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Dr Fred Anscombe

BA History (Yale), MA and PhD Near Eastern Studies (Princeton)
Reader in Modern History

Contact details

Department of History, Classics and Archaeology
Birkbeck, University of London
Room 321
27 Russell Square

Tel: 020 7631 6272


  • Fred Anscombe came to Birkbeck in 2003, and before that he worked at the American University in Bulgaria.  His primary teaching and research focus is on the history of the Ottoman Empire, the Middle East and the Balkans, but he is also interested in the rise of the modern state and of nationalism, and in the influence of religion on society.

Research and teaching

  • Introduction
  • My research interests lie in the history of the Ottoman empire and post-Ottoman states, ranging from the late seventeenth to twentieth centuries. While I have strong interest in Ottoman imperial history, I have found it helpful to break away from the traditional focus upon the centre, looking instead at Balkan and Arab provincial history to see if and how the sultan's subjects were affected by, and reacted to, politics and policies of the centre.  Partly as a result of my interest in provincial and imperial identities, I have developed an increasing interest in Islam, not only as a religion but as a force in daily life and imperial politics that is too often discounted by scholars today.  In line with this perception of current depictions of the past, I am also interested in Ottoman historiography and its subservience to nation-building and other modern agendas.
  • Research interests
  • State-society relations
  • Religion and society
  • Origins and development of nationalism
  • Teaching
  • I have run regularly the following modules:
  • The Ottoman Empire (undergraduate group 2)
  • Political and Social Change in the Middle East since 1918 (UG group 2)
  • The Arab-Israeli Question (MA)
  • Politics and Islam (MA)
  • After the Ottoman Empire (MA)
  • PhD supervision
  • I am currently supervising dissertations on the following topics:
  • Ottoman-British relations in the age of revolution, 1789-1839
  • The British in the Balkans during the Great War
  • Ottoman influences on Turkish foreign policy of the 1930s


  • Books
  • State, Faith and Nation in Ottoman and Post-Ottoman Lands (Cambridge UP, 2014) This book can be purchased with a 20 percent discount.
  • The Ottoman Balkans, 1750-1830 (Markus Wiener, 2006), editor
  • The Ottoman Gulf: The Creation of Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar (Columbia UP, 1997)
  • Articles and chapters
  • ‘The Balkan revolutionary age’, The Journal of Modern History 84 (2012), 572-606
  • ‘On the road back from Berlin’, in War and Diplomacy: The Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878 and the Treaty of Berlin, ed. M. Hakan Yavuz (University of Utah Press, 2011), 535-60
  • ‘Islam and the age of Ottoman reform’, Past & Present 208 (Aug. 2010), 159-89
  • ‘Continuities in Ottoman centre-periphery relations, 1787-1915’, in The Frontiers of the Ottoman World, ed. A. C. S. Peacock (Oxford UP, 2009), 235-51
  • ‘The Ottoman role in the Gulf, 1550-1914’, in The Persian Gulf in History, ed. Lawrence Potter (Palgrave/Macmillan, 2008), 261-76
  • ‘The politics of Islam’, The Journal of Contemporary History 42 (2007), 555-64
  • ‘The Ottoman empire in modern international politics—I: the case of Kuwait’, The International History Review 28 (2006), 537-59
  • ‘The Ottoman empire in modern international politics—II: the case of Kosovo’, The International History Review 28 (2006), 758-93
  • ‘Albanians and “mountain bandits”’, The Princeton Papers: Interdisciplinary Journal of Near Eastern Studies 13 (2006), 87-114; reprinted in Anscombe (ed.), The Ottoman Balkans, 1750-1830
  • ‘An a-national society: eastern Arabia in the Ottoman period’, in Transnational Connections: The Arab Gulf and Beyond, ed. Madawi al-Rasheed (Routledge, 2004), 21-38