SOAS University of London

Department of History, School of History, Religions & Philosophies

Mr Christopher D. Bahl

MA Islamic Studies (Arabic Studies) and South Asian History (Heidelberg), MA Historical Research Methods (SOAS, University of London)


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Mr Christopher D. Bahl
Email address:
Thesis title:
The Transmission of Islamicate texts across the Western Indian Ocean, 1400-1700
Year of Study:
Internal Supervisors

External Supervisors

Konrad Hirschler

PhD Research

In my PhD-project I study the circulation of Arabic Islamicate texts across the South Asian subcontinent and the wider western Indian Ocean during the late medieval and early modern periods (1400-1700). By building on a growing field of global and transcultural historical research I will set this phenomenon of text circulation into social and cultural contexts. The fundamental starting point is the transmission of the actual manuscript versions of these Arabic texts in the ways they were disseminated and enacted across changing environments. These histories of circulation are traceable through manuscript notes, for example marginalia, seals, ownership statements and reading certificates. Historical practices that constitute these “travelling texts” are embedded within several epistemologies which can shed light on related socio-cultural processes. Through the complementary reading of manuscript notes with historiographical and prosopographical sources it will be possible to trace a historically contingent Arabic cultural sphere, and especially the diverse communities, tastes and cultural practices that constituted this historical phenomenon as part of the wider socio-cultural histories of the Western Indian Ocean world.


  • ‘Preservation through elaboration. The Historicisation of the Abyssinians in al-Suyūṭī’s Rafʿ shaʾn al Ḥubshān’, in: Antonella Ghersetti (ed.), Al-Suyūṭī, a polymath of the Mamlūk period. Proceedings of the themed day of the First Conference of the School of Mamlūk Studies (Ca’ Foscari University, Venice, June 23, 2014) Leiden: Brill, 2016.
  • ‘Reading tarājim with Bourdieu. Prosopographical traces of historical change in the South Asian migration to the late medieval Hijaz,’ in: Der Islam. Journal of the History and Culture of the Middle East, forthcoming.
  • Review of Dharampal-Frick, Gita; Dwyer, Rachel; Kirloskar-Steinbach, Monika; Phalkey, Jahnavi (eds.), Key Concepts in Modern Indian Studies. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2015, in: H-Soz-Kult. 24.05.2016.
  • Review of Liebrenz, Boris: Die Rifāʿīya aus Damaskus. Eine Privatbibliothek im osmanischen Syrien und ihr kulturelles Umfeld, Leiden und Boston, Brill, 2016, published online in British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, 2017.


  • ‘Changing frameworks of transmission. The circulation of Arabic grammar treatises across the Western Indian Ocean region, 1400-1700’, Invited Lecture at the Research Colloquium, German Orient-Institut, Beirut (December 2016)
  • ‘Creating Geographies of Circulation. The dissemination of Arabic manuscripts across the Western Indian Ocean, 1400-1700’, at the History Lab Seminar Series, Institute of Historical Research, University of London (December 2016)
  • ‘Circulating Communities, Travelling Texts: Transforming frameworks of transmission across the early modern Western Indian Ocean, 1400-1700’ at the second general workshop of DYNTRAN (Dynamics of Transmission) at the Institut français d’archéologie orientale (IFAO), Cairo (November 2016)
  • ‘Creating a personal library - Historical practice and the literary tastes of a Sufi in 17th c. Bijapur’ at the Eleventh Islamic Manuscript Conference on Sufism and Islamic Manuscript Culture by the Islamic Manuscript Association, Magdalene College, Cambridge (September 2016)
  • ‘The dissemination and reading of Arabic Grammar treatises in the early modern Deccan’ on a Panel on New approaches to manuscript variations in South Asia at the European Conference on South Asian Studies, Warsaw (July 2016)
  • ‘Textual Transmission among Circulating Communities -The Different Travels of Arabic Manuscripts across the Western Indian Ocean’ on a panel on Books and Book Collections in the Medieval Middle East at the International Medieval Congress, Leeds (July 2016)
  • ‘Persianate Documentary Practices on Arabic manuscripts in the Royal Library of Bijapur, 15th -17th centuries’ at an international conference on Persianate Cultures of Documentation, Institute of Iranian Studies, Austrian Academy of Sciences, Vienna (June 2016)
  • ‘Eunuch and Scholar - Two Ways to be ‘Indian’. Socio-cultural significances of the category ‘al-Hindī’ in the late Mamlūk period’, Second School of Mamluk Studies Conference, in Liège, Belgium (June 2015)
  • ‘Cultural Exchange across the Western Indian Ocean, 1400-1600, Travelling Scholars and the Transmission of Texts’, Annual Conference of the British Association for Islamic Studies, in London, UK (April 2015)
  • ‘Jalāl al-Dīn al-Suyūṭī’s "Rafʿ shaʾn al-ḥubshān" or Preservation through elaboration in the historicisation of the Abyssinians’, First School of Mamluk Studies Conference, in Venice, Italy (June 2014)
  • ‘Sufism and Royal Authority – the historical development of the Sufi establishment in Khuldabad’, Workshop “Water and Sacred Spaces – a case study of the Ellora-Daulatabad-Khuldabad Historic Region”, in Ellora, India (February 2013)


  • Member of the editorial board of Interdisziplinäre Zeitschrift für Südasienforschung (IZSAF) - Journal for Interdisciplinary Research on South Asia
  • European Association for South Asian Studies (EASAS)
  • MUSA – Muslim South Asia Network (SOAS, University of London)