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John R. Gillis is Professor of History at Rutgers University. He holds a B.A. from Amherst College and a Ph.D. from Stanford University.

His work has largely been in social history, covering a variety of periods, subjects, and geographical areas. He began as a German historian, moved to British history, and then began to be interested in age relations, marriage, memory, and the cultures of European and American family life.

At the moment, he is moving offshore, writing about Atlantic islands and the prominent place they have had in the western imaginary since the Ancients. The project, titled Islands of the Mind, is a blending of cultural geography and history. It treats islands and continents as interactive parts of a larger whole; and is concerned both with the role played by islands in the economic, political, and social dimensions of Atlantic world and the way the myths, images, and narratives of islands function for mainland cultures. He continues to work in the area of family history, particularly on the subject memory and of family time and family space. Another of his current interests are the cultural construction of childhood and how this affects the lives of children as well as adults.

He has published six books and edited four others. Prof. Gillis is a current member of the editorial boards of the Journal of Family History and Young: Nordic Journal of Youth Research, and a past editorial board member of the Journal of Modern History.


Book published

  • Islands of the Mind: How the Human Imagination Created the Atlantic World (2004)
  • The Prussian Bureacuracy in Crisis, 1840-60 (Stanford, 1971)
  • Youth and History: Tradition and Change in European Age Relations, 1750-Present (Academic, 1975)
  • Development of European Society, 1770-1870 (Houghton Mifflin, 1977)
  • For Better, For Worse: British Marriages, 1600 to the present (Oxford, 1985)
  • A World of Their Own Making: Myth, Ritual, and the Quest for Family Values (Basic, 1996)

Books edited

  • The Militarization of the Western World (Rutgers 1989)
  • The European Experience of Declining Fertility, with D. Levine and L. Tilly (Blackwell, 1992)
  • Commemorations: The Politics of National Identity (Princeton, 1996)
  • Becoming Historians, with James M. Banner, Jr. (University of Chicago, 2009) ISBN 9780226036588


  • Fellow, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, 1988
  • Fellow, Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford, 1993-4
  • Fellow, Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study in the Social Sciences, 2001

Professional Affiliations

  • American Association of University Professors
  • American Historical Association
  • World History Association
  • Council on Contemporary Families (former national co-chair)




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