Fahad Ahmad Bishara

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

Nau 253
Office Hours: Tuesday/Thursday 10:00-10:50am


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) and the Jerry Bentley prize (awarded by the World History Association). He is currently working on a history of the Arab dhow trade between the Gulf and the Indian Ocean during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, a project which takes on issues of global capitalism, international law, empire, mobility, and scale in historical writing.



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) http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=33809

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

Awards & Honors

European Research Commission Grant, Awarded August 2016 (as partner investigator)

Sultan Qaboos Cultural Center Research Fellowship, Awarded December 2014.

Surrency Prize, awarded annually for best article in Law and History Review.

Postdoctoral Fellowship for Transregional Research, Social Science Research Council “Inter-Asia Contexts and Connections” Program. Awarded in July 2013.

Academy Scholars Postdoctoral Fellowship, Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies, Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, Harvard University. (Declined)

Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowship, Awarded March 2011.

Evan Frankel Humanities Fellowship, Evan Frankel Foundation, Fellowship Administered by Duke University. Awarded in December 2010. (Declined)

International Dissertation Research Fellowship, Social Science Research Council. Awarded in June 2009.

South Asia Summer Language Institute, Gujarati Program Fee Remission, Awarded June 2009.

International Pre-Dissertation Research Travel Award, Duke Graduate School. Awarded in January 2008.

Summer Research Grant, Duke University History Department. Awarded in May 2007.

Tom Fattorini Prize for Best Performance in an MA Program, Institute for Arab and Islamic Studies, University of Exeter. Awarded in December 2006.

HRH Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Al-Saud Award for Best MA Dissertation, Institute for Arab and Islamic Studies, University of Exeter. Awarded in December 2006.