I was educated in the University of London, primarily but not entirely at the School of Oriental and African Studies, where my B.A. degree was in History with special reference to the Near and Middle East; my Ph.D. in the History of Islam. I also did part of my graduate work in the University of Paris, and spent some months touring the Middle East. I received my first teaching appointment in 1938, as an assistant lecturer (the lowest form of human life in British universities) in Islamic History at the School of Oriental and African Studies. In 1949 I was appointed to the newly-created Chair of the History of the Near and Middle East in the University of London. With the exception of the years 1940 to 1945, when I was otherwise engaged, I remained a University teacher—at the University of London until 1974, at Princeton from 1974 unit my retirement in 1986.
Like most university teachers, I have had a somewhat narrow field in which I conducted my own research, a rather wider one in which I was willing to assist others undertake research, and a still wider one in which I was willing to risk undergraduate teaching. My earliest interest was in medieval Islamic history, especially that of religious movements such as the Ismailis and Assassins. The war years awakened and nourished an interest in the contemporary Middle East, which I have retained ever since. During the last twenty years or so I have become more and more concerned with the rise and spread of various extremist versions of militant Islam. My first publication on the subject was an article on “The Return of Islam,” published in Commentary magazine in January 1976. This was years before the Iranian Revolution. I have since given many lectures and published many articles as well as several books of various aspects of this topic.
In addition to my historical studies, I have published translations of classical Arabic, Turkish, Persian and Hebrew poetry. With the events of recent years creating an unprecedented demand in the West for knowledge of the Islamic East, I have found myself busier than any time that I can remember since the summer of 1945.
Islam: The Religion and the People, co-authored with Buntzie Ellis Churchill, Upper Saddle River, 2009
Political Words and Ideas in Islam, Princeton 2008
The Assassins, Folio Society edition, London, 2005
From Babel to Dragomans: Interpreting the Middle East, New York, 2004
The Crisis of Islam: Holy War and Unholy Terror, New York, 2003
What Went Wrong? Western Impact and Middle Eastern Response, New York, 2002
The Emergence of Modern Turkey, 3rd edition, New York, 2001
Land of Enchanters: Egyptian Short Stories from the Earliest Times to the Present Day, revised edition, with Stanley Burstein, Princeton, 2001
Music of a Distant Drum: Classical Arabic, Persian, Turkish & Hebrew Poems, Princeton, 2001
A Middle East Mosaic: Fragments of Life, Letters and History, New York, 2000
The Multiple Identities of the Middle East, London, 1998
The Middle East: A Brief History of the Last 2,000 Years, New York, 1995
Cultures in Conflict, New York, 1994
The Shaping of the Modern Middle East, New York, 1994
The Arabs in History, 6th edition, New York, 1993
Islam and the West, New York, 1993
Islam in History, 2nd edition, Chicago, 1993
Race and Slavery in the Middle East: An Historical Enquiry, New York, 1990
The Political Language of Islam, Chicago, 1988
The Muslim Discovery of Europe, New York, 1982
The Origins of Ismailism, reprinted New York, 1975