Robert G. Hoyland

Professor of Late Antique and Early Islamic Middle Eastern History

Professor Hoyland read Oriental Studies at Oxford University, where he subsequently wrote a doctoral thesis on non-Muslim accounts of the rise of Islam (Seeing Islam as Others saw it, 1997). The emergence of Islamic civilization has remained a key focus of his research and is the subject of his book (In God’s Path: the Arab Conquests and the Creation of an Islamic Empire, 2014). The desire to better understand this phenomenon has led him down many different avenues of study: pre-Islamic Arabia (Arabia and the Arabs, 2001), epigraphy (“The Content and Context of Early Arabic Inscriptions”, 1997), papyrology (in particular, publishing a number of seventh-century Arabic papyri from Nessana that had languished in obscurity since their discovery in 1935), transmission of knowledge from the late antique Greco-Syriac world ([with Simon Swain et al.] Polemon’s Physiognomy, 2007), and historiography (Theophilus of Edessa’s Chronicle, 2011 and The 'History of the Kings of the Persians', 2018). One avenue, archaeology, has become a passion for him in its own right and he has been involved in excavations in Syria, Yemen, Israel/Palestine and Azerbaijan. Most recently, he has turned to social history, looking at the plight of the unfree in the early Islamic Middle East, those who, though theoretically 'free', were compelled by straitened circumstances to sell themselves or their family or in some other way to subjugate themselves to a wealthy patron or institution.