The American University of Beirut and the British Mandates

with Hilary Falb Kalisman

hosted by Huma Gupta, Chris Gratien, and Nir Shafir

Hilary Falb talks about her research on AUB during the mandate period.
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During the late Ottoman period, the Syrian Protestant College in Beirut became a leading center of higher education in the Eastern Mediterranean and for the Arab world in particular. With the establishment of British and French Mandates in the Middle East following the First World War, the Syrian Protestant College--now known as the American University of Beirut--became an educational hub not only for the Arab elite and middle class but also for local teachers and bureaucrats that would serve in the colonial mandate governments. In this episode, Hilary Falb Kalisman shares her research on the history of scholarship students from the British Mandates and their life at AUB during the interwar period, highlighting dimensions of class, nation, and transnationalism that emerged out of the educational experience and tracing the impacts of their education as they returned to serve in mandate and post-mandate independent governments of Iraq, Palestine, and Transjordan.

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Hilary Falb Kalisman is currently a visiting Postdoctoral Fellow at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University. She completed her PhD at the University of California-Berkeley in May 2015. Her research focuses on education in the Middle East during the Mandate period.
Huma Gupta is a Ph.D. student at the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture (AKPIA) at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Her dissertation research focuses on the structural relationships between urban planning, architecture, state formation and migration in modern Iraq. She is also interested in the sonic and visual past and continues to think of ways to integrate sensory histories into her research. 
Chris Gratien holds a Ph.D. from Georgetown University's Department of History. His research focuses on the social and environmental history of the Ottoman Empire and the modern Middle East. He is currently preparing a monograph about the environmental history of the Cilicia region from the 1850s until the 1950s.
Nir Shafir is a historian of the Middle East whose research examines the intersections of knowledge production, religious practice, and material culture in the early modern world (1400-1800). He curates Ottoman History Podcast’s series on history of science in addition to being one of the co-founders of, a website that explores the archives and libraries of the Islamic world. He is currently an advanced doctoral candidate in the History Department at UCLA.


Episode No. 231
Release Date: 15 March 2016
Recording Location: Cambridge, MA
Editing and production by Chris Gratien
Special thanks to Kara Güneş for allowing us to use the composition "Istanbul" in the intro and outro music
Sound excerpts for Baglamamin Dugumu - Necmiye Ararat and MuzafferHarmandali - Recep Efendi, Cemal Efendi
Images via Library of Congress and Before Their Diaspora
Bibliography courtesy of Hilary Falb Kalisman

"Students at A.U.B. [i.e., American University of Beirut]",
[between 1898 and 1946], LC-M32- 14313 [P&P], Matson (G. Eric and
Edith) Photograph Collection, Library of Congress Prints and
Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA
Walid Khalidi. Before Their Diaspora : A Photographic History of
the Palestinians, 1876-1948. 281. "Schoolmasters, Jaffa, Ca. 1923",
Institute for Palestine Studies. Washington, DC., 1984. 281. Thabit
al-Khalidi, seated, and Wasfi 'Anabtawi, standing left, were both
bursary scholars. Salim Katul, another AUB graduate, and textbook
author is standing on the right.

Anderson, Betty S. The American University of Beirut: Arab Nationalism and Liberal Education. Austin, Tex: University of Texas Press, 2012.

Bashkin, Orit. The Other Iraq: Pluralism and Culture in Hashemite Iraq. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 2010.

Batatu, Hanna. The Old Social Classes and the Revolutionary Movements of Iraq: A Study of Iraq's Old Landed and Commercial Classes and of Its Communists, Baʻthists, and Free Officers. New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2004.

Dodge, Bayard. The American University of Beirut. A Brief History of the University and the Lands Which It Serves. [With Plates.]. Beirut: Khayat's, 1958.

Elshakry, Marwa. Reading Darwin in Arabic, 1860-1950.Chicago: Chicago University Press, 2013.

Kalisman, Hilary Falb. 2015. "Bursary Scholars at the American University of Beirut: Living and Practising Arab Unity". British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies. 42, no. 4: 599-617.

Kedourie, Elie. 1966. "The American University of Beirut". Middle Eastern Studies.3, no. 1: 74-90.

Khalaf, Samir "New England Puritanism and Liberal Education in the Middle East : The American University of Beirut as a Cultural Transplant." In Cultural Transitions in the Middle East, edited by Serif Mardin. Leiden; New York: E.J. Brill, 1994.

Makdisi, Ussama. Artillery of Heaven: American Missionaries and the Failed Conquest of the Middle East. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2008.

Penrose, Stephen B. L. That They May Have Life; The Story of the American University of Beirut, 1866-1941. New York: Trustees of the American University of Beirut, 1941.

"The Museum of Textbooks (Jordan)" on


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