Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Thornton, Thomas (d.1814)

THORNTON, THOMAS (d. 1814), writer on Turkey, elder son of William Thornton, an innkeeper of London, and brother of Sir Edward Thornton (1766–1852) [q. v.], was engaged in commerce from an early age. About 1793 he was sent to the British factory at Constantinople, where he resided fourteen years, making a stay of fifteen months at Odessa, and paying frequent visits to Asia Minor and the islands of the Archipelago. After his return to England he published in 1807 ‘The Present State of Turkey’ (London, 4to; 2nd edit. 1809, 8vo), in which, after a brief summary of Ottoman history, he gave a minute and comprehensive account of the political and social institutions of the Turkish empire. Thornton possessed an intimate knowledge of his subject, both from his long residence at Constantinople and from his friendship with the European ambassadors. His work is a valuable contemporary study of the Ottoman empire. The chapter on the military organisation is probably superior to any former account. That on the financial system is clear and perspicuous, though necessarily his knowledge of many branches of the subject was limited. Thornton is extremely favourable to the Turks, protesting against the abuse poured on them in former works owing to their friendship with France. He severely attacked William Eton's ‘Survey of the Turkish Empire’ (1798), and drew from Eton in reply ‘A Letter to the Earl of D … on the Political Relations of Russia in regard to Turkey, Greece, and France’ (1807).

About the end of 1813 Thornton was appointed consul to the Levant Company, but when on the eve of setting out for Alexandria he died at Burnham, Buckinghamshire, on 28 March 1814. While at Constantinople he married Sophie Zohrab, the daughter of a Greek merchant, by whom he had a large family. His youngest son, William Thomas Thornton, is separately noticed.

[Gent. Mag. 1814, ii. 418; Allibone's Dict. of Engl. Lit.]

E. I. C.