I was born in Winnipeg, Canada, and received my B.S. from Columbia University in 1958; I obtained the M.A. degree in 1959 and the Ph.D. degree in 1965 from Yale University. I taught at Brandeis University and at Cornell University. I came to Princeton in 1968, and was Chairman of the Department of Near Eastern Studies from 1973-77 and again from 1980-1993/94.
I have been on the Board of Governors of the American Research Institute in Turkey since 1969, and am a Trustee of the Northeast Pooled Common Fund. I was Chairman of the Committee on Islamic Studies of the American Oriental Society from 1972 to 1978; I am a member of the Board of Editors of the Journal of Inter-Disciplinary History and of The International Journal of Middle East Studies; co-editor of the journal Studia Islamica; and have served as associate editor of the twelve volume Dictionary of the Middle Ages, prepared under the auspices of the American Council of Learned Societies. Since 1978, I have been a member of the Executive Committee of the Encyclopaedia of Islam. I am a member of the World Executive Committee of the International Center for Peace in the Middle East.
My current research centers on a study of the social and economic life of the 11th century Mediterranean world based on a collection of about 500 Geniza documents relating to the career of a merchant by the name of Nahray ben Nissim. I am finishing a short monograph on rural society in 11th century Egypt as reflected in the Geniza documents. I am also working on projects on intercommunal relations in the medieval Near East, and in the field of Islamic law.
Dissertations I have directed include: Jonathan Berkey (now in the Department of Religion, Mount Holyoke) - "Education and Society: Higher Religious Learning in Late Medieval Cairo" (1989); Olivia Constable (Department of History, Columbia University) - "At the Edge of the West: International Trade and Traders in Muslim Spain (1000-1250)" (1989); Paula Sanders (Department of History, Rice University) - "The Court Ceremonial of the Fatimid Caliphate in Egypt" (1984).
Partnership and Profit in Medieval Islam, Princeton 1970.
Editor, The Middle East: Oil, Conflict and Hope, Lexington, MA 1976.
Editor, The Islamic Middle East, 700-1900: Studies in Economic and Social History, Princeton 1981.
With Lucette Valensi: The Last Arab Jews: the Communities of Jerba, New York 1984.
Editor: The Islamic World from Classical to Modern Times: Essays in Honor of Bernard Lewis, Princeton 1988.