Prof. Dr. Konrad Hirschler
Foto: K. Hirschler
Islamwissenschaft / Exzellenzcluster "Understanding Written Artefacts" (UWA)
As a historian of the written word I work in particular on the medieval Middle East between c. 1100 and 1500. In my research and teaching the study of written artefacts has increasingly gained in importance over the years, especially the history of reading and libraries, methodological issues linked to documentary sources and archives as well as the question of provenance. Additional interests include historiography, Crusades, and the interplay between marginal groups and mainstream society. My work on historiography (such as my first monograph Medieval Arabic Historiography: Authors as Actors and the article Studying Mamluk Historiography) combines social history and literary studies approaches to gain a deeper understanding of how authors and compilers produced historical knowledge. While working on the ways of how knowledge was produced I became increasingly intrigued by the other side of the equation, i.e. the history of reading. This research interest led to my second monograph (The Written Word in the Medieval Arabic Lands: A Social and Cultural History of Reading Practices, awarded the British Society for Middle Eastern Studies Book Price). Becoming increasingly frustrated with the scarcity of documentary sources for the medieval history of reading and books I was pleasantly surprised when I came across the oldest known Arabic library catalogue (from the thirteenth century).This led me to my British Academy funded research for my third monograph Medieval Damascus: Plurality and Diversity in an Arabic Library - The Ashrafiya Library Catalogue (awarded the Best Book on the Medieval Middle East 2017 Book Price) as well as the online Ashrafiya Library Database. My last book, A Monument to Medieval Syrian Book Culture – The Library of Ibn ʿAbd al-Hādī (shortlisted for the British-Kuwait Friendship Association Book Prize) continues along these lines and deals with the idiosyncratic endowment list by the fifteenth-century scholar Ibn ‘Abd al-Hadi, the largest pre-Ottoman endowment record of books. This book focuses very much on the materiality of these (not particularly beautiful) books. My forthcoming book (with Said Aljoumani) Owning Books and Preserving Documents in Medieval Jerusalem – The Library of Burhan al-Din al-Nasiri (2023) explores the bookshelves and archives of fourteenth-century Jerusalem. My research on reading and libraries has been closely linked to the question of pre-modern information management in a larger sense, most importantly the transmission of manuscripts (esp. the co-edited volume Manuscript Notes as Documentary Sources) and medieval archival practices (e.g. the JAOS article From Archive to Archival Practices).
This interest in information management focuses very much on the Qubbat al-khazna, a Geniza-style depository of manuscripts and documents in the court yard of the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus, the subject of the co-edited volume The Damascus Fragments: Towards a History of the Qubbat al-khazna Corpus of Manuscripts and Documents and an article on one of its fascinating documents. While working with medieval Syrian manuscripts it became clear that scribes routinely ‘recycled’ such documents by cutting them into sheets for producing new manuscripts. My articles Document Reuse in Medieval Arabic Manuscripts and Books within Books: The Links between Reuse Fragments and the Qubba al-Khazna summarise the first results. This work on documents and manuscripts has led to an increasing interest in the provenance and translocation of written artefact resulting in articles such as Writing Middle Eastern Agency into the History of the Qubbat al-khazna – The Late Ottoman State and Manuscripts as Historical Artefacts (with Cüneyd Erbay) and Saleroom Fiction versus Provenance: Historicising Manuscripts via their Marginal and Material Logic (Schøyen Fragments 1776). Beyond this work on the production, transmission and translocation of written artefacts I have increasingly been interested in the interaction between Latin European settlers in the Middle East and the indigenous populations (cf. the edited translation of M. Kohler’s Alliances and Treaties between Frankish and Muslim Rulers in the Middle East: Cross-Cultural Diplomacy in the Period of the Crusades and the article The Jerusalem Conquest of 492/1099 in the Medieval Arabic Historiography of the Crusades). To counter-balance what is to some extent elite history, other publications have addressed the question of beggary as well as popular revolt and violence.
I welcome any proposals by prospective MA and PhD students to work on these topics or other medieval Middle Eastern topics.
All my publications are available on my academia.edu page.
My books and articles have been translated into European and Middle Eastern languages, such as Medieval Arabic Historiography in Persian, The Written Word in Italian, A Monument to Medieval Syrian Book Culture in Arabic and Defining the Nation in Kurdish. With the surge of online events since 2019 numerous talks are available online, such as:
- Invited lecture (Juma Al Majid Center for Culture and Heritage, Dubai), 7 October 2021 (video):
بناء سيَر الأعلام اعتماداً على خوارج نصوصهم ووثائقهم ومخطوطاتهم
- podcast Akbar's Chamber - Experts Talk Islam: The Medieval Arabic World of Books: A Tour of a Lost Syrian Library
- seminar (in Arabic with Said Aljoumani, Makhṭūṭāt al-Qurʾān), 21 September 2021: مخطوطات قبة الخزنة (video).
- Transmission of Arabic Manuscripts: Production & Usage Contexts, ‘Arabic Manuscripts Workshop’, Princeton University /UCLA, 25 August 2021 (video).
- Book presentation in Arabic of A Monument to Medieval Syrian Book Culture at the Institute of Arabic Manuscripts (Cairo) (inaugural talk of the Institute’s series on new books), 20 June 2021 (video).
- Invited lecture (inaugural lecture of Gotha Manuscript Talks): Die Bücher des Burhan al-Dins - Bibliotheksarchäologie und Buchkultur im mamlukischen Jerusalem, 10 March 2021 (video).
- Invited lecture (Columbia University; online): Libraries in late Ottoman and post-Ottoman Bilad al-Sham: The Jerusalem Khalidiyya Library in Context, 16 February 2021 (video).
- Book discussion with Sarah Savant and Mohaqiq Tabatabai Yazdi: A Monument to Medieval Syrian Book Culture (University of Tehran, online), 17 September 2020 (video).
- Invited lecture in Arabic (The Institute of Arabic Manuscripts, Cairo; online) 13 August 2020 (video):
المخطوطات والوثائق مصدرًا في كتابة التاريخ: رصيد قبة الخزنة في الجامع الأموي بدمشق نموذجًا لسد ثغرات في كتابة التاريخ الأيوبي والمملوكي
- Invited lecture (Yavuz Sezer Memorial Talk, ANAMED Istanbul): Bibliophilia beyond Istanbul. The Eighteenth-Century Jazzar Library of Acre, 2 December 2022 (video)
Professor of Middle Eastern History,
|09/2016 - 09/2021||
Professor of Middle Eastern History,
|09/2015 - 08/2016||
Professor of Middle Eastern History,
|08/2012 - 08/2015||
Reader in the History of the Near and Middle East,
|08/2009 - 07/2012||
Senior Lecturer in the History of the Near and Middle East,
|09/2007 - 07/2009||
Lecturer in the History of the Near and Middle East,
|04/2003 - 08/2007||
Wissenschaftlicher Assistent (Lecturer),
Editorial/Advisory Boards (Publications)
since 2021: Series Advisory Board, Critical Approaches to Arabic Historiography, Edinburgh University Press
since 2020: International Advisory Board Journal of the College of Sharia and Islamic Studies (Qatar)
since 2019: editorial board دراسات في السردانیة العربیة (Studies in Arabic Narratology) (Tehran)
since 2019: editorial board, book series Bibliotheca Islamica (Orient-Institut Beirut)
2019-23: editorial board Journal of the Faculty of Divinity of Ankara University (Ankara Üniversitesi İlahiyat Fakültesi Dergisi)
2019-21: editorial board Philological Encounters
since 2019: field editor (history), The Journal of Academic Social Science Studies (Turkey)
since 2019: Advisory board, İslami Araştırmalar Dergisi (Ankara)
since 2018: editorial board Archiv Orientalni (Prague)
2015-19: editorial board (History), book series Beiruter Texte und Studien
since 2015: editorial board, book series Islamic History & Thought (Gorgias Press)
since 2015: editorial board Annales islamologiques (Cairo)
since 2014: Section Editor (History 1100-1500) Encyclopaedia of Islam Three
since 2013: editorial board Journal of Transcultural Medieval Studies/Transcultural Medieval Studies
since 2012: co-editor, book series The Muslim World in the Age of the Crusades (Brill) (with Suleiman Mourad and Paul Cobb)
since 2011: editorial board, book series Mamluk Studies (Bonn University Press)
2010-16: Deputy Editor Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies
2009/10: editorial board Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies
since 2009: editorial board Wiener Zeitschrift für die Kunde des Morgenlandes
Advisory Boards (Centres/Projects)
since 2021: Advisory board, ERC Project Invisible East (Oxford University, Arezou Azad)
since 2020: Advisory board, Center for Manuscript Studies/Yazma Eserler Uygulama ve Araştırma Merkezi (Istanbul)
2020-23: Advisory board, Orient-Digital Project (Oriental manuscripts)/Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin
2020/21: Steering committee, Cultural Heritage, European University Alliance 1Europe
2019-35: Elected advisory board, Bibliotheca Arabica (Verena Klemm, Sächsische Akademie der Wissenschaften)
since 2019: Deputee ombudsperson for good scientific practice, Leibniz-Zentrum Moderner Orient (Berlin)
since 2017: Member Comité des Collections, Institut français d’archéologie orientale, Cairo
2017-21: Advisor, ERC Project Mamlukisation of the Mamluk Sultanate II. Historiography, Political Order and State Formation in 15th-Century Egypt and Syria (Gent University, Jo van Steenbergen)
2016-21: Advisory board, ERC Project Saadian Intellectual and Cultural Life (Collège de France, François Déroche)