Dr Fozia Bora

Dr Fozia Bora


My research and teaching are focused broadly on the history and historiography of early and medieval Islam, specifically Arabic historical texts of the Fatimid, Ayyubid and Mamluk eras in the 6th-9th Islamic centuries (12th-15th centuries CE).

I took my undergraduate and postgraduate degrees at the University of Oxford, where I began my academic journey by studying for a BA in English, after which I spent two years working as a journalist in London. On reading Amitav Gosh's fascinating and suggestive novel In An Antique Land, I was inspired to explore the pre-modern Islamicate world in earnest, and  returned to university for an MPhil in Classical and Medieval Islamic history. This led to a specialisation in Mamluk historiography and, after an extended maternity leave, to my DPhil, for which I made a diplomatic edition of Ibn al-Furat's account of late Fatimid rule from the unique autograph manuscript of his nine-volume history of the Islamic world, and produced an historiographical analysis of this corpus of texts (some otherwise lost) dating from the 6th/12th century of Islamic history.

My recent research has revisited Ibn al-Furat's inventory of historiographical sources within a ‘chronicle as archive’ framework, in which I present archivality as the epistemic key to Mamluk historical writing, one which holds deep explanatory power alongside the well-trodden ground of encyclopaedism. I am currently following this up with a study of the epistemological and archival value of the Arabic mukhtaṣar or digest, both across genres and in history-writing in particular.

I was the Convenor of the 2018-19 Sadler Seminar series Creating/Curating the Decolonial Classroom.

I received my doctorate in late 2010, taught Islamic history at the Markfield Institute of Higher Education from February 2010, took up a Research Fellowship at the Cambridge Muslim College in 2011/2012 and came to Leeds in September 2012, where I am based in the School of Languages, Cultures and Societies (LCS). (Note: please direct MAR/PhD inquiries to me at LCS and not at the Institute for Medieval Studies at Leeds, with which I also have an association.)

For the past few years, I have been Islam consultant for the Oxford English Dictionary (third edition) and for Oxford Dictionaries Online. I am a contributor to the Encyclopaedia of Islam 3 and serve as a Council Member of the British Association of Islamic Studies.


‘Archives and Archival Sensibilities in Medieval Arabic Historiography’ Essay for Maydān (a peer-reviewed online publication of George Mason University), 3 December 2019

'Did Salah al-Din Destroy the Fatimids' Books? An Historiographical Enquiry',  Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society 25:1 (2015), pp. 21-39. This article was generously awarded the Royal Asiatic Society's Staunton Prize

'A Mamluk Historian's Holograph. Messages from a Musawwada of Tar?kh', Journal of Islamic Manuscripts, Volume 3, Number 2, 2012 , pp. 119-153

Article for The Conversation (July 2015; reprinted in Newsweek Europe, Express Tribune Karachi and CNN.com): 'Discovery of ‘oldest’ Qur'an fragments could resolve enigmatic history of holy text'

Recent Conference/Seminar Papers

'Archives and archival sensibilities in medieval Arabic historiography', All Souls College, Oxford, October 2019

'Mukhtasar in the long view: abridgement as archival practice', Leeds International Medieval Congress, July 2018

‘Middle Period Arabic chronicles as archives of knowledge: theoretical and practical considerations’, workshop on Chronicles as Archives in Medieval Islamicate Contexts, Leeds Humanities Research Institute, December 2016

'Did Salah al-Din destroy the Fatimids' books?', RAS Fresh Perspectives lecture at the Royal Asiatic Society, London, September 2015

'Documenting the production of knowledge: rethinking Arabic chronicles as archives', IMPAcT research group colloquium, Oriental Institute, University of Oxford, July 2015

‘Salah al-Din and the Libraries of Fatimid Egypt', Medieval Studies Seminars, School of History, May 2014 and International Medieval Congress, July 2014, University of Leeds

‘Natural Selection: Fatimid Voices in Mamluk Chronicles – the Account of the Death of al-Hakim in al-Quda‘i’s ‘Uyun al-Ma’arif’, Colloquium on the History of Egypt and Syria in the Fatimid, Ayubid and Mamluk Eras 21, University of Ghent, Belgium, May 2012

‘A History of Arabic Historiography’, Cambridge Muslim College, January 2012

‘Madrasas in the Medieval Near East: Religious Scholarship and Political Subversion’, School of Divinity, University of Cambridge, December 2011

‘Historiography in Mamluk Egypt: the Interplay Between Normative and Subversive Impulses’, Arabic Pasts: Histories and Historiography conference, Agha Khan University/School of African and Asian Studies, London, September 2010  

Community Engagement

For the past four years I have hosted or given talks on Islamic/Middle Eastern history at the Ilkley Literature Festival. I also advise several West Yorkshire schools and local authorities on the teaching of Islamic History at school level. I have spoken about my research at mosques and on Muslim community platforms.


My article for The Conversation July 2015 on the discovery of early Qur'an fragments in Birmingham University Library was reprinted in Newsweek Europe, the Express Tribune in Karachi and CNN.com: 'Discovery of ‘oldest’ Qur'an fragments could resolve enigmatic history of holy text'.

I have contributed to BBC Timewatch: Crusades, and to BBC Radio.


  • Deputy Head of LCS
<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="https://ahc.leeds.ac.uk/dir/research-projects">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>

Professional memberships

  • British Association of Islamic Studies (BRAIS)
  • British Association for Middle Eastern Studies (BRISMES)
  • Middle East Medievalists

Student education

Research Supervision

Sally Stephens (MAR): The Zajal and the lost performance history of al-Andalus: Metric crossover, assimilation, and exchange [completed 2016, passed with Distinction]

Farasat Latif (PhD): A comparison of four medieval Muslim historians' narratives of Saqifa [completed 2020]

Atta Muhammad (PhD): The public sphere of the later Abbasid caliphate (1000-1258): the role of Sufism (fully funded by a Punjab Higher Education Commission PhD Scholarship) [completed 2020]

Ivana Cosmano (PhD): Gender roles, attitudes, life expectations and aspirations of young, educated Jordanians: an intersectional study (fully funded by the LCS School Award for Excellence)

Sanah Mehnaz (PhD): Concepts of ‘honour’ in Islam and Muslim communities: perceptions, praxis and new modalities (fully funded by a White Rose College of the Arts and Humanities doctoral award)

Ali Alrashidi: Historical representations of the “Shī'ī Century” in the Islamic West: Fātimid discourses of legitimacy during the Maghribi phase (AH 297-360/909-969 CE) 

Husain Alajmi: Bypassing Sectarianism in Islamic Spain – A critical discussion of Ibn ʿAbd Rabbih’s (AH 246–328 / 860–940 CE) and Ibn ʿAbd al-Barr’s (AH 368–463/ 
978–1071 CE) historiographic treatment of the Prophet’s family: intellectual independence in an Andalusian pattern

Iram Boston: The Deficient Mind?: Debating Rationality, Inferiority and the Religious Authority of Women within the Islamic Tradition (fully funded by a White Rose College of the Arts and Humanities doctoral award)

Jawad Shah: Medieval Muslim Women as Educational Exemplars: Historiographical Evidence and Future Impact (fully funded by the LCS School Award for Excellence)

Research groups and institutes

  • Arabic
  • History
  • Gender
  • Iqbal Centre

Current postgraduate researchers

<h4>Postgraduate research opportunities</h4> <p>We welcome enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study. Our <a href="https://phd.leeds.ac.uk">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>