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William G. Thomas, III

William G. Thomas, III

Chair, Department of History
John and Catherine Angle Professor in the Humanities and Professor of History

Contact Information:

612 Oldfather Hall

Department of History
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Lincoln, NE 68588, USA
Phone: (402) 472-2414
E-mail: email address

Joined the Department:

August 2005

William G. Thomas, III teaches U.S. history and specializes in Civil War, the U.S. South, Slavery, and in Digital History. He is currently the Chair of the Department of History at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and has served as the John and Catherine Angle Professor in the Humanities at Nebraska since 2005. He earned his B.A. in History at Trinity College in Connecticut and his M.A. and Ph.D. in History at the University of Virginia.

Thomas served as the founding Director of the Virginia Center for Digital History at the University of Virginia and taught in the Corcoran Department of History at U.Va. for eight years. He is a Co-Editor of The Valley of the Shadow project at the Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities at U.Va. He is a Lincoln Prize Laureate in 2001 from the Civil War Institute at Gettysburg College for the Valley of the Shadow project with Edward L. Ayers and Anne S. Rubin, and with them was awarded the James Harvey Robinson Prize from the American Historical Association in recognition of the project as an outstanding contribution to the teaching of history. Thomas was a Mead Honored Faculty at the University of Virginia in 2004-05.

At the University of Nebraska, he has been the recipient of several fellowships and grants, including a Digital Innovation Fellowship in 2008 from the American Council of Learned Societies, and a Digging into Data Competition grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Thomas also served as the Visiting Professor of North American Studies at the Eccles Centre for American Studies at the British Library in London, England in 2008.

His recent book "The Iron Way: Railroads, The Civil War, and the Making of Modern America" (Yale University Press, 2011) was a finalist for the 2012 Lincoln Prize. His digital research project on "Railroads and the Making of Modern America," includes a web-delivered set of sources on railroads, technologies, culture, and social change. With Douglas Seefledt, Thomas leads The Digital History project at UNL--also online at With Patrick D. Jones, he is working on an experiential learning initiative called The History Harvest.

Graduate students in Digital History at University of Nebraska engage in a variety of new courses on the theories, methodologies, and practices at work in the field. We support graduate students ambitions for digital dissertations and theses, and offer assistantships for work on grant-funded research projects in digital history. Our graduate assistants work with historical GIS, database development, and web site development and programming. Our goal is to train historians for and in the digital medium of scholarship and communication.


  • Digital History
  • U. S. South
  • U.S. Nineteenth Century
  • Civil War
  • Science, Technology and Society


Ph.D.--University of Virginia, History, 1995
M.A.--University of Virginia, History, 1991
B.A.--Trinity College (Connecticut), History, 1986 with honors in History
Episcopal High School, 1982

Twitter: wgthomas3


Thomas, III, William G. Lawyering for the Railroad: Business, Law, and Power in the New South. Louisiana State University Press, 1999.

Book Chapters, Introductions, & Essays:

Thomas, III, William G. ""Nothing Ought to Astonish Us' Confederate Civilians in the 1864 Shenandoah Valley Campaign". In The Shenandoah Valley Campaign of 1864. University of North Carolina Press, 2006.
Thomas, III, William G. "Black and on the Border". In Slavery, Resistance, Freedom. Oxford University Press, 2007.

Digital Projects:

Thomas, III, William G. "Railroads and the Making of Modern America." Center for Digital Research in the Humanities, 2007.
Thomas, III, William G. "Digital History." Center for Digital Research in the Humanities, 2007.


Thomas, III, William G. "What is Digital History? A Look at Some Exemplar Projects" AHA Perspectives. (2009).
View All Articles

Conference Papers:

"The Railroad and the U.S. South: A Network Visualization." Paper presented at Association of American Geographers, April 2008.
"Railroads, War, and the Making of Modern America." Paper presented at American Historical Association, January 2007.
"New Directions in Digital History." Paper presented at Organization of American Historians, July 2006.

Invited Lectures:

Thomas, III, William G. "What is Digital History?." Midwest Regional Phi Alpha Theta Conference, Park University, Missouri, 2008.
Thomas, III, William G. "Digital Publishing and the Future of Scholarly Communication." Ohio State University, 2008.
Thomas, III, William G. "Fifty Years Later: The South, Virginia, and the Civil Rights Struggle." Alexandria Library Company, Alexandria, Virginia, 2007.

Research Grants, Awards, and Fellowships:

Thomas, III, William G. "Cyberinfrastructure for Spatio-Temporal Event Archival, Correlation, and Visualization: Railroads and the Making of Modern America." Cyberinfrastructure Competition.
Thomas, III, William G. "Jupiter's Bow: The Civil War and the Roots of Modern America." Visiting North American Professor, Eccles Center for American Studies.
Thomas, III, William G. "Improving Writing in the History Survey Courses." Integrated Teaching and Learning Excellence 4.

Documents & Links