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Caroline Winterer

William Robertson Coe Professor of History and American Studies, Professor of History and, by courtesy, of Classics and of Education
Department Chair
Ph.D., University of Michigan, History (1996)
A.M., University of Michigan, History (1991)
B.A., Pomona College, History (1988)

Caroline Winterer is William Robertson Coe Professor of History and American Studies, and Professor by courtesy of Classics. She specializes in American history before 1900, especially the history of ideas and the history of science.

She is the author of five books. Most recently, How the New World Became Old: The Deep Time Revolution in America (Princeton, 2024) shows how the idea of deep time transformed how Americans see their country and themselves. Deep time refers to the idea that Earth is billions of years old and not 6,000 years old, as a literal reading of the Bible might suggest. Over a single century, from the American Revolution to the invention of the automobile, the majority of Americans came to see their ostensibly New World as the oldest world of all. It was a place of primordial natural beauty and wonder, from Yosemite to Niagara Falls. It was also a place of awe, a land once stalked by terrifying beasts, from T. Rex to saber-toothed cats. Over 100 illustrations bring the lost world of ancient America to life, showing how Americans crafted a modern nation built on their ancient land.

She is currently editing a book with her Stanford colleague Jessica Riskin entitled The Apes & Us: A Century of Thinking about Humans among the Primates. It brings together leading anthropologists, primatologists, and historians to reflect upon the many ways we’ve explored the human/ape boundary since the Age of Darwin. The book emerges from an exhibit we staged at Stanford in 2024.

Other recent books include Time in Maps: From the Age of Discovery to Our Digital Era (Chicago, 2020), edited with her Stanford colleague Karen Wigen. Assembling a group of distinguished historians, cartographers, and art historians, the book explores how maps around the world for the last 500 years have ingeniously handled time in the spatial medium of maps. American Enlightenments: Pursuing Happiness in the Age of Reason (Yale, 2016), reveals how early Americans grappled with the promises of the Enlightenment – how they used new questions about the plants, animals, rocks, politics, religions and peoples of the New World to imagine a new relationship between the present and the past, and to spur far-flung conversations about a better future for all of humanity. Earlier books and articles have explored America's long tradition of looking at the ancient classical world for political, artistic, and cultural inspiration. She received an American Ingenuity Award from the Smithsonian Institution for mapping the social network of Benjamin Franklin

She is currently accepting graduate students. Click here for more information on the PhD program in the Department of History. 

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Subfield
Cultural History
Intellectual History
Networks
Religion
Revolutions
Science and Technology
The Atlantic World
Highlights

Exhibits | The American Enlightenment: Treasures from the Stanford University Libraries