Christy Thornton portrait against a white backgroundChristy Thornton is an Associate Professor of History at New York University. She is also the co-director, with Quinn Slobodian, of the History and Political Economy Project. Before coming to NYU, she earned tenure in the Department of Sociology at Johns Hopkins University, where she was also the Co-Chair of the JHU Program in Latin American, Caribbean, and Latinx Studies. Prior to that, she taught in History and International Studies at Rowan University. Her research has been supported by fellowships from the Kluge Center at the Library of Congress and the Weatherhead Initiative on Global History at Harvard University, as well as the American Council of Learned Societies and the Social Science Research Council, among others. Her research interests are interdisciplinary, and include modern Latin American history; the history of Mexico; the history of development; Latin American political economy; global governance and international institutions; social movements; and drugs and drug wars.

Christy holds a Bachelor’s degree from Barnard College, which she attended as a Pell Grant student, as well as a Master’s of International Affairs from Columbia University, which was supported by a Truman Scholarship. She received her PhD in history from NYU in 2015.

Before graduate school, she was for five years the Executive Director of the North American Congress on Latin America (NACLA), a 50-year old research and advocacy organization working on Latin American affairs and the U.S. relationship with the region, and she is currently a member of the Board of Directors there.

In addition to her scholarly work, she makes frequent media appearances and writes for popular publications such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, Nexos, Al Jazeera, The Nation, and Jacobin. She is also a radio producer and host.

Current Work

Christy is now at work on two new research projects. The first, “To Reckon with the Riot: Global Economic Governance and Social Protest,” explores the ways that officials within international financial and economic institutions (IFIs) like the World Bank and International Monetary Fund have understood and reacted to protest against them over time. Using archival records, oral histories, institutional publications, and interviews with protestors as well as key officials, this project examines institutional response to riots, strikes, and demonstrations—both in countries where IFI-led policies were implemented and at the institutions’ annual summit meetings—in comparative-historical perspective. 

Her other ongoing research project, “The Echeverría Doctrine: Development and Counterinsurgency in 1970s Mexico,” investigates the apparent paradox between Mexican president Luis Echeverría’s radical internationalist advocacy abroad and his simultaneous campaign of brutal repression against Left critics at home. While historians of Mexican state violence have tended to see Echeverría’s Third-Worldism as little more than ideological cover for his domestic repression, this project argues that there is, in fact, a singular Cold War developmentalist logic that ties these two apparently contradictory parts of Echeverría’s project together. The Echeverría Doctrine, this project argues, was a particularly brutal form of “development politics,” premised on violently policing the boundaries of corporatist stability as a bulwark against the threat of Third World revolution.

Revolution in Development Book 2021 UC PressChristy’s first book, Revolution in Development: Mexico and the Governance of the Global Economy, was published in January 2021 by the University of California Press. It was selected a Best Scholarly Book of 2021 by the Chronicle of Higher Education and was chosen for the 2023 Foreign Policy summer reading list. It was also the winner of the 2022 Luciano Tomassini Latin American International Relations Book Award from the Latin American Studies Association (LASA), and received an honorable mention for the 2022 Immanuel Wallerstein Memorial Book Award from the American Sociological Association’s Political Economy of the World System (PEWS) section, as well as an honorable mention for the 2022 Barrington Moore Book Award from the Comparative and Historical Sociology section.

Revolution in Development uncovers the surprising influence of post-revolutionary Mexico on the twentieth century’s most important international economic institutions. Drawing on extensive archival research in Mexico, the United States, and Great Britain, Revolution in Development meticulously traces how Mexican officials repeatedly rallied Third World leaders to campaign for representation in global organizations and redistribution through multilateral institutions, from the 1920s through the 1970s. By decentering the United States and Europe in the history of global economic governance, Revolution in Development shows how Mexican economists, diplomats, and politicians fought for more than five decades to reform the rules and institutions of the global capitalist economy. In so doing, the book demonstrates, Mexican officials shaped not only their own domestic economic prospects, they shaped the contours of the project of international development itself.

Additional research and publications can be found on her CV.