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Dr. Thomas Carlson

Associate Professor

Ph.D., Princeton
158 SSH

Spring 2021 Office Hours

MWF 1:30-2:25pm or by appointment (email for a link)



Medieval Middle East; Muslim-Christian Relations; Armenian Studies; Byzantine Studies; Islamic Studies; Syriac Studies



Thomas A. Carlson researches the religious and ethnic diversity of medieval Middle Eastern society. The confessionalization of the historical study of the Middle Eastern region, typically framed as “Islamic history,” excludes Armenian kingdoms, the Byzantine Empire, and the Crusader States from consideration while including successor states who ruled the same terrain and largely the same society. His first book, Christianity in Fifteenth Century Iraq (Cambridge Studies on Islamic Civilization), highlights the cultural continuities, social contacts and conflicts, and strategies of differentiation among Christians, Muslims, and Jews in fifteenth-century Iraq and Jazīra. It challenges the normative Eurocentrism of studies of non-European Christianity, as well as the Islamic exceptionalism which still characterizes much Middle Eastern history. His articles have argued that Islamization in Syria and Iraq progressed even more slowly, and much more unevenly, than scholars have previously guessed, and analyzed Armenian sources for the Safaviyya Sufi order before its conquest of Iran in 1501, a period for which reliable Persian and Arabic sources are particularly scarce. Dr. Carlson formerly served as co-editor of an online geographical reference work for Syriac culture from its earliest period to the present, The Syriac Gazetteer( He is now developing a new NEH-supported digital history project, the Historical Index of the Medieval Middle East (HIMME) and co-editing a primary source reader in Christian-Muslim relations.


His next book project explores the social impact of Middle Eastern religious, ethnic, and linguistc diversity in the Islamic Middle Period (ca. 950-1500). The Turkic influx into the Middle East fostered political, social, and legal experimentation, at precisely the same time as the Byzantine reconquest of eastern Anatolia and northern Syria brought an end to centuries of relatively stable boundaries. Religious diversity, both local variations within Islam and large populations of non-Muslims (Jews, Christians, Yezidis, and Zoroastrians), shaped the dynamics of society and the development of Islam itself into the early modern period.


Courses Taught
HIST 1713 - Survey of Eastern Civilization
HIST 1813 - World History from Ancient Times to 1500
HIST 3503 - Islamic Civilization 600-1800
HIST 3513 - Modern Middle East
HIST 3543 - Israel & Palestine in Modern Times
HIST 3573 - The Mongol Empire
HIST 3583 - Minorities & Diversity of the Middle East
HIST 3980 - New Studies in History
HIST 4980 - Topics in History
HIST 5000 - Thesis
HIST 6000 - Dissertation
HIST 6100 - Directed Readings in History

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