HSOC Faculty Profile: Get to Know Professor John Tone

Primary tabs

Professor John Tone came to Georgia Tech in 1990 and is one of the longest-serving faculty members in the School of History and Sociology.

He specializes in Spanish and Cuban military history and the history of disease and medicine, teaching courses on European History, European Intellectual History, French Revolution and Napoleon, History of Disease and Medicine, Modern Cuba, Modern Spain, and The Enlightenment.

Get to know Professor Tone in this six-question Q&A, where he shares why he pursued a career in history, what he hopes to achieve in his research, and much more!


1. Who or what inspired you to study history?

I had a close friend, a graduate student in history, and an RA in my dorm at Columbia University named Bernard Bellon. He inspired me to apply to graduate school at Columbia and stay in New York City, which I was inclined to do anyway. I had started in journalism, moved to political science and pre-law, but discovered that I didn’t get as much enjoyment from these things as I did when reading and discussing history.


2. Why did you decide to teach at Georgia Tech, and what's the best part about working here?

Well, as a matter of fact, Bernard Bellon was on the faculty at GT. Also, one of my own cohort, Margo Finn, was at Emory. When GT ran a search for a Europeanist, they encouraged me to apply. As it so happened, I had been doing research on an ancient agricultural implement used in the Basque Country, so I had a good “history of technology” job talk queued up already.


3. What do you research, and what is the goal of your work? What do you seek to learn or change with it?

My first three books [The Fatal Knot: The Guerrilla War in Navarre and the Defeat of Napoleon in Spain (1995), La guerrilla española (1999), and War and Genocide in Cuba (2006)] had to do with aspects of insurgency, and I argued that ideology played a smaller role in inspiring insurgents in Navarre, Spain, and Cuba than socio-economic conditions, made worse the existential crisis of occupations. I think it is a fundamental truth about most insurgencies.

I wanted to discourage the tendency to listen to literate elites and their analyses of insurgents, about whom they knew next to nothing, and to find more reliable sources in tax records, criminal proceedings, land sales and leases, censuses, estate inventories, parish records, and so forth.

I’m currently researching the history of the conquest of yellow fever in Cuba. I want to change the American tendency to claim credit, through Walter Reed, for the theory and the experiments conducted by Cuban physician Carlos Finlay, who ultimately worked out how yellow fever spread.


4. What are your hobbies and favorite things to do outside of work?

Cooking, gardening, reading, binge watching series.


5. What’s your #1 piece of advice for HSOC students at Georgia Tech?

At Georgia Tech you will be surrounded by engineers and computer scientists. In the real world, they will be surrounded by you. Keep that in mind.


6. If prospective students or alumni are interested in what you do, can they contact you? What are some fields, topics, career questions, etc., that you could speak to?

Yes. I can talk about my research and the subjects I teach.

Thank you Professor Tone!

Learn more about his work below, and stay tuned on FacebookLinkedInInstagram, and Twitter for new student, faculty, and alumni spotlights every month. 


  • Workflow Status:Published
  • Created By:dminardi3
  • Created:02/03/2022
  • Modified By:dminardi3
  • Modified:02/15/2022


  • No categories were selected.


  • No keywords were submitted.