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Dr Elizabeth Lambourn

Job: Reader in South Asian and Indian Ocean Studies

Faculty: Arts, 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




Personal profile

Elizabeth Lambourn is a historian of South Asia and the Indian Ocean world, specializing in cultural exchanges with the Middle East before 1500.

Research group affiliations

History Research Group

Key research outputs

Abraham's Luggage. A Social Life of Things in the Medieval Indian Ocean World. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Legal Encounters on the Medieval Globe. Kalamazoo ILL: ARC Humanities Press, 2017.

Research interests/expertise

Indian Ocean histories 600-1500, merchant material cultures, the material worlds of the Cairo Geniza "India Book," circulation and exchange of paper and metalwork. I am interested in supervising PhDs relevant to my areas of expertise and research.


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

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

Membership of external committees

Member of the Comité Scientifique, Red Sea Conference IX, "Networked spaces: the spatiality of networks in the Red Sea and Western Indian Ocean," ENS Lyon, 3-5 July 2019.

Member of Advisory Board, Maldives Heritage Survey. PIs Dr. Michael Feener (Oxford Center for Islamic Studies) and P. Daly (Earth Observatory, Nanyang Technical University, Singapore), Arcadia sponsored

Member of Advisory Group, Royal Ontario Museum, The Indian Ocean: Crossroads of Globalization.

Member of International Advisory Board, Medieval Worlds, supported by the Austrian Academy of Sciences

Membership of professional associations and societies

Fellow of the Royal Historical Society

Fellow of the Royal Anthropological Institute

Conference attendance

3 Oct. 2019        Keynote lecture, Cargoes: The materiality of ‘connectivity in motion’ across the Indian Ocean, international Conference, Berlin (co-organised by the Max Planck Institute of Social Anthropology, Halle and University of Bonn).

24 April 2019    Pubic lecture, Abraham’s Luggage, Silsila: Center for Material Histories, New York University, New York.

17 Jan. 2019      Public lecture, Abraham’s Luggage, Program in Medieval Studies, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Illinois.

11 Jan. 2019      Imagining the Oceans, Workshop, St. John’s University, New York (supported by Stanford University).

5-7 Dec. 2018   Keynote lecture: “Abraham's Luggage. Objects and places in the western Indian Ocean world – towards a high-definition “archaeology” of text,” UrbNet Africa 2018 Africa and the Indian Ocean past in high definition, Aarhus University, Denmark.

29-30 Nov. 2018 “Some New Uses of the Genizah Mercantile Letter – On the Materiality of Writing in the Indian Ocean World,” Knowledge Traditions of the Indian Ocean World, convened by Himanshu Prapha Ray, Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies, University of Oxford.

Current research students

Elham Abu Nab; Anisha Meggi

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 (2012-2019)

Member of Editorial Board, The Medieval Globe (since 2012)