Robert Irwin was born in 1946 and read history at Oxford. He did research on the history of the Mamluk Sultanate of Egypt and Syria at SOAS before being appointed to a post in the Department of Mediaeval History at the University of St Andrews, where he was a lecturer from 1972-1977. Subsequently he resigned to become a house husband and novelist.
He has published six novels (soon to be seven), as well as The Middle East in the Middle Ages: The Early Mamluk Sultanate, The Arabian Nights: A Companion, Islamic Art, The Alhambra, For Lust of Knowing:The Orientalists and Their Enemies, Mamluks and Crusaders: Men of the Sword and Men of the Pen, Visions of the Jinn: Illustrators of the Arabian Nights, Memoirs of a Dervish: Sufi s, Mystics and the Sixties.
He edited The Penguin Anthology of Classical Arabic Literature, volume four of The New Cambridge History of Islam, the Penguin Arabian Nights and Tales of the Marvellous and News of the Strange. He is a Fellow of The Royal Society of Literature, The Society of Antiquaries and The Royal Asiatic Society. He is Middle East editor at the Times Literary Supplement.
Robert Irwin is currently at work on a study of the life and works of Ibn Khaldun, an introduction to an Arabian Nights illustrated by Salvador Dali, an introduction to an edition of the Rubaiyat of Umar Khayyam and a survey of Western sources on the Mamluk Sultanate.