16 November 2012
Dr Konrad Hirschler, reader in the History of the Near and Middle East, was awarded for The Written Word in the Medieval Arabic Lands: A Social and Cultural History of Reading Practices (Edinburgh University Press 2012).
Set in medieval Egypt and Syria, the most bookish world cultures of their period, this study discusses how the written text became accessible to wider audiences. Using a wide variety of yet unexplored sources, Dr Hirschler explores the growth of reading audiences in a pre-print culture.
The judging panel commented: “The research is meticulous, the arguments and evidence are beautifully presented, and comparative references to Europe as well as further east are interesting and mean that this book should have an audience far beyond Islamic Studies.” The book’s publication was financially supported by SOAS Research Office and the Faculty of Arts and Humanities.
The research leading to the Written Word has shed light on the earliest catalogue of an Arabic library, which has yet been discovered. A study and edition of this fascinating and unique 13th-century document is at the centre of Dr Hirschler’s current research project.
The British Society for Middle Eastern Studies is the UK's premier higher education umbrella organisation for Middle Eastern and North African Studies. The award was sponsored by Barclays Capital.