of history and brings his scholarship to life in the classroom but also draws students to his research projects.
In his class “East Meets West: Travelers’ Accounts,” Taylor explored how travelers shaped the modern world. He had a long-standing fascination with Englishman Thomas Stevens who, over three years in the mid-1880s, became the first person to circle the globe on a bicycle. Taylor continued his scholarly aspirations and with the support of a College of Arts and Sciences Dean’s Fellowship, he invited one of his students to become a research assistant on a project that examined the bike as a symbol of Western modernization in Stevens’ time.
They divided the project by what interested each of them most and began to pore over old magazine and newspaper stories about Thomas Stevens. As the work progressed, the student began to write like a historian and her sections of the story came to life. Their research grew into a jointly authored article, which they submitted to a scholarly journal for review.
Taylor continues to spur his students in writing about world history as seen through the eyes of travelers.