Islamic Studies and History MSt

Kitāb al-Daraj, by Ibn Shākir, Aḥmad ibn Mūsá. Treatise on astrology. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The Master of Studies in Islamic Studies and History is a one-year degree for students who already possess substantial knowledge of the field and who are able, without further language training, to work with pre-modern Arabic, Persian, and Turkish primary sources as appropriate to their particular research interests. The course focuses on the political, social, and intellectual history of the central Islamic lands (Egypt, the Fertile Crescent, the Arabian Peninsula, Iran, Central Asia, and Anatolia) up until c. 1800. The course is characterised by a strong emphasis     on research methods and primary sources, thus making it a very good entry gate for subsequent doctoral study. You will already possess substantial general knowledge of Islamic or Middle Eastern studies and history.

You can take specialised classes and undertake independent research under the supervision of a faculty member. You will receive specialised teaching in two elective papers, taught during the first two terms, while also working on a dissertation (or on two extended research essays) under the supervision of a suitable member of the faculty. Available elective papers may vary from year to year, but topics that are frequently taught include the Qur’an and Qur’anic exegesis, hadith, Islamic law, Sufism, Islamic theology, Arabic philosophy, conversion to Islam in the Middle Ages, and Islamic art and architecture. In the past students have also taken options in Arabic and Persian literature. Elective papers normally involve a weekly meeting of 2h devoted to the reading and primary sources, student presentations, informal lecturing, and the discussion of student essays. Students spend a significant amount of time preparing for these meetings by working through primary texts, reading secondary literature, and writing essays.

Oriental studies graduates have found employment in many and diverse fields including business, finance, law, civil service, journalism, government and industry.

Students often progress to doctoral work after completing the MSt. Many graduates have undertaken further research into subjects linked with Oriental studies and have pursued successful careers in the academic world, education and in museums.

Assessment

Your final examination will consist of four units, which carry the same weight: two elective papers (normally examined as take-home papers at the end of the term in which they are taught, though some options may instead be examined as written examinations at the end of the academic year); a take-home essay on methods and research materials related to one of the options chosen by a candidate (examined during Hilary Term); and a thesis of 15,000 words, or two essays, on a topic (or topics) selected in consultation with your supervisor and approved by the  Faculty Board.

Further information on the course, and the examination process, can be found in the course handbook here (information is current for the academic year of publication).

Resources

You will have access to the Nizami Ganjavi Library at the Oriental Institute. The library,  comprising approximately 80,000 volumes of books, periodicals and pamphlets, housed both on and off-site, supports students of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies, Hebrew and Jewish Studies, Eastern Christianity, South and Inner Asian  Studies and Korean. The library’s Middle Eastern and Islamic collections have a strong focus on language, literature, and pre-1800 history, religion, philosophy and culture which is complemented by the modern Middle East collections of St Antony’s Middle East Centre Library. The Nizami Ganjavi Library provides access to publications in both vernacular languages (i.e. Arabic, Persian, Turkish and others) as well as European languages.

Adjacent to the Oriental Institute is the Ashmolean Museum, which houses superb collections.

In addition to this, there are a number of other specialist library collections in Oxford that focus on Oriental studies, such as:

The Sackler Library includes the principal library for Egyptology and ancient Near Eastern Studies. The Khalili Research Centre is the University of Oxford's centre for research and teaching in the art and material culture of the Islamic societies of the Middle East and of non-Muslim members and neighbours

You will also have access to the University's centrally provided electronic resources, the department's IT Officer and other bibliographic, archive or material sources as appropriate to the research topic. There is a computing room for the use of graduate students in the Oriental Institute, as well as a common room where tea and coffee are available and staff and students can meet.

Sources of funding

Applications recieved for this course by the January deadline will also be considered for funding if applications fulfill the eligibility criteria. Please use the University's fees, funding and scholarship search tool to find what funding you may be eligible for.

The Faculty has a number of scholarships and funding opportunities across a wide range of subjects. Please see here for a list of these opportunities.