I was born and educated in Great Britain where I received a BA at Magdalen College, Oxford in 1959 and a D.Phil at St Antony’s College Oxford in 1965. I then taught Middle East economic history and, from the late 1970s, Middle East politics at Oxford University until I came to Harvard as the first A.J.Meyer Professor of Middle East History in 1993. I plan to retire from Harvard as an Emeritus Professor on 31 December 2012 but will continue to live in Cambridge, MA.

I first visited the Middle East while doing my military service in Cyprus, 1955-6, and spent the year, 1962-3 living in Cairo doing research into Egypt’s 19th century agrarian history and teaching English at the American University of Cairo. Since then I have lived for a year in Lebanon and visited all the other Arab countries for shorter periods, many of them a large number of times. I have written a regular column for the Arabic Newspaper, Al-Hayat, since the late 1980s.