Nicholas E. Roberts
Assistant Professor of History
B.A., Carleton College; M.A., University of Chicago; Ph.D. New York University
Nicholas Roberts teaches Middle Eastern History at Sewanee. He received his BA in Religion from Carleton College, a MA in Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Chicago, and a Ph.D. in Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies and History from New York University. His scholarly interests include the history of European imperialism in the Middle East, the history of Israel/Palestine, modern Islamic movements, and Arab nationalism in the Middle East. Throughout his undergraduate and graduate work he has been interested in cross-cultural exchange and conflict, and while he teaches about the Middle East his training and interests go beyond any narrow field of area studies.
Roberts' dissertation at NYU, “Rethinking the Status Quo: The British and Islam in Mandate Palestine, 1917-1929,” focused on the establishment of Islamic institutions in the earliest years of British rule in Palestine. Using archival material from Israeli and British archives, he re-examined the controversial appointment of Hajj Amin al-Husayni to the muftiship of Jerusalem and the creation of the Supreme Muslim Council in an effort to understand how Islam fit into the British colonial project. Arguing against the idea that the British simply gave in to Muslim demands, he presents the creation of a centralized Muslim institution as fitting in with British ideas about communal organization. He is currently working on transforming this work into a monograph about colonial policies towards Islam in mandatory Palestine.
In 2007, he published ,"Palestine on Display: The Palestine Pavilion at the British Empire Exhibition of 1924," Arab Studies Journal, Vol. XV, No. 1 (Spring 2007): 70-89. In that work, he explored the reasons why Arab business and cultural enterprises were not represented in the Palestine exhibit, concluding that Arab non-participation was a consequence of the breakdown in relations between the Arab community and the Palestine government and the organizing committee's view that European businesses were the only agents of "modern development." He is currently in the process of submitting an article on British urban planning and preservation in Jerusalem, which looks at how British policies worked to divide the city into an Old City and a new city and considers the consequences of this demarcation for the Jewish and Arab populations of the city. Both articles fit with his overall interest in how Palestinian Arab and Jewish identities were constructed in relation to British rule and not simply in conflict with each other. Roberts recently published "Re-Remembering the Mandate: Historiographical Debates and Revisionist History in the Study of British Palestine." History Compass 9/3 (2011): 215–230.
At Sewanee, he offers the following courses on the Middle East: Middle East History I (until 1800), Middle East History II (post-1800), The Arab-Israeli Conflict, Modern Iraq and the US-Iraq Conflict, and Political Islam. In future semesters, he plans to teach classes on the history of Jerusalem, on Islam, and on Western imperialism in the Middle East. Professor Roberts also has a background in teaching European and World History, interests that he combines in his History 100 class: Into the Heart of Darkness: Colonialism and the Colonized in the Age of Imperialism.
Areas of Expertise
- Middle Eastern History
- Islamic History
- History of Imperialism