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Dr Elizabeth Lambourn

Job: Reader in South Asian and Indian Ocean Studies

Faculty: Art, Design and Humanities

School/department: School of Humanities

Research group(s): History

Address: De Montfort University, The Gateway, Leicester, UK, LE1 9BH

T: +44 (0)116 255 1551

E: elambourn@dmu.ac.uk

W: dmu.academia.edu/ElizabethLambourn


Personal profile

I am a historian of Islamic South Asia and the Indian Ocean world, and my research ranges very broadly from the Middle East and East Africa to the China Sea with a core focus on the mobility of people, things and ideas across this area in the medieval and early modern periods. 

Research group affiliations


Publications and outputs 

Click here for a full listing of Elizabeth Lambourn‘s publications and outputs.|

Key research outputs

2011 “Khutba and Muslim Networks in the Indian Ocean (Part II) – Timurid and Ottoman Engagements”. In Kenneth Hall ed., The Growth of Non-Western Cities: Primary and Secondary Urban Networking, C. 900-1900. Lanham MD: Lexington Books: 131-158.

2011 “Review article. A history of the world in 100 objects”, The Journal of Global History, 6.3: 529–33.

2008 “Tombstones, texts and typologies – seeing sources for the early history of Islam in Southeast Asia”. Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient, Vol. 51, 2: 252-86.

2008 “India from Aden – Khutba and Muslim Urban Networks in Late Thirteenth-Century India”. In Kenneth Hall ed., Secondary Cities and Urban Networking in the Indian Ocean Realm, c. 1400-1800. Lexington Books: 55-97.

Research interests/expertise

Mobility of people, things and ideas in the medieval and early modern Indian Ocean; history of Muslim societies and communities; coastal spaces and port cities; West Asian community autonomy and legal extraterritoriality; interfaces between faith and trade networks; mercantile material worlds; ships as lived places; documentary sources including geographical texts and representations, biographical literature, Geniza documents on the India trade; material culture and epigraphy of Islamic cemeteries; stone quarrying, carving, and circulation; cultural heritage and contemporary Muslim and South Asian identities; oceanic/maritime histories; scales of history (world and micro history), history at the intersection of other disciplines (historical anthropology, historical and documentary archaeology, material culture studies).


PhD School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.

MA (Hons.) University of Edinburgh, summa cum laude.

Honours and awards

Leverhulme Major Research Fellowship, West Asia in the Indian Ocean 500-1500 CE, 2011-2013.

Aga Khan Program Postdoctoral Research Fellowship, Harvard University, 2007.

Visiting Scholar, Abbasi Program in Islamic Studies, Stanford University, 2011-present.

Research Associate, Centre of Southeast Asian Studies, SOAS, 1999-present.

Forthcoming events

12-14 Nov. 2012 “The World of a Ship – object biography, text and material culture in the Medieval Indian Ocean, or why the Medieval Indian Ocean is not Prehistory”, The Dimensions of the Indian Ocean World Past. Sources and Opportunities for Interdisciplinary Work in Indian Ocean World History 9th – 19th Century, Murdoch University, McGill University, and The Western Australian Maritime Museum, Fremantle, Australia.

15-16 June 2012 Chair of panel on: “Outsiders Looking in and Insiders Gazing Out”, Conference on Early Modern Merchants as Collectors, The Society for Renaissance Studies, The Ashmolean Museum, and Oxford University, Modern European History Research Centre, Oxford

Conference attendance

The Medieval Globe: Communication, Connectivity, and Exchange, April 2012. Program in Medieval Studies, University of Illinois. “Beyond Beyond Turk and Hindu – Islam, Muslims, Islamicate and the problems of thinking about identities in premodern South Asia”. (Invited conference paper).

Harvard Buddhist Studies Forum, March 2012, Harvard University. “Bumping into Buddhists – Buddhism, Islam, and clues to transitions in Indian Ocean networks (7th – 10th centuries CE)”, (Invited seminar).

Les mondes de l’océan Indien (Ier-XVIIIe siècle), Séminaire Commun du CEMAF et du Laboratoire Islam Médiéval UMR 8167, Paris, 2011. “Cultures matérielles et identités dans l'océan indien médieval: l'inventaire des bagages à main d'Abraham Ben Yiju”. (Invited seminar paper)

Actualité de la recherche en histoire de l'art et archéologie islamiques, Institut national de l'histoire de l'art, Paris (with Dr. E. Brac de la Perrière, Université Paris IV), 2011. “Manuscrits et textiles islamiques en Asie du Sud au XIVè siècle: problèmes d’attribution et de méthodologie” (Seminar).

The History and Cultures of Friendship in Precolonial South Asia, University of Pennsylvania, 2011. “Looking for friends in the “India Book”: gifts, friends, family and partners in a medieval Jewish trade network”, (Invited conference paper).

The Ports of the Indian Ocean, from the Red Sea to the Gulf of Bengal, Kolkata, India, ANR MeDIan, Indian Museum, CAST, ASI, 2011. “India in 1293 AD: new data on ports and networks from newly discovered Yemeni sources”. (Invited conference paper).

Religion and Society in South and Southeast Asia (panel convenor Dr. Michael Laffan, Princeton University), 21st International Congress of Historical Sciences, Amsterdam, 2010. “Life “Outside the Limits of Islam” - Muslims as Autonomous Minorities in the Indian Ocean”, (Conference paper).

Illuminating the Importance of Islands and Maritime Borderlands in Islamic Empires (Indian Ocean) (panel convenor Professor John Curry, UNLV), American Historical Association Conference, San Diego, 2010. “The view from the boat – rethinking the early Arab “conquests” in Sind and Hind from maritime and riverine perspectives”, (British Academy Conference Grant). (Conference paper).

L’Horizon Sharma. Mutations des réseaux commerciaux de l’océan Indien entre la fin du Xe et le milieu du XIIe siècle, APIM Study Day (Atlas of Ports and Itineraries of Islamic Maritime Trade), Université Paris I and CNRS, Paris, 2009. “Describing a lost camel. Clues to West Asian diasporas in South Asian trade, 10th-12th centuries CE”, (Invited workshop paper).

The Secondary City in Global Context II, Ball State University, USA, 2009. “Khutba once more – Ottoman khutba networks and the caliphate in the Indian Ocean”, (Invited conference paper).

South Asia Research Seminar, University of Cambridge, 2008. “India from Aden: new data on the topography of early Muslim settlement in western India”. (Invited seminar)

Consultancy work

Invited advisor, English Heritage – Research Policy, Places of Worship, round-table on Scoping Islamic Studies in Britain, Kellogg College, Oxford, 2010.

Member of Programme Board, Graduate Programme in Islamic Studies and Humanities, Institute of Ismaili Studies, London, 2010 - 2011.

Current research students

2nd supervisor

Hanan al-Faisal, De Montfort University, A Working Model Towards Socio-Cultural Sustainability–Contemporary Residential Architecture and Interiors in Saudi Arabia. (Ph.D., scheduled completion October 2012).

Externally funded research grants information

1) A Persian Church in the Land of Pepper - Routes, Networks and Communities in the Early Medieval Indian Ocean. 1 December 2011-30 September 2013, Principal Investigator, Co-Investigator Dr. R. Tomber The British Museum, and large network of international scholars. £35,974.66 (AHRC contribution) or £44,968.32 (FEC).

This is funded by an AHRC Network Grant; the research network was initiated in recognition of the pressing need for research into the Indian Ocean world before 1500 and the need to do this through multidisciplinary and trans-regional collaborations.  The network gathers over 25 international scholars from Japan via the UK and India through to the USA to work on the first holistic study of the Kollam plates, a unique set of mid-9th century land grants made to an Eastern Christian Church at this south Indian port.  Among the core themes of the network are issues of legal extraterritoriality and legal encounter, cultural translation and inter-faith cooperation through religious patronage.  The first network workshop, to produce a revised edition and English translation of the Tamil grant will take place at The British Museum on 1 and 2 October 2012; the final workshop is scheduled for summer 2013.  The papers from the final workshop will be published alongside the revised Tamil text and English translation of the core document as a multi-author volume on 9th century Indian Ocean communities and networks with myself as the editor and author of the Introduction.

2) West Asia in the Indian Ocean 500-1500 CE., Leverhulme Major Research Fellowship, 1 October 2011 - 30 September 2013. £85,859

Funded by a Leverhulme Major Research Fellowship West Asia in the Indian Ocean 500-1500 CE is a scholarly text which will write a social and cultural history of West Asian diasporas in the Indian Ocean over the critical millennium from the rise of Islam/Arab expansion across Europe and Asia in the early 7th century to the first large scale entry of European powers into the Indian Ocean during the late 15th century.  The research breaks radically with established disciplinary structures by focusing on a West Asian “diasporic family” rather than on single communities or faiths, and rejects tired land-centred perspectives in favour of a maritime centred viewpoint.  These approaches make this an original and ambitious project in terms of its geographical reach, timeframe and the multi-disciplinarity of its approaches and subject matter.  The research contributes towards the much needed “deep history” of the relationship between West Asia and the Indian Ocean, a history which also contributes to our understanding of the extended Indian Ocean diasporas in contemporary Europe and North America.  The manuscript is scheduled for completion in autumn 2013.

Professional esteem indicators

Member of the AHRC Peer Review College (2012-15)

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