Christian C. Sahner, wearing a pale blue suit, standing against a brick wall

Christian C. Sahner

Margoliouth Fellow in Arabic; Associate Professor of Islamic History
AB, MA, PhD, Princeton; MPhil, Oxford

I became a fellow of New College in 2023, having previously been a fellow of St Cross since 2017. I joined the college in order to spearhead the revival of Arabic, which had been discontinued as a subject for many years despite a long and distinguished history (reflected notably in the career of D.S. Margoliouth, a former student and fellow of the college and among the most famous British orientalists of the twentieth century). I grew up outside New York City in northern New Jersey and completed my undergraduate and graduate education at Princeton (where I studied under Peter Brown, a former student and honorary fellow of New College). In between, I studied at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar. Prior to taking up my position in Oxford, I was a research fellow of St John’s College in Cambridge.



I teach the history of the Middle East and adjacent regions from ca. 600-1500, from the rise of Islam until the fall of the Mamluks. I teach a range of introductory papers on the subject, as well as more specialized options that reflect my own research interests and expertise. Much of my teaching involves close reading of medieval texts in the original language, above all, in Arabic. Most of my undergraduate teaching is for Arabists in the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, though I also occasionally teach students from the Faculty of History. Most of my graduate teaching is for the MPhil in Islamic Studies and History, though I also teach for the MPhil in Late Antique and Byzantine Studies, on whose steering committee I serve. 



I research the history of North Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia during the transition from Late Antiquity to the Middle Ages. I am especially interested in relations between Muslims and non-Muslims (including Christians and Zoroastrians), religious conversion, Islamic sectarianism, and the intertwined histories of the Umayyad, ʿAbbasid, and Byzantine empires. I use sources from a wide array of linguistic backgrounds and strive to combine textual, archaeological, and material evidence in my research. I am currently writing a new book that explores the history of religious change in three mountainous areas between Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, including North Africa, Syria-Lebanon, and the Caspian region of northern Iran. Specifically, it examines the relationship between conversion, imperial power, and geography, highlighting the role of neglected non-Muslim and Muslim “minority” communities living in rugged, highland areas. 


Major publications

Among the Ruins: Syria Past and Present (Hurst – Oxford University Press, 2014)

Christian Martyrs under Islam: Religious Violence and the Making of the Muslim World (Princeton University Press, 2018)

Conversion to Islam in the Pre-Modern Age: A Sourcebook (University of California Press, 2020, co-editor)

The Definitive Zoroastrian Critique of Islam: Chapters 11-12 of the Škand Gumānīg-Wizār by Mardānfarrox son of Ohrmazddād (Liverpool University Press, Translated Texts for Historians, 2023)

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