The Bloomsbury Colleges | PhD Studentships | Studentships 2014 | Archival Practices In The Medieval Arabic Lands (C. 1250-1500)
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Archival Practices In The Medieval Arabic Lands (C. 1250-1500)

Principal Supervisor: Dr Konrad Hirschler (SOAS)

Co- Supervisor: Dr Filippo de Vivo (Birkbeck)

The study of archives in various world regions has gained in pace over the last decade. This new interest encompasses not just the institutional history of specific collections, but also the political and intellectual significance of archival practices as socially and culturally determined. This approach has highlighted the need for a comparative understanding of archival practices. However, while tentative comparisons have been made inside Europe, little attention has been given to the crucial question of comparison between the archival practices of different world civilisations.

The successful candidate will work on archival practices in the Arabic-speaking lands in the period between c.1250 and 1500. These practices are of particular significance as Middle Eastern societies were highly literate and have produced vast amounts of documents. Yet, in contrast to Europe and other world-regions, not a single ‘state’ archive and few other institutional archives have survived. Nevertheless with the recent reorientation towards archival practices Middle Eastern history is now in a position where it can very well contribute to wider discussions on this issue. Moving away from considering the archive as a stable entity and asking rather for the processes that constituted archival, and counter-archival, practices fits well with the Arabic source material at our disposal. The scholarship offers thus the chance to work on this newly arising field within Middle Eastern history and to contribute to discussions on the history of archives that transgress regional borders.

The collaboration between SOAS and Birkbeck sustains this combination of regionally and thematically pioneering work.

Within the general parameters set for the PhD, the student will have considerable freedom to select her/his own research topic.

Candidate requirements

The candidate is required to have an excellent academic track record with an undergraduate degree in the humanities and a Masters degree in History or Area Studies. A sound knowledge of classical Arabic is required and prior experience of working with manuscripts would be beneficial.

The candidate will participate in the doctoral training programmes at SOAS and Birkbeck, and will in addition benefit from research exchange and training opportunities within the ERC-funded project 'AR.C.H.I.ves - A comparative history of archives in late medieval and early modern Italy',

Key References

  1. Bauden, F., "Du destin des archives en Islam. Analyse des données et éléments de réponse", D. Aigle (ed.), La correspondance entre souverains, princes et cités-États. Approches croisées entre l’Orient musulman, l’Occident latin et Byzance (XIIIe-début XVIe s.), Turnhout 2013, 9-30.
  2. Blair, A. and J. Milligan (eds). Special Issue "Toward a Cultural History of Archives", Archival Science 7 (2007).
  3. Blouin, F. and W.G. Rosenberg (eds), Archives, Documentation, and Institutions of Social Memory: Essays from the Sawyer Seminar, Ann Arbor (Mich.) 2006.
  4. De Vivo, F., "Coeur de l'Etat, lieu de tension. Le tournant archivistique vu de Venise (XVe-XVIIe siècle)", Annales. Histoire, Sciences Sociales, 68 (2013), 699-728.
  5. El-Leithy, T., "Living Documents, Dying Archives: Towards a Historical Anthropology of Medieval Arabic Archives", Al-Qantara 32/2 (2011), 389-434.
  6. Müller, C., "The Ḥaram al-Šarīf Collection of Arabic Legal Documents in Jerusalem: A Mamlūk Court Archive?", Al-Qantara 32/2 (2011), 435-59.

Further details about the project may be obtained from:

Principal Supervisor: Konrad Hirschler,,

Co- Supervisor: Filippo de Vivo,,

Further information about PhDs at SOAS is available from:


How to apply:

Applicants should follow two steps:

STEP 1: Applicants should apply for this scholarship via the on-line scholarship application form:

STEP 2: In addition to the online scholarship application , applicants must ALSO submit a COMPLETE on-line application for admission as soon as possible but no later than 3 March 2014. Please ensure you indicate in the statement of your on-line application for admission that you wish to be considered for the Bloomsbury College Studentship. Please visit

A complete application for admission includes transcripts, an explanation of the grading system for any degrees obtained outside of the UK, two references, CV, research proposal and a personal statement. The panel will be considering your scholarship application TOGETHER with your online application for admission.

For any queries regarding the studentship application procedure, please email  

Closing date for applications is 17:00 (UK local time), Monday 3 March 2014