Carlson, Thomas A.

carlsonThomas A. Carlson, Assistant Professor
Ph.D., Princeton

Address 158 Murray (South)
Phone (405) 744-8183

Spring 2018 Office Hours: Monday 3:00-4:30, Thursdays 3:30-5:00

Fields: Middle East History, Christians in 15th-Century Iraq: The Church of the East as a Conceptual Community

Thomas A. Carlson researches the religious and ethnic diversity of medieval Middle Eastern society. The confessionalization of the historical study of the Middle Eastern region, typically framed as “Islamic history,” excludes the Byzantine Empire and the Crusader States from consideration while including successor states who ruled the same terrain and largely the same society. His first book, Christianity in Fifteenth Century Iraq, highlights the cultural continuities, social contacts and conflicts, and strategies of differentiation among Christians, Muslims, and Jews in fifteenth-century Iraq and Jazīra. It challenges the normative Eurocentrism of studies of non-European Christianity, as well as the Islamic exceptionalism which still characterizes much Middle Eastern history. It will appear in the series Cambridge Studies on Islamic Civilization.  His articles have synthesized geographical texts in Arabic, Hebrew, and Persian to sketch the trajectory and multi-faceted character of Islamization in Syria from the initial Islamic expansion to the Ottoman conquest of the region in 1517 and analyzed Armenian sources for the Safaviyya Sufi order before its conquest of Iran in 1501, a period for which reliable Persian and Arabic sources are particularly scarce.  Dr. Carlson also serves as co-editor, with David A. Michelson of Vanderbilt University, of an online geographical reference work for Syriac culture from its earliest period to the present, The Syriac Gazetteer(

His next book project explores the social impact of Middle Eastern ethnic and religious diversity in the Islamic Middle Period (ca. 950-1500). The Turkic influx into the Middle East fostered political, social, and legal experimentation, at precisely the same time as the Byzantine reconquest of eastern Anatolia and northern Syria brought an end to centuries of relatively stable boundaries. Religious diversity, both local variations within Islam and large populations of non-Muslims (Jews, Christians, Yezidis, and Zoroastrians), shaped the dynamics of society and the development of Islam itself into the early modern period.

Courses  Taught

1713 - Survey of Eastern Civilization
3503 - Islamic Civilization 600-1800
3513 - Modern Middle East
3583 - Minorities & Diversity of the Middle East
3980 - New Studies in History
4980 - Topics in History
5000 - Thesis
6000 - Dissertation
6100 - Directed Readings in History