MESA - Middle East Studies Association

Albert Hourani Book Award

The Albert Hourani Book Award was established in 1991 to recognize outstanding publishing in Middle East studies. The award was named for Albert Hourani to recognize his long and distinguished career as teacher and mentor. Announced at the Awards Ceremony at MESA’s annual meeting, the Albert Hourani Book Award recognizes the very best in Middle East studies scholarship.

2017 Nomination Guidelines

Deadline April 15, 2017 (extended)

Nominations are sought once a review committee is in place.

Nominations can be made by either the publisher or the author. Although there is no limit on the number of titles that authors or publishers may submit, we ask that they exercise discretion in the selection of books nominated. Below is a list of criteria that should be met:

  1. Books must be non-fiction scholarly monographs based on original research published in English between April 1, 2016 and March 31, 2017. Authors need not be members of MESA.
  2. Subject matter must deal with the Middle East. Areas primarily of interest include Iran, Turkey, Afghanistan, Israel, Pakistan, and the countries of the Arab World from the seventh century to modern times. Spain, Southeastern Europe, the Soviet Union and other regions also are included for the periods in which their territories were part of the Middle Eastern empires or were under the influence of Middle Eastern civilization.
  3. Works not eligible include edited collections and compilations, proceedings of symposia, new editions of previously published books, bibliographies, dictionaries, textbooks, and surveys.
  4. Nominations must be made by April 15, 2017, with books delivered to the readers by April 24, 2017, or books will not be eligible for the competition.

The author of the winning book will receive $1000 and a certificate of award. Honorable mentions also receive a certificate of award. Winners will be announced at the Awards Ceremony at MESA's 51st annual meeting in Washington DC, followed by an announcement on MESA's website.

To Nominate a Book (Deadline: April 15, 2017)

1. Send a letter of nomination and one copy of the book to the Awards Coordinator at the MESA Secretariat. The nomination is to be made by April 15; the book needs to arrive by April 24.

Sara L. Palmer, Book Awards Coordinator
2017 Albert Hourani Book Award Competition
Middle East Studies Association
3542 N. Geronimo Avenue
Tucson, AZ 85705

520-333-2577 ext. 103
520-207-3166 (fax)

Please include the full title, author’s full name, publisher, and publication date of the book.

2016 Award Recipients


Nükhet Varlık, Rutgers University - Newark
Plague and Empire in the Early Modern Mediterranean World: The Ottoman Experience, 1347-1600

Published by Cambridge University Press

Nükhet Varlık’s dazzlingly multi-dimensional analysis extends and reframes our understanding of one of the most important phenomena in Middle Eastern and global history: the plague.  Drawing on both humanistic and scientific research, she adds empirically to our knowledge of the plague by tracing its mobile trajectory both temporally and geographically.  While plague scholarship has focused most centrally on the initial outbreak of the Second Pandemic in the mid-fourteenth century, she focuses on the far less studied centuries of cyclical outbreaks that ensued.  Placing the plague within the context of Ottoman history, she analyzes how empire worked with and through the disease and its movements, and how communities experienced it. Drawing on the newest research about epidemiology, environmental factors, and imperial interactions, based on a wealth of Ottoman archival and manuscript materials, this book will be influential in Middle East Studies and beyond.

Honorable Mention

Seema Alavi, University of Delhi
Muslim Cosmopolitanism in the Age of Empire
Published by Harvard University Press

Seema Alavi’s rich and engrossing study of Muslim cosmopolitanism reconstructs what she calls “a pan-Islamic global cultural sphere.”  Tracing the peripatetic careers of five Indian Muslim scholars in the wake of the 1857 rebellion, she shows how their geographical trajectories and political and religious networks were unexpectedly shaped and promoted by intersecting imperial structures.  Challenging binaries such as traditional versus modern, nationalist versus pan-Islamist, and religious versus secular, she reconstructs a global community and world view rarely recognized in the existing literature.  Using a wide range of archival and published primary source materials in close to half a dozen languages, this engagingly written book recasts the end of the nineteenth century and brings Middle East Studies into wider conversations about empire and global history.

Awardees 1991-2016



2. Send one copy of the book to each of the five readers on the Book Award Committee. Books must reach the readers by April 24, 2017 (extended).

Kenneth M. Cuno, Chair
History Department
University of Illinois
309 Gregory Hall, 810 S Wright Street
Urbana IL 61801

Samer M. Ali
Department of Near Eastern Studies
University of Michigan, STB Suite 4111
202 S. Thayer St.
Ann Arbor MI 48104

Anna Bigelow
Department of Philosophy & Religious Studies, CB 8103
North Carolina State University
Raleigh NC 27695

Jason Brownlee
5836 Gorham Glen Ln
Austin TX 78739

Deborah Wheeler
552 Shadowbrook Ct  
Davidsonville MD 21035


Award Recipients—1991-2016

2016 Winner Nükhet Varlık, Rutgers University - Newark
Plague and Empire in the Early Modern Mediterranean World: The Ottoman Experience, 1347-1600
Published by Cambridge University Press
2016 Honorable Mention Seema Alavi, University of Delhi
Muslim Cosmopolitanism in the Age of Empire
Published by Harvard University Press
2015 Winner Kenneth M. Cuno, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Modernizing Marriage: Family, Ideology and Law in Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Century Egypt
(Syracuse University Press, 2015)
2014 Winner Brian Catlos, University of Colorado at Boulder/UC Santa Cruz 
Muslims of Medieval Latin Christendom, c. 1050-1614
(Cambridge University Press, 2014)
2013 Co-Winners Taner Akçam, Clark University
The Young Turks' Crime Against Humanity: The Armenian Genocide and Ethnic Cleansing in the Ottoman Empire
(Princeton University Press, 2012)

Patricia Crone
, School of Historical Studies
Nativist Prophets of Early Islamic Iran: Rural Revolt and Local Zoroastrianism (Cambridge University Press, 2012)
2012 Winner Sam White, Oberlin College
The Climate of Rebellion in the Early Modern Ottoman Empire
(Cambridge University Press)
2011 Co-Winners Rochelle Davis, Georgetown University
Palestinian Village Histories: Geographies of the Displaced (Stanford University Press, 2010)

Nile Green
, University of California, Los Angeles Bombay Islam: The Religious Economy of the West Indian Ocean 1840-1915 (Cambridge University Press, 2011)
2010 Winner Benjamin Claude Brower
A Desert Named Peace: The Violence of France's Empire in the Algerian Sahara, 1844-1902 (Columbia University Press)
2009 Winner Sophia Vasalou
Moral Agents and Their Deserts: The Character of Mu'tazilite Ethics
(Princeton University Press)
2008 Winners

Marc David Baer

Honored by the Glory of Islam: Conversion and Conquest in Ottoman Europe (Oxford University Press)

Ussama Makdisi

Artillery of Heaven: American Missionaries and the Failed Conversion of the Middle East (Cornell University Press)

2007 Winners

Leor Halevi

Muhammad's Grave: Death Rites and the Making of Islamic Society (Columbia University Press)

Jessica Winegar

Creative Reckonings: The Politics of Art and Culture in Contemporary Egypt (Stanford University Press)

2006 Winner

Rudi Matthee

The Pursuit of Pleasure: Drugs and Stimulants in Iranian History, 1500-1900 (Princeton University Press)

2005 Winner

Robert R. Bianchi

Guests of God: Pilgrimage and Politics in the Islamic World (Oxford University Press)

  Honorable Mentions

Saba Mahmood

Politics of Piety (Princeton University Press)

Gulru Necipoglu

The Age of Sinan: Architectural Culture in the Ottoman Empire (Princeton University Press)

2004 Winner

Leslie Peirce, University of California, Berkeley

Morality Tales: Law and Gender in the Ottoman Court of Aintab (University of California Press)

  Honorable Mentions

Rashi Khalidi, Columbia University

Resurrecting Empire: Western Footprints and America's Perilous Path in the Middle East (Beacon Press)

Maya Rosenfeld

Confronting the Occupation: Work, Education, & Political Activism of Palestinian Families in a Refugee Camp (Stanford University Press)

2003 Winner

Jonathan P. Berkey, Davidson College

The Formation of Islam: Religion and Society in the Near East, 600-1800 (Cambridge University Press)

  Honorable Mentions

Farha Ghannam, Swarthmore College

Remaking the Modern: Spade, Relocation, and the Politics of Identity in a Global Cairo

(University of California Press)

Heather J. Sharkey, University of Pennsylvania

Living with Colonialism: Nationalism and Culture in the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan (University of California Press)

2002 Winners

Nadia Abu El-Haj, Columbia University

Facts on the Ground: Archaeological Practice and Territorial Self-Fashioning in Israeli Society

(University of Chicago Press)

Gershon Shafir, University of California, San Diego and Yoav Peled, Tel Aviv University

Being Israeli: The Dynamics of Multiple Citizenship

(Cambridge University Press)

  Honorable Mention

Jonathan M. Bloom, Boston College

Paper Before Print: The History and Impact of Paper in the Islamic World (Yale University Press)

2001 Winner

Michael Cook, Princeton University

Commanding Right and Forbidding Wrong in Islamic Thought (Cambridge University Press)

2000 Winner

Eugene Rogan, St. Antony’s College, Oxford University

Frontiers of the State in the Late Ottoman Empire: Transjordan, 1850–1921 (Cambridge University Press)

  Honorable Mention

Meron Benvenisti

Sacred Landscape: The Buried History of the Holy Land Since 1948 (University of California Press)

Tayeb El-Hibri, University of Massachusetts

Reinterpreting Islamic Historiography: Harun al-Rashid and the Narrative of the Abbasid Caliphate

(Cambridge University Press)

Carole Hillenbrand 

The Crusades (Edinburgh University Press)

1999 Winner

Susan Slyomovics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

The Object of Memory: Arab and Jew Narrate the Palestinian Village (University of Pennsylvania Press)

  Honorable Mention

Mohammed A. Bamyeh, New York University

The Social Origins of Islam (University of Minnesota Press)

1998 Winners

Kiren Aziz Chaudhry, University of California, Berkeley

The Price of Wealth: Economies and Institutions in the Middle East (Cornell University Press)

Marsha Pripstein Posusney, Bryant College

Labor and the State in Egypt:Workers, Unions, and Economic Restructuring (Columbia University Press)

1998 Honorable Mention

Marianna Shreve Simpson, Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore, MD

Sultan Ibrahim Mirza’s Haft Awrang: A Princely Manuscript from Sixteenth Century Iran (Yale University Press)

1997 Winners

Rashid I. Khalidi, University of Chicago

Palestinian Identity: The Construction of Modern National Consciousness (Columbia University Press)

Andrew Shryock, State University of New York, Buffalo

Nationalism and Genealogical Imagination: Oral History and Textual Authority in Tribal Jordan (University of California Press)

1996 Winner

Gülrü Neçipoglü, Harvard University

The Topkapi Scroll—Geometry and Ornament in Islamic Architecture (The Getty Center for the History of Art and the Humanities)

  Honorable Mention

Michael Gilsenan, New York University

Lords of the Lebanese Marches: Violence and Narrative in Arab Society (I.B. Tauris & Co. Ltd. and University of California Press)

1995 Winner

Devin DeWeese, Indiana University

Islamization and Native Religion in the Golden Horde: Baba Tukles and Conversion to Islam in Historical and Epic Tradition (Penn State Press)

  Honorable Mention

Julia Clancy-Smith, University of Arizona

Rebel and Saint: Muslim Notables, Populist Protest, Colonial Encounters (Algeria and Tunisia, 1800–1904)

(University of California Press)

Tarif Khalidi, American University of Beirut

Arabic Historical Thought in the Classical Period

(Cambridge University Press)

1994 Winners

Richard M. Eaton, University of Arizona

The Rise of Islam and the Bengal Frontier, 1204–1760

(University of California Press)

Chibli Mallat, University of London

The Renewal of Islamic Law (Cambridge University Press)

1993 Winner

Brinkley Messick, University of Michigan

The Calligraphic State: Textual Domination and History in a Muslim Society (University of California Press)

  Honorable Mentions

Kenneth Cuno, University of Illinois

The Pasha’s Peasants: Land, Society, and Economy in Lower Egypt, 1740–1858 (Cambridge University Press)

R.D. McChesney, New York University

Waqf in Central Asia: Four Hundred Years in the History of a Muslim Shrine (Princeton University Press)

Sabra J. Webber, Ohio State University

Romancing the Real: Folklore and Ethnographic Representation in North Africa

(University of Pennsylvania Press)

1991 Winner

Abraham Marcus, University of Texas at Austin

The Middle East on the Eve of Modernity: Aleppo in the Eighteenth Century (Columbia University Press)

  Honorable Mention

Steven Caton, University of California, Santa Cruz

“Peaks of Yemen I Summon”: Poetry as Cultural Practice in a North Yemeni Tribe (University of California Press)

Albert Hourani Biography (1915-1993)

Albert Hourani, in whose name MESA’s Book Award is given, was born in Manchester, England, on 31 March 1915, the son of Fadlo and Sumaya Hourani, immigrants from Marjayun in what is now South Lebanon. He attended Magdalen College, Oxford in 1933, where he read philosophy, politics and economics. He graduated in 1936 and went to the Middle East where he taught politics for two years at the American University of Beirut. With the outbreak of World War II, he joined the Royal Institute of International Affairs where he worked with and came under the influence of Arnold Toynbee and Hamilton Gibb. He served as an analyst at the Office of the British Minister of State resident in Cairo from 1943-1945, and worked as principal researcher and writer at the Arab Office, where he helped with the presentation of the Arab case to the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry which visited Palestine in 1946. After that, he devoted the rest of his life to an academic career. In 1948, he was offered a fellowship at Magdalen College and, three years later, he took up the post of first University lecturer in the modern history of the Near East and later became director of St. Antony’s College Middle East Centre. He was a frequent visitor to universities in the United States and the Middle East, and he received recognition and numerous awards.

Albert Hourani’s influence as a scholar and a teacher continues to be felt throughout our field. In 1946 he published Syria and Lebanon and in 1947 Minorities in the Arab World. In 1962, he published his classic, Arabic Thought in the Liberal Age 1789-1939, which went through two editions and numerous reprints. In 1991, he capped his remarkable career with the publication of The History of the Arab Peoples, which was instantly recognized for its remarkably rich portrayal of the history and culture of the Arab Peoples. Between 1946 and 1993, he published eight books and edited seven others; he also published over 150 articles and over 100 book reviews. Among his articles, “Ottoman Reform and the Politics of the Notables,” originally published in 1968 and reprinted in 1981, has provided a concept—that of the politics of the “notables”—which has inspired generations of historians to study the society and politics of the modern Middle East from within.

Much of Albert Hourani's work reflected his deep appreciation for the intellectual traditions of the Middle East and the West. He was a remarkably enlightened interpreter of the historical processes which inform social life of different civilizations, and had a keen understanding of the ways in which ideas are exchanged and filtered through different cultural prisms and historical experiences.His genius was an integral part of the personal and professional ethic that informed all his work and relationships.More than any other single individual, he established modern Middle East studies on a solid academic basis.

Albert Hourani died in Oxford on 17th January 1993. He lives with us through his scholarly work, through the institutions he helped create, through his students, but above all, through the standards of personal and professional conduct associated with his name. It is, therefore, with tremendous pride and joy that we established an award in Albert Hourani’s name. In doing so we recognize that his name and legacy will continue to expand the frontiers of Middle Eastern studies, that he will continue to enrich the intellectual and historical traditions of the worlds and peoples he loved, and that he will continue to guide and inspire the work of future generations of scholars. They could receive no greater honor, or challenge.

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