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Dr Andrew Arsan

Dr Andrew Arsan

Senior Lecturer in Modern Middle Eastern History

St John's College
Cambridge CB2 1TP


A historian of the Arabic-speaking Eastern Mediterranean, I am particularly interested in the cultural, social, political and intellectual histories of the Ottoman and post-Ottoman Levant; in diaspora and the trans-regional circulation of people; in French and British imperialism in the Mediterranean and beyond; and in histories of political thought and intellectual life in the world beyond Europe.

I have recently completed a study of Lebanon in the years since 2005. Entitled Lebanon: A Country in Fragments, this will be published by Hurst & Company in the summer of 2018. This is an account not just of Lebanon’s high politics, with its endless rows, walk-outs, machinations and foreign alliances, but also of the politics of everyday life: all the stresses and strains the country’s inhabitants face, from electricity black-outs and uncollected rubbish to stagnating wages and property bubbles. Where others treat Lebanon’s woes as exceptional, a by-product of its sectarianism and particular vulnerability to regional crises, I insist there is nothing particular about Lebanon’s predicament. Rather, it is emblematic of these times of neoliberal economics and populist fervour, forced displacement, rising xenophobia, and public disillusion. Lebanon, in short, offers us a lens through which to look on our times. 

I am now at work on a synoptic history of the lands we now call Lebanon from the early sixteenth century to the early twenty-first century, under contract with Cambridge University Press. 

I have previously held positions at Princeton University and Birkbeck, University of London.

I will be taking up a Philip Leverhulme Prize in October 2018, and will be on academic leave until October 2020. I am happy to take on prospective PhD candidates during this period, but cannot supervise MPhil students while on leave. 

Subject groups/Research projects

Modern European History:
World History:

Middle Eastern history

Research Interests

Modern Middle Eastern history and world history

Research Supervision

I welcome inquiries from prospective students interested in the history of the Arabic-speaking Eastern Mediterranean from c.1850 to the present day. 


In Part I of the Tripos, I am the Convenor of Paper 21, 'Empires and World History from the Fifteenth Century to the First World War'. I also lecture for Papers 18, 'European History since 1890', and 23, 'World History since 1914'.  

At Part II, I convene the Specified Subject 'Middle Eastern Modernities since c.1700'. 

I also co-teach the Core Course of the MPhil in World History with Dr. Natasha Pairaudeau.  

Other Professional Activities

I am the Reviews Editor of the Historical Journal, and one of the co-editors of the journal Mashriq & Mahjar: Journal of Middle East Migration Studies with Akram Khater (North Carolina State University) and Lily Pearl Balloffet (Western Carolina University).  

In March 2017, I was the 2016-17 Chaire Ganshof van der Meersch at the Université Libre de Bruxelles, giving a series of lectures on 'European Order and Middle Eastern Disorder'. More details of these lectures can be found here

Key Publications


Lebanon: A Country in Fragments (London: Hurst, forthcoming).  

Interlopers of Empire: The Lebanese Diaspora in Colonial French West Africa (London and New York: Hurst and Oxford University Press, 2014), Joint Winner, 2014 Royal Historical Society Gladstone Prize.  

Edited volumes 

Cyrus Schayegh and Andrew Arsan, eds., The Routledge Handbook of the History of the Middle Eastern Mandates (London: Routledge, 2015) 

Articles and book chapters

‘“There is, in the Heart of Asia, … an Entirely French Population”’: France, Mount Lebanon, and the Workings of Affective Empire in the Mediterranean, c.1830-1919’, in Patricia Lorcin and Todd Shepard, eds., French Mediterraneans: Transnational and Imperial Histories (Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 2016), pp. 76-100

'Introduction' (co-authored with Cyrus Schayegh), in Cyrus Schayegh and Andrew Arsan, eds., The Routledge Handbook of the History of the Middle Eastern Mandates (London: Routledge, 2015), pp. 1-23

'The Patriarch, the Amir and the Patriots: Civilisation and Self-Determination at the Paris Peace Conference', in T.G. Fraser, ed., The First World War and its Aftermath: The Shaping of the Middle East (London: Haus, 2015), pp. 127-45

'The Strange Lives of Ottoman Liberalism: Exile, Patriotism and Constitutionalism in the Thought of Muhammad Fazıl Paşa', in Maurizio Isabella and Konstantina Zanou, eds., Mediterranean Diasporas: Politics and Ideas in the Long Nineteenth Century (London: Bloomsbury, 2015), pp. 153-70 

'"A Unique Little Country": Lebanon, the United States, and the Meanings of Independence in the Writings of Charles Malik, c. 1946-1962', in Elisabeth Leake and Leslie James, eds., Decolonisation and the Cold War: Negotiating Independence (London: Bloomsbury, 2015), pp. 107-22  

‘“Citizens of the World … Who Stopped On Every Shore”: Eastern Mediterranean Migration, Social Thought, and the Diasporic Uses of the Phoenician Past, c.1880-1940’, Mashriq & Mahjar: Journal of Middle East Migration Studies 1, 2 (September 2013), pp. 73-98

‘Under the Influence? Translations and Transgressions in Late Ottoman Imperial Thought’, Modern Intellectual History 10, 2 (August 2013), pp. 373-95

'Editorial foreword - On Forgotten Shores: Migration in Middle Eastern Studies, and the Middle East in Migration Studies', (co-authored with John Tofik Karam and Akram Khater), Mashriq & Mahjar: Journal of Middle East Migration Studies 1, 1 (Winter 2013), pp. 1-7

‘“This Age is the Age of Associations”: Committees, Petitions, and the Roots of Interwar Middle Eastern Internationalism’, ‘Global Civil Society in the Interwar Years’, co-edited special issue of the Journal of Global History 7, 2 (July 2012), pp. 166-88

‘Introduction: Global Civil Society in the Interwar Era’, (co-authored with Su Lin Lewis and Anne-Isabelle Richard), ‘Global Civil Society in the Interwar Years’, co-edited special issue of the Journal of Global History 7, 2 (July 2012), pp. 157-65

‘Failing to Stem the Tide: Lebanese Migration to French West Africa and the Competing Prerogatives of the Imperial State’, Comparative Studies in Society and History 53, 3 (July 2011), pp. 450-78

‘Roots and Routes: The Paths of Lebanese Migration to French West Africa’, Chronos, 22 (November 2010), pp. 107-38