Prof Andrew Arsan

Professor in Arab and Mediterranean History
Fellow of St John’s College
Faculty of History Director of Undergraduate Studies

I am a historian of the Arab and Mediterranean worlds, with a particular interest in the cultural, social, intellectual, and political histories of the Ottoman and post-Ottoman Levant; political thought and intellectual life in the world beyond Europe; French imperialism in the region and beyond; and diaspora and the trans-regional movement of people.

I grew up in Lebanon, France, and the United Kingdom, and completed my undergraduate and graduate studies at Cambridge. After teaching at Birkbeck for a year, I spent two years as a postdoctoral researcher at Princeton. I returned to Cambridge as a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow in 2012, and took up my present position in 2013. Since then, I have taught a wide variety of courses in Middle Eastern, global, and European history.

I’m currently at work on two book projects: a new intellectual and political history of the Arab twentieth century, for publication with Allen Lane and Basic Books; and a synoptic history of the lands that we now call Lebanon, under contract with Cambridge University Press. 

In 2016-17, I was the Chaire Ganshof van der Meersch at the Université Libre de Bruxelles, where I gave a series of lectures on ‘European Order and Middle Eastern Disorder’. I’ve also been fortunate to spend time as a visiting fellow at the American University of Beirut and at North Carolina State University.

From 2018-2021, I held a Philip Leverhulme Prize in History.

I welcome inquiries from prospective graduate students interested in the history of the Arab world – and in particular the Arabic-speaking Eastern Mediterranean – from c.1850 to the present day. Past and current graduate students have worked on topics including: histories of 'insanity' in Mandate Palestine; right-wing thought in the Lebanese civil war; history-writing and ideas of the Arab subject in mid-twentieth-century Lebanon and Syria; licit and illicit migration in late Ottoman Beirut and Alexandria; and Shi'a reformism in early twentieth-century Iraq. 

I convene the third-year course 'Middle Eastern Modernities, c.1850-2011'. 

From 2013 to 2018, I served as Convenor of the Part I survey paper 'Empires and World History from the Fifteenth Century to the First World War'. I have also lectured for Papers 18, 'European History since 1890', and 23, 'World History since 1914', and taught for a variety of primary-source based Themes & Sources courses – and in particular 'The Bandung Moment', on anti-colonial thought in the twentieth century.   

I have also co-taught the Core Course of the MPhil in World History, 'Debates in World History'.  

I am one of the founders of the journal Mashriq & Mahjar: Journal of Middle East Migration Studies, which I currently co-edit with Akram Khater (North Carolina State University) and Stacy Fahrenthold (UC Davis).  



Tags & Themes


Key Publications


Lebanon: A Country in Fragments (London and New York: Hurst, 2018; updated paperback edition, February 2020) 

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) 

Selected articles and book chapters

'An Ottoman Arab Man of Letters and the Meanings of Empire, c.1860', Transactions of the Royal Historical Society 31 (2021), 89-114

'"He Tampers with the Source of Life Itself Who Tampers with Freedom": Personhood, the State and the International Community in the Thought of Charles Malik', in Simon Jackson and Alanna O'Malley, eds., The Institution of International Order: From the League of Nations to the United Nations (London: Routledge, 2018), 22-42

‘“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

'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  

‘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

‘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