News and Events

NEWS: Professor Matthew Erie, the Faculty's Associate Professor of Modern Chinese Studies, named a Public Intellectual Fellow by the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations (NCUSCR)

The Public Intellectuals Programme (PIP), launched by the National Committee in 2005, is dedicated to nurturing the next generation of China specialists who, in the tradition of earlier China hands, have the interest and potential to venture outside of academia to engage with the public and policy community.

Through a varied set of activities spread out over two years, the programme helps twenty young American scholars and specialists working in various disciplines to expand their knowledge of China beyond their own interests by introducing them to each other as well as to specialists outside their fields. By requiring each of the fellows to organize a public outreach programme, PIP also encourages them to actively use their knowledge to inform policy and public opinion.


NEWS: Chair of the Faculty Board, Professor Mark Smith, Presented with Festschrift

On this occasion, Professor Mark Smith - an international authority in Egyptology, particularly in the field of religious and demotic studies - was presented with a Festschrift as a token of admiration from his colleagues and students, many of whom came to attend the celebrations from Britain, Europe, and the USA.

Already in his time in Chicago as a graduate student, and then increasingly so as a Lecturer, Reader, and eventually Professor of Egyptology at the University of Oxford, where he first arrived in 1980, Mark Smith has helped shape the interests and careers of a vast number of Egyptologists - his students or junior colleagues - who have since moved on to take up academic positions around half the globe.  All of his students fondly remember his classes, where he shared his impressive knowledge of all things ancient Egyptian with generous kindness and encouraging words.

Citing from the book’s Introduction: “In recent years, Demotic Studies has attracted a number of remarkable individuals who have brought about a virtual renaissance, a wḥm-mswt, in our field.  However, Mark Smith stands out even among this group.  He enjoys, indeed, a special veneration among Egyptologists for the range and power of his scholarship. His books and articles, distinguished by their impeccable style and clarity, possess an authority seldom rivalled in our field.  He is certainly one of the leaders in the famously difficult study of Egyptian Religion. His many friends, close colleagues, and former students present this Festschrift to him in grateful recognition of his profound contributions to Egyptology.”

The book comprises twenty-seven articles focusing on Mark Smith’s favourite topics, the study of Late and Graeco-Roman Period Egypt and its text - be they in demotic, hieratic, or hieroglyph - offering editions and re-editions of a vast number of documents. It can be ordered directly from the publisher’s website (Lockwood Press), at:

NEWS:  The Abdulaziz Saud AlBabtain Laudian Chair in Arabic

The Laudian Chair of Arabic, first endowed in 1636 by Archbishop William Laud, is one of the oldest Chairs of Arabic in Europe. Thanks to a generous benefaction by Mr Abdulaziz Saud AlBabtain, noted Kuwaiti philanthropist and poet, the Chair has now been re-endowed, ensuring the survival of this important post for future generations. In his honour, the Chair has been renamed the Abdulaziz Saud AlBabtain Laudian Chair in Arabic, combining his name with that of the original donor. On 15 September 2016 a ceremony was held to celebrate this event.

The link here provides excerpts from a speech given by Professor Mark Smith, Chair of the Faculty Board of Oriental Studies, on that occasion, outlining the history of the Arabic Chair at Oxford and thanking Mr AlBabtain for his generosity and his tireless efforts to promote dialogue and cultural exchange between East and West.  It also shows the unveiling of a plaque in his honour, which will be displayed permanently in the Oriental Institute, followed by remarks from Mr AlBabtain himself.  

Plaque Unveiling Mr AlBabtain



Mondays - 5pm - Faculty Room - Oriental Institute - Refreshments will be served

Week 4, 6 February:
Epistolary cultures in the early modern world: perspectives from eighteenth century India
Polly O’Hanlon, Professor of Indian History & Culture

Week 8, 6 March:
Poets who just happen to be women? Gender and authority in early nineteenth-century Persian poetry
Dominic Parviz Brookshaw, Associate Professor of Persian Literature

 Oxford Centre for Global History: Transnational and Global History Seminar

When: Tuesday of Weeks 2, 4, 6 & 8 at 5pm
Where: Corpus Christi Seminar Room

HILARY TERM CARD - Wine and other refreshments are provided 

WEEK 2 - Dr Stephanie Solywoda
'Academic Identities in Context:The Russian philosophical diaspora in Prague’ 


WEEK 6 - Dr Tamara Hodos
Annual General Meeting, 4:00 followed by' Globalising the Mediterranean Iron Age’ 

WEEK 8 - Dr Simon Potter
'Broadcasting across Borders: International Broadcasting in the Interwar Years' 

Lecture: 15 February 2017

Books and Documents in Ancient China

Books and Documents in Ancient China - Olivier Venture (EPHE, Paris)

Workshop for Manuscript and Text Cultures (WMTC) Lecture Series [please see here for more details] 

The Hilary Term lecture in our WMTC series will be given Olivier Venture, Maitrise de conferences, EPHE, Paris,  on Wednesday, 15 February 2017 at 5pm in the Magrath Room. 

After more than a century of discoveries, thousands of literary and technical manuscripts, as well as administrative documents, dating from the Vth century BCE to the IIIrd century CE are now available for scholars working on Ancient China. This enormous corpus mostly composed of hitherto unseen materials has fundamentally changed our perception of this period, which was long mainly based mainly on texts chosen, edited and copied through centuries by generations of the Chinese literate elite. In his lecture, Olivier Venture will propose a general overview of this excavated documentation, with a particular emphasis on the archaeological contexts, material aspects, and nature of the texts. He will also emphasise the importance of considering literary texts and administrative documents together in the same reflection.

The lecture is open to all those with an interest in text and manuscript cultures.

 Christians and Jews in Ottoman Society: A Workshop in Oxford

Organiser:John-Paul Ghobrial, University of Oxford (  Dates: 3-5 July 2017 (two and a half days)


It has been over thirty years since the publication of Benjamin Braude and Bernard Lewis’s seminal work, Christians and Jews in the Ottoman Empire: The Functioning of a Plural Society (1982). The two-volume collection of essays quickly became a classic, and it continues today to be widely cited by specialists and non-specialists alike. This is not surprising given the ambition and breadth of the work. Ranging from early Islam to the nineteenth century, with essays covering a diverse assortment of Christian and Jewish communities across the empire, the collection offered a distinctly panoramic approach to the study of dhimmis in the Ottoman world. And it did so while engaging with wider questions about the structure and workings of Ottoman society: it taught us, for example, that the ‘millet’ was a figment of our imagination, at least before the nineteenth century. The work continues to have special resonance for scholars working on the contemporary politics and history of the Balkan and Middle Eastern societies that emerged from the ashes of the Ottoman Empire, particularly since its republication in an abridged edition in 2014.

In recent years, however, there have been significant developments in Ottoman history, Islamic history, and Eastern Christian and Jewish Studies, all of which promise to radically transform our understanding of the place of dhimmis in Ottoman society. For example, we know enough now about religious identity in the Ottoman Empire to know that the ‘plural society’ depicted in CJOE does not fully capture the nuances and complexities of life for Christians and Jews in the Ottoman world. Where such communities were regarded as organic, bounded units in 1982—the veritable ‘building blocks’ of the Ottoman world—scholars now acknowledge the porousness of these boundaries owing to a wide range of phenomena such as intermarriage, conversion to Islam, and the incidence of migration. Moreover, access to a wider range of sources has revealed how these communities were riven by deep divisions between clergy and laity, men and women, young and old. Where Christians and Jews were once regarded as ‘minorities’ in an Islamic society, scholars now recognise how networks of patronage, sociability, and trade gave certain individuals status and power, even when they didn’t constitute part of the ‘ruling religion’. Where normative rules in early Islam formed the background to the study of Christians and Jews in CJOE, Ottoman historians today ask questions about how geography and locality influenced the everyday life of Ottoman subjects—Christian, Jewish, and Muslim alike. And although CJOE taught us to be skeptical about the existence of the millet system in the early modern period, we have yet to understand the mechanics of communal religious identity as it played out in Ottoman governance. Indeed, was there even a common approach to Christians and Jews across the wide geography and diverse contexts of ‘Ottoman society’?

Put simply, the time is ripe for a new, three-dimensional study of Christians and Jews in Ottoman society, one that cuts across social, intellectual, economic, cultural, legal and religious history. Such an endeavour requires the collaboration of specialists working on different parts of the empire. As part of an ERC-funded project on Eastern Christianity in the Early Modern World, a workshop is being held in Oxford in July 2017 for the purpose of writing such a history. The workshop will bring together several junior and senior scholars in this field in order to produce a collection of essays that offers a comparative study of dhimmis in the Ottoman Empire. The outcome of the process will be a book aimed at a wide readership, intended at the very least to shape the research agenda for the future while also providing non-specialists with a vision of Ottoman society that better reflects the developments of the past thirty years.

Some Propositions:

1. The book will adopt a comparative approach to Christians and Jews within the Ottoman Empire: we encourage proposals from scholars working across the wide stretch of Ottoman geography including Egypt, Syria, Palestine, Iraq, the Balkans and the Mediterranean world. In the final publication, some attention may also be given to comparisons with the position of dhimmis in other contemporary Muslim empires, most notably the Safavids and the Mughals.

2. In its focus on ‘Ottoman society’, the book will engage with wider questions about the place of religious identity—both individual and communal—in the Ottoman world. In doing so, we invite proposals that seek to problematize some of the traditional terminology of this field—for example, ‘millets’, ‘minorities’, ‘dhimmis’ (as a category applying in the same way to Christians and Jews) and so on—while also encouraging submissions from scholars with interests in the study of religious diversity (e.g., ‘ruled’ versus ‘ruling’ religions, ‘communitarian cosmopolitanism’, ‘toleration’, ‘pluralism’, etc.). The book will explore the meaning of religious identity in both a local and imperial context.

3. In place of CJOE’s focus on ‘early Islam’, we will consider Mamluk and Byzantine legacies as they informed Ottoman approaches to Christians and Jews. Moreover, we will seek to problematize the religious categories themselves, replacing simple notions of ‘Christians’ and ‘Jews’ as organic units with more considered reflections on how boundaries were formed between and within these communities. We encourage proposals, therefore, that pay special attention to everyday experience, identity formation (individual and communal), and the role played by particular practices (e.g., food, festivals, martyrologies, religious devotion, taxation, the jizya, clothing, migration, settlement, etc.).

4. Although we will adopt a wide chronology, the centre of gravity of the final publication will lie in the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. We will also pay attention to the nineteenth century. However, participants working on the nineteenth century are encouraged to consider what the changes of the nineteenth century revealed about earlier periods, that is, what can we learn from how individuals and institutions reacted to the changes of the nineteenth century about what was ordinary, commonplace and ‘status quo’ in earlier centuries.

5. The book recognises that a productive approach to this subject involves the consideration of Ottoman sources (archival, literary, legal and financial) alongside sources produced within particular communal traditions (Arabic, Syriac, Greek, Coptic, Hebrew, Ladino, Armenian, etc.), and the range of participants involved in this endeavour seeks to reflect this diversity of sources.

Provisional Schedule and Deadlines:

The purpose of the workshop is to write a new history of Christians and Jews in Ottoman society, and to do so in a comparative, purposeful, and timely manner. Anyone who agrees to participate is asked to do so only if they think they will be able keep to the provisional schedule below:

  • 20 February 2017 CFP deadline
  • (by) 1 April 2017 Participants notified and asked to commit to attendance
  • 31 May 2017 All participants to submit final titles, extended abstracts, and short bios
  • 3-5 July 2017 Workshop in Oxford (arrival on 2 July, departure on 5 July)
  • 31 August 2017 All participants to submit initial drafts of papers to organiser for first review
  • 1 October 2017 Organiser returns comments and suggestions to all participants
  • January 2018 Final versions of all papers due to organiser
  • Potential publication in late 2018 / early 2019

Travel and accommodation:

We will provide accommodation for all participants for three nights in Oxford, checking in on 2 July 2017. Depending on funding, we also hope to be able to cover the travel expenses of Early Career Researchers. In all other cases, travel expenses will be reimbursed as far as possible given budget constraints although we will ask participants to apply if possible for reimbursement from their home institutions. All participants will be informed of how much we can reimburse before they make a final commitment to attend.

Please direct any questions to:

John-Paul Ghobrial
Associate Professor and Tutorial Fellow in Early Modern History
Balliol College, University of Oxford