Thomas Childers

Thomas Childers

Sheldon and Lucy Hackney Professor Emeritus

Thomas Childers is the Sheldon and Lucy Hackney Professor of History at the University of Pennsylvania.  He was born and raised in Cleveland, Tennessee, just outside Chattanooga.  He received his bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Tennessee, and earned his Ph.D. in History from Harvard University in 1976.

Since 1976, Professor Childers has taught in the Department of History at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the recipient of numerous fellowships and awards, including a Fulbright scholarship, the Alexander von Humboldt Stiftung Research Grant, a fellowship in European Studies from the American Council of Learned Societies, and a West European Studies Research Grant from Harvard University. In addition to teaching at University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Childers has held visiting professorships at Trinity Hall College, Cambridge, Smith College, and Swarthmore College, and he has lectured in London, Oxford, Berlin, Munich, and other universities in the United States and Europe.

Professor Childers is the author and editor of several books on modern German history and the Second World War.  These includeThe Nazi Voter (Chapel Hill, 1983), The Formation of the Nazi Constituency, (London, 1987) and Reevaluating the Third Reich: New Controversies, New Interpretations (New York, 1993). He has just completed the third volume of a quartet of books on the Second World War. The first volume of that history, Wings of Morning: The Story of the Last American Bomber Shot Down Over Germany in World War II (Addison-Wesley, 1995), was praised by Jonathan Yardley in The Washington Post as "a powerful and unselfconsciously beautiful book." The second volume, In the Shadows of War(Henry Holt, February 2003) is a Book of the Month Club and History Book Club selection. Writing in the Chicago Tribune, John Maclean observed that Shadows “reads like a good novel…Childers is a master of the art of bringing history to life without sacrificing accuracy." The third volume, Soldier from the War Returning. The Greatest Generation’s Troubled Homecoming from World War II (Houghton Mifflin, 2009), examines the largely forgotten difficulties of American veterans returning home from the Second World War. Evaluating the book, Jon Meacham wrote: "In this provocative and eloquent book, Thomas Childers breaks significant new ground by chronicling the hidden history of the emotional toll that World War II exacted on those who fought it, and on those who loved them. I did not think there was anything fresh to say about the defining conflict of the modern world. Childers has proven me wrong—very wrong indeed. This is an important and engaging work.” He is currently at work on a final volume of the WWII quartet: The Twilight of War: Life and Death in the Last Days of World War II.

During his tenure at Penn Professor Childers won a number of awards for his work in the classroom, including the Ira T. Abrahms Award for Distinguished Teaching and Challenging Teaching in the Arts and Sciences (1987), the Richard S. Dunn Award for Distinguished Teaching in History (1999), the Senior Class Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching (2000), chosen by popular vote by the graduating class of the University of Pennsylvania, and the Spotlight on Teaching Award as the Best Lecturer in the Humanities (2004), selected by university student body.