Fahad Ahmad Bishara

Assistant Professor, History
Rouhollah Ramazani Assistant Professor of Arabian Peninsula and Gulf Studies

(434) 924-6423
Nau 253
Office Hours: On leave Fall 2019-Spring 2020; by appointment


B.A. University of Southern California, 2004
M.A. University of Exeter, 2006
Ph.D. Duke University, 2012


Fahad Bishara specializes in the economic and legal history of the Indian Ocean and Islamic world. His  book, A Sea of Debt: Law and Economic Life in the Western Indian Ocean, 1780-1950 (Cambridge University Press, 2017) is a legal history of economic life in the Western Indian Ocean, told through the story of the Arab and Indian settlement and commercialization of East Africa during the nineteenth century. It was the recipient of the J. Willard Hurst Prize (awarded by the Law and Society Association), the Jerry Bentley prize (awarded by the World History Association), and the Peter Gonville Stein book award (given by the American Society for Legal History). He is currently working on two projects. The first narrates 500 years of world history from the deck of an Indian Ocean dhow, and takes on issues of global capitalism, international law, empire, mobility, and scale in historical writing. The second explores the Indian Ocean trade in dates and uses it as a platform for examining the dynamics of a transregional bazaar economy in the 19th and early 20th centuries, but also sets that story against the backdrop of a longer connected history of the Gulf and Indian Ocean.



A Sea of Debt: Law and Economic Life in the Western Indian Ocean, 1780-1950. Cambridge University Press, 2017.


"No Country but the Ocean: Reading International Law from the Deck of an Indian Ocean Dhow, c. 1900," Comparative Studies in Society and History, Vol. 60, No. 2 (2018), pp. 338-366

“Ships Passing in the Night? Reflections on the Middle East in the Indian Ocean” International Journal of Middle East Studies, Roundtable on the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean (December 2016) pp. 758-762

“Paper Routes: Inscribing Islamic Law Across the Nineteenth-Century Western Indian Ocean” Law and History Review, Vol. 32, No. 4 (2014), pp. 797-820

“A Sea of Debt: Histories of Commerce and Obligation in the Indian Ocean, c. 1850-1940” Enterprise and Society, Vol. 15, No. 4 (2014), pp. 643-654

Book Chapters

“The Waraqa: The Biography of an Obligation” in World on the Horizon: Swahili Arts Across the Indian Ocean (Forthcoming, 2017)

“Writing Across the Waters in the Gulf and Indian Ocean” in Between East and West: A Gulf, a written accompaniment to Kuwait’s Pavilion at the 15th International Architecture Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia (2016)

With Patricia Risso, “The Gulf, the Indian Ocean and the Arab World” in J.E. Peterson, ed., The Emergence of the Gulf States: Studies in Modern History (London: Bloomsbury, 2016)

With Bernard Haykel, Steffen Hertog, Clive Holes, and James Onley, “The Economic Transformation of the Gulf” in J.E. Peterson, ed., The Emergence of the Gulf States: Studies in Modern History (London: Bloomsbury, 2016)

Riwāyah and Tārīkh: Sources and Scholarship in Arabic Gulf Historiography” in Lawrence G. Potter, ed., The Gulf in Modern Times: People, Ports and History (New York: Palgrave, 2014)

“Mapping the Indian Ocean World of Gulf Merchants, c. 1890-1960” in Abdul Sheriff and Engseng Ho, eds., The Indian Ocean: Oceanic Connections and Creation of New Societies (New York: Hurst, 2014)


Kuwait and the Sea: an Economic and Social History, translation of the original Arabic Al-Nashātāt al-Bahriyya al-Qadīma fī al-Kuwayt, by Yacoub Y. Al-Hijji (London: Arabian Publishing, 2010)

Book Reviews

Review of Matthew S. Hopper, Slaves of One Master: Globalization and Slavery in Arabia in the Age of Empire (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2015), in Itinerario, Vol. 40, No. 1 (2016) pp. 170-172

Review of Elke Stockreiter, Islamic Law, Gender, and Social Change in Post-Abolition Zanzibar (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2015), in Law and History Review, Vol. 34, No. 1 (2016) pp. 235-237

Review of John C. Wilkinson, The Arabs and the Scramble for Africa (Sheffield, UK: Equinox, 2015) in Journal of Arabian Studies, Vol. 4, No. 3 (2015)

Review of Chhaya Goswami, The Call of the Sea: Kachchhi Traders in Muscat and Zanzibar, c. 1800-1880 (New Delhi: Orient Blackswan, 2011) in The Indian Economic and Social History Review, Vol. 50 (January–March, 2013) pp. 113-115

“Indian Islam in the Age of Industry,” Review of Nile Green, Bombay Islam: the Religious Economy of the West Indian Ocean, 1840-1915 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011) for H-Empire (September, 2011)

Review of Lawrence Potter, ed., The Persian Gulf in History (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009) in Journal of Arabian Studies, Vol. 1, No. 1 (2011)

Review of Karl Gratzer and Dieter Stiefel, eds., History of Insolvency and Bankruptcy from an International Perspective (Huddinge: Södertörns högskola, 2008) in Business History Review, Vol. 83, Issue 4 (Winter 2009) pp. 872-875