A selection of electronic resources for Islamic, Middle East and South Asia studies

AMIR (Access to Mideast and Islamic Resources) “began as a consequence of a series of conversations in 2010 between Charles Jones and Peter Magierski at New York University about the need for a tool to assemble and distribute information on open access material relating to the Middle East.” As of March 2020, it includes over 1,300 posts describing Open Access resources relevant for Islamic and Middle East studies.

Arabic Collections Online (ACO) “is a publicly available digital library of public domain Arabic language content. ACO currently provides digital access to 12,810 volumes across 7,469 subjects drawn from rich Arabic collections of distinguished research libraries.”

Bibliothèques d’Orient is a collaborative digital library (15 partners) making accessible more than 10,000 historical and scholarly documents.

Hathi Trust “is a not-for-profit collaborative of academic and research libraries preserving 17+ million digitized items. HathiTrust offers reading access to the fullest extent allowable by U.S. copyright law, computational access to the entire corpus for scholarly research, and other emerging services based on the combined collection.”

Internet Archives is a not-for-profit digital library of Internet sites, books and texts, audio recordings, videos and images, and software programs. It provide free access to billions of resources.

The Library of Congress digitized a large part of their collections making them available for free on their website that includes archival and historical materials, manuscripts and rare books, music, videos and much more.

King George III’s Collection of military Maps

King George III’s collection of military maps includes 3,000 maps, drawings and prints, collected by him but also by other individuals. The two main collections he acquired are that of his uncle, William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland (1721–65), and that of the Italian art patron Cassiano dal Pozzo (1588–1657). In addition to these, George III acquired hundreds of maps of contemporary conflicts.

The Royal Collection Trust whose mandate is to look after the British Royal Collection, recently digitized this military maps and created a digital collection. Although focusing primarily on European conflicts, the collection includes a significant number of maps of the Ottoman Empire, North Africa and South Asia. The main navigation map (below) allows visitors to navigate the collection by geographical area.

But the collection is also discoverable by time period or conflict:

Collections of particular interest to Islamic, Middle East, and South Asian studies scholars are the following:

The materials can be opened directly in the web browser or in the detailed object viewer shared. They can also be shared (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, email) and downloaded in very high definition.

Tripoli [Libya] Città di Barbaria, cosi detta … [there follows a description of its geographical position and summary of its history:]… è fatta una fortezza per guardia del porto qual fortezza del anno 1630… Nouamente il Duca… 1630 or later

New Ebook in Honour of Dr. Donald P. Little now available

Professor Emeritus Donald P. Little (1932-2017) spent his career at McGill University’s Institute of Islamic Studies as Professor of Islamic History and Arabic Language. During these years, he not only published and taught, but also advised and guided numerous students in their research. In honour of his influence, Sami Massoud (editor) along with nine other scholars combined their efforts to produce a work in Islamic Historiography, divided into three sections.

The first, Classical Historiography, deals with … “the production of historical works in Arabic that narrate events that took place in the past, from the hands of recognized authors belonging to identifiable traditions of writing who lived in the Arab heartland of the medieval Islamic world.” The second section, Sacred History, features three essays that deal … “with histories that differ in style and purpose from those that fall within the realm of classical historiography.” This category addresses the voices of distinct sectarian and group identities of people who were either on the fringes of the Muslim heartland or minorities in their Islamic milieus. The final section, Perspectives, “offers two essays with fresh approaches to historiography” ranging from an examination of documentary sources to methodological approaches to the field.

These works reflect the intellectual presence of the man they seek to honour. A Professor, who not only shaped my understanding of Islamic History, but who also, rose to be a friend.

Review by Charles Fletcher, PhD


Sami Massoud, Editor. Studies in Islamic Historiography: Essays in Honour of Professor Donald P. Little. Leiden ; Boston : Brill, 2020. 278 pages. https://mcgill.on.worldcat.org/oclc/1122685937


Ibadi Studies: ibadi history & manuscript culture / دراسات إباضية

Ibadi Studies is a research blog launched in 2013 and maintained by Dr. Paul Love, a Historian teaching North African, Middle Eastern, and Islamic History at Al Akhawayn University in Ifrane (AUI), Morocco. Interested in  the Ibadi communities as well as in manuscript studies, libraries, and intellectual history, Dr. Love is the author of a monograph entitled Ibadi Muslims of North Africa (Cambridge University Press, 2018). According to his profile on the blog, he is currently working on a new publication on the history of the Ibadi community in the post-formative period in Cairo.

Although focused exclusively on one scholar’s research, Ibadi Studies remains an interesting resource for anyone interested in the topic. The main thread displays numerous call for papers, conferences and workshops announcements, and articles about manuscripts or lithographs housed all over the world (including the McGill Library, see image below).

The Library Catalogs & Inventories section dedicated to listing existing catalogues of Ibadi manuscripts and rare books, thus far includes lists for libraries in Djerba (Tunisia), Lviv (Ukraine), and Naples (Italy).

The blog is in English, but some posts have abstracts in Arabic.

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For those of you curious about the McGill Library Ibadi holdings, here’s a detailed list with links to full bibliographic records:

Lekh: an online review of books on South Asia

Launched in 2017, Lekh is a blog publishing reviews of books focusing on contemporary South Asia co-edited by Karthik Nachiappan (PhD in South Asian Studies, King’s College London) and Hassan Javid (PhD in Sociology, London School of Economics & Political Science).

Editors felt the need for such a platform because of the “intellectual insularity” resulting from the dispersion of the scholarship on South Asia “across several fields and disciplines – history, law, political science, international relations, public policy, sociology, anthropology, and economics.” Lekh aimed at becoming a place where scholars and litterateurs working in the field of South Asian Studies could share  scholarship and exchange with peers.

Unfortunately, Lekh published very few book reviews in two years, never started the announced podcast, and seems to be struggling to generate interest and engagement from other scholars. That said, published book reviews are lengthy, well written and documented by recognized South Asian Studies scholars. For this reason, this blog remains an valuable initiative deserving South Asian Studies’ specialists’ attention.

If you are interested in submitting book reviews, you can refer to the guidelines, and if you would like to be advised of Lekh‘s developments, you can follow them on twitter , subscribe to their RSS feed, or register to receive email notifications.

 

Jadaliyya

Jadaliyya is an independent electronic magazine published by the Arab Studies Institute, a not-for-profit organization based in Beirut that produces knowledge on the Arab World .

English Interface

Far from the main-stream media and common perspectives, Jadaliyya offers original insight and critical analysis rooted in local knowledge, scholarship, and advocacy. Jadaliyya is supported by a dedicated team of volunteer contributors among whom a number of well-known academics, journalists, and intellectuals like Sinan Antoon and Bassam Haddad. With a bilingual interface (EnglishArabic), and articles in Arabic, French, English, and Turkish, Jadaliyya aims to reach out to a broad audience located in Europe, North America, and the Middle East.

Arabic interface

Jadaliyya contents can be browsed from the main page by country (Egypt, Palestine, Arabian Peninsula, Syria, Turkey, Maghreb) or by category (Refugees and Migrants, Cities, Culture, Law and Conflict, Political Economy, Pedagogy, Reviews, NEWTON, Reports, Media).

Articles can also be searched using the search window next to the categories (top menu), or discovered via the Jad Navigation page featuring “Recent stories”, “Jadaliyya recommends”, and “Arab Uprisings selections”.

“Pages” menu

The Pages menu at the top left corner of pages offers a wealth of information about the journal and its contributors. For questions or further information, you may visit the Contact Us page.

A quick guide to transliterating Arabic, Persian or Urdu on your computer

Scholars in the West relying on sources in languages written in Arabic script (such as Arabic, Persian, Ottoman Turkish or Urdu) often need -if only to search the library catalogues- to be able to write the Arabic script in a transliterated or romanized form. This post offers a quick guide to transliterating or romanizing languages written in Arabic script. Transliteration and romanization are used interchangeably to designate the action of writing the Arabic characters in Latin characters.

1. Transliteration systems

Transliteration and romanization system are based on adding diacritic marks to Latin characters to render letters and sounds that don’t exist in English. Numerous transliteration standards are available (ALA-LC, ISO, IJMES for example) which might be confusing, but the most important is to be consistent once you have chosen a system. It is important to note as well that each language -even if written in Arabic script- will have a proper transliteration system. Most North American libraries use the ALA-LC (Library of Congress) romanization tables whereas a number of European libraries use the ISO 233 transliteration standard. Knowing the differences between ALA-LC and ISO 233 will help search library catalogues much more efficiently. Last, some journals or publishers have their own transliteration system which they require authors to use: knowing which standard is used in a specific publication will often make using it much easier.

2. Diacritic marks

The main challenge with romanization is the consistent encoding of letters with diacritic marks. Using a persistent encoding standard will ensure the marked letters display properly regardless of the document format, type of device, or exploitation system you are working on. Inconsistent encoding will result in alterations of the text where letters turn into different signs, often illegible.

3. Encoding standard

The computing standard for consistent encoding of non-Latin scripts is the UNICODE TRANSFORMATION FORMAT (UTF). Developed in the early 1990s by a not-for-profit consortium made of large computing companies (Adobe, Apple, Google, IBM, Microsoft, Oracle) and governmental agencies, UNICODE is regularly amended to include more characters. At present, it allows to write 150 different scripts among which Arabic, Persian, Ottoman Turkish, Urdu and  their romanized forms. Different UTF standards are available, but the most commonly used are UTF-8 (in particular for HTML web documents) and UTF-16 (especially for text documents in both Windows and mac OS environments).

4. Typefaces (fonts)

In order to encode letters in UTF, you need to use one of the rare typefaces that support UNICODE characters such as Arial Unicode MS on PCs, and either Times New Roman, Helvetica or Lucida Grande on mac. If not among the default typefaces available on your computer, these fonts can easily be downloaded for free from the internet.

5. Transliterated letters input

Once you have a typeface compatible with UNICODE, you need a tool allowing the input of characters and diacritic marks. Because regular keyboards layout cannot accommodate key combinations for all characters with diacritics, alternative methods were developed by operating systems: the Microsoft Windows Character Map and the Extended Accent Codes for Mac will give you access to the entire repertoire of UNICODE characters.

6. Additional information

The Arabic Macintosh website is a very valuable resource for mac users interested in transliterating the Arabic script. The Digital Orientalist dedicated a lengthy post to keyboard layouts in both mac OS and Windows environments.

Pierre de Gigord collection of photographs of the Ottoman Empire and the Republic of Turkey, 1853-1930

French businessman Pierre de Gigord compiled an important collection of Ottoman-Era photographs in the eighties while traveling in Turkey. This collection of more than 6,000 photographs taken by over 165 photographers documents the late years of the Ottoman Empire and the establishment of the Republic of Turkey. The bulk of the collection is urban sites in Constantinople (Istanbul), the Balkans, Bursa and Smyrna (Izmir) as well as sites in Greece, Egypt, Palestine, India and China. In addition to photographs, the collection includes a few pamphlets and offprints about photography in the Ottoman Empire and a small collection of photographic ephemera. Pierre de Gigord collection of photographs now housed in the Getty Research Institute was recently digitized and made openly available to the public. The digitization project prioritized images from the late nineteenth and early twentieth century (up to World War I).
A detailed finding aid available on the Getty Library website gives access to a descriptive summary, biographical and historical notes, a lengthy description of the scope and content of the collection as well as to a container list.

Individual descriptive records (see below) are very detailed showing at first sight if the material is accessible online and allowing to link directly to the digital images. They can be printed, saved, shared and cited directly from the database (export to RIS format, Bibtex, Endnote, Easybib, and Refworks).

Albums can be browsed and images viewed in a custom-made reader displaying one page/one image in the middle column, a clickable list of pages/images on the left-hand side, and a summary of the descriptive record on the right-hand side. Images can be downloaded, printed, enlarged up to actual size and turned left or right.

As in any digital collection use restrictions apply. If the website states that “digital images and files saved from this website should be suitable for most purposes”, more information is available on the Library Reproductions & Permissions page.

Historical Maps of the Middle East in Open Access

Today we are highliting three online resources making freely accessible historical maps of the Middle East: Palestine Open Maps, the Perry-Castañeda Library Map collection, and The Afternoon Map.

Palestine Open Maps is a platform making available and searchable historical maps from the British Mandate of Palestine period (1920-1948). Materials come from a number of institutions like the National Library of Israel, the National Library of Australia, the David Rumsey Map Collection. The platform includes a large collection of 1940s survey maps in the public domain “covering the territory at scales of up to 1:20,000. It also offers great search and overlay capabilities highlighting the human, natural, and urban geography transformations over the past century. Initiated in March 2018 by Vizualing Palestine and Columbia University Studio-X Amman, Palestine Open Maps is now maintained and developed by Vizualizing Palestine in collaboration with individuals. More information about the platform, the map collection or terms of use can be obtained here.

Screenshot of the Palestine Open Maps platform, July 24, 2019.

The Perry-Castañeda Library Map collection at the University of Texas at Austin includes  over 250,000 maps among which a number of historical maps of the Middle East. If only 20% of the overall maps collection has been digitized so far, the effort to make more content available online is continued. Published between 1849 and 1973, The Middle East maps collection cover the Arab World, Turkey and Iran from 500 B.C. to the 1970s. Materials are listed alphabetically by name of locality, and accompanied by a brief description. They can be opened, downloaded or saved in PDF format. More information about the collection or terms of use can be obtained here.

Aleppo [Alep] 1912. From Palestine and Syria… Handbook for Travellers by Karl Baedeker, 5th Edition, 1912.

The Afternoon Map is an Ottoman-Turkish-Middle Eastern-Balkans cartography blog launched and maintained by Dr. Nicholas Danforth, Senior Policy Analyst at Bipartisan Policy Center. The purpose of this academic blog is to publish “original, visually appealing and intellectually engaging maps harvested from archives and libraries around the world.” Maps are systematically introduced and put in historical context, and can easily be downloaded and saved. In addition to historical maps, the blog includes “Home Made Maps” covering a broad range of topics like earthquakes death, folk song, food, borders or trains. Last, The Afternoon Map also posts “Non Maps” (pictural materials like posters or caricatures), and “Articles” on a variety of topics authored by the blog’s owner. For more information about the maps or terms of use, or to contribute to the blog, contact the author.

Screenshot of The Afternoon Map blog, July 25, 2019.