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 world, with a particular interest in the cultural, social, intellectual, and political histories of the modern and contemporary Middle East; political thought and intellectual life in the world beyond Europe; French imperialism in the Mediterranean; and diaspora and the transregional movement of people.

I grew up in Lebanon, France, and the United Kingdom, and completed my undergraduate and graduate studies at Cambridge. I held positions at Birkbeck and Princeton before returning to Cambridge. 

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’.

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

I have also spent time as a visiting fellow at the American University of Beirut and at North Carolina State University.

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. (Please note that I will be on leave in 2023-24 and will not therefore be accepting new graduate students for that academic year.)

My doctoral 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; late Ottoman regimes of migration control; Shi'a reformism in early twentieth-century Iraq; Syrian and Palestinian migration to colonial Sudan; and Beirut's urban history. Several have gone on to take up academic positions in the United Kingdom and North America.   

I convene the third-year course 'Middle Eastern Modernities, c.1850-2011' and the first-year Sources option on 'Arab intellectual history, c.1856-1967'. I also lecture for the new Outline paper on 'The Twentieth-Century World'. 

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.   

At the graduate level, I have co-taught the core course of the MPhil in World History, 'Debates in World History'. 

I am a founding co-editor of 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). I also served for several years as the Reviews Editor of the Historical Journal

I am a member of the Board of Directors of the Centre for Lebanese Studies, which I helped to bring to Cambridge, and sit on the Research Committee of the Council for British Research in the Levant. 



Tags & Themes


Key Publications


Unfinished Revolution: Journeys through the Arab Twentieth Century (under contract with Allen Lane/Basic Books) 

A History of Lebanon (under contract with Cambridge University Press) 

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 and special issues 

Co-edited with Cyrus Schayegh., The Routledge Handbook of the History of the Middle Eastern Mandates (London: Routledge, 2015) 

Co-edited with Su Lin Lewis and Anne-Isabelle Richard, ‘Global Civil Society in the Interwar Years’, special issue of the Journal of Global History 7, 2 (July 2012)

Selected articles and book chapters

'Democracy, Self-Determination, and Social Justice in the Short Arab Twentieth Century, c.1919-1973', in Samuel Moyn and Christopher Meckstroth, eds., The Cambridge History of Democracy, vol. 3 (Forthcoming) 

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

'Aux Origines du Confessionalisme Libanais', Revue du XIXe Siècle 58 (2019), pp. 165-67

'"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

'"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’, 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