Thomas Thornton (merchant)
Thornton was born in London, the eldest child of Thomas (1738–1769) and Dorothy Thornton (d.1769). Because his parents died when he was only 7 years, a family friend ensured the education at Christ's Hospital for Thornton and his four brothers. Thomas's education prepared him for a career in one of the most important English trading houses of the time. In 1790, at only 28 years old, he became consul of the Levant Company. In 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. During that period he gathered information that would be used in the writing of The Present State of Turkey. While at Constantinople he married Sophie Zohrab, the daughter of a Greek merchant, by whom he had a large family.
After his return to England he published in 1807 ‘The Present State of Turkey’ (London; 2nd edit. 1809), in which, after a brief summary of Ottoman history, he gave a comprehensive account of the political and social institutions of the Turkish empire. 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. His youngest son was William Thomas Thornton.
- William Thomas Thornton's Family, Ancestry, and Early Years: Some Findings from Recently Discovered Manuscripts and Letters
- The present state of Turkey, London, 1807