photo of Kristina Richardson taken by Jeneene Chatowsky

Kristina Richardson

John L. Nau III Professor of the History and Principles of Democracy
Professor of History and Middle Eastern and South Asian Languages and Cultures

(434) 924-6402
Nau 295
Office Hours: TR, 10:00-11:30AM and by appointment

Field & Specialties

Medieval Islamic History
Romani people
Global History of Printing
Race and Slavery


AB (History) Princeton University 2003

MA (Near Eastern Studies) University of Michigan 2005

PhD (Near Eastern Studies) University of Michigan 2008


In Fall 2022, Kristina Richardson joined the UVa faculty as the John L. Nau III Professor of the History and Principles of Democracy and as Professor of History and Middle Eastern and South Asian Languages and Cultures. Her research focuses on premodern non-elite Arab history, particularly people with disabilities, users of sign language, Romani groups (ghurabā’), craftspeople, and enslaved laborers and entertainers. She is the author of two monographs: Difference and Disability in the Medieval Islamic World: Blighted Bodies (Edinburgh, 2012) and Roma in the Medieval Islamic Word: Literacy, Culture and Migration (I.B. Tauris, 2022). For this latest book she was awarded the prestigious 2022 Dan David Prize, the largest history award in the world, and the 2023 Monica H. Green Prize for Distinguished Medieval Research by the Medieval Academy of America. It was also awarded Honorable Mention in the Middle East Medievalists 2023 Book Prize competition.

In 2021 Professor Richardson and Dr. Boris Liebrenz co-published The Notebook of Kamal al-Din the Weaver, an edition and study of an early Ottoman weaver’s Arabic notebook. She is currently writing her third monograph Black Basra: Race, Slavery and Science in Early Islamic History. At its core this book will be a history of the port city of Basra from its founding in 637 until c. 1000 CE, centering the lives and experiences of free and unfree black people (al-sūdān), who were broadly defined at that time as dark-skinned inhabitants of Africa, Asia, and the southern Indian Ocean.

Professor Richardson has been named a 2024-2025 Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar. Her work has also been supported by the National Endowment of the Humanities, the Marie Curie Foundation, the Mellon Foundation, and the City University of New York. She also serves as an editor for the journal Der Islam.


Difference and Disability in the Medieval Islamic World: Blighted Bodies, Edinburgh/New York: Edinburgh/Oxford University Press, 2012.

Roma in the Medieval Islamic World: Literacy, Culture  and History, London, I. B. Tauris, The Early and Medieval Islamic World Series, 2021.

  • 2023 Monica H. Green Prize for Distinguished Medieval Research, awarded by the Medieval Academy of America ($1,000)
  • 2022 Dan David Prize, awarded by the Dan David Foundation ($300,000)

(with Boris Liebrenz) أيام كمال الدين الحائك. حلب في أواخر القرن العاشر (The Notebook of Kamāl al-Dīn the Weaver )(Beirut: De Gruyter Verlag/Dār al-Farābī, 2021)

  • English-language introduction and study
  • Arabic edition of the 16th-century manuscript

“The Boundaries and Geographies of Medieval Blackness,” In Islam on the Margins: Studies in Memory of Michael Bonner, ed. Robert Haug and Steven Judd (Leiden: Brill, 2023), pp. 220-234.

“An Ode to an Armenian Silk Merchant in 16th-Century Aleppo,” In Art and Religion in Medieval Armenia, ed. Helen C. Evans (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2022), pp. 76-84.

(with Boris Liebrenz) “A Weaver’s Notebook from Aleppo (10th/16th Century),”  In A Handbook and Reader of Ottoman Arabic, ed. Esther-Miriam Wagner (Cambridge, UK: Open Book Publishing, 2021), pp. 193-196.

“Invisible Strangers, or Romani History Reconsidered,” History of the Present 10.2 (Fall 2020): 187-207. DOI: 10.1215/21599785-8351823

“The Holograph Notebooks of Akmal al-Dīn Muḥammad b. Mufliḥ (d. 1011/1603),” in 'In the Author's Hand': Holograph and Authorial Manuscripts in the Islamic Handwritten Tradition, eds. Frédéric Bauden and Élise Franssen (Leiden: Brill, 2019), 260-79. DOI: 10.1163/9789004413177_008

“Domestic Violence and Medieval Disability Narratives, ” International Journal of Middle Eastern Studies 51.1 (February 2019): 113-115. DOI: 10.1017/S0020743818001198

“Tracing a Gypsy Mixed Language through Medieval and Early Modern Arabic and Persian Literatures,” Der Islam 94.1 (April 2017): 115-57. DOI: 10.1515/islam-2017-0006

“New Evidence for Early Modern Ottoman Arabic and Turkish Sign Systems,” in Sign Language Studies 17.2 (Winter 2017): 172-92. DOI: 10.1353/sls.2017.0001

“The Evolving Biographical Legacy of Two Late Mamluk Ḥanbalī Judges,” in History and Society during the Mamluk Period (1250-1517), Studies of the Annemarie Schimmel Institute for Advanced Study II, Mamluk Studies, vol. 12, ed. Stephan Conermann (Bonn, Germany: Bonn University Press, 2016), pp. 29-50.

“Islam and Disabilities,” in Oxford Bibliographies in Islamic Studies, ed. Andrew Rippin. New York: Oxford University Press, 2015. <>

“Reconstructing the Autograph Corpus of Shams al-Dīn Muḥammad Ibn Ṭūlūn,” Journal of the American Oriental Society, 135.2 (2015): 319-27.

“Blue and Green Eyes in the Islamicate Middle Ages,” Annales Islamologiques 48 (2014): 13-29.

"Drug Overdose, Disability and Male Friendship in Late Medieval Cairo," postmedieval: a journal of medieval cultural studies, 3.2 (2012): pp. 168-81.

"Disability? Perspectives on Bodily Difference from the Middle East," in Why the Middle Ages Matter: Medieval Light on Modern Injustice, eds. Celia Chazelle, Simon Doubleday, Felice Lifshitz, Amy Remensnyder (New York: Routledge, 2011), pp.  121-9.

“Singing Slave Girls (qiyan) of the Abbasid Court,” in Children in Slavery through the Ages, eds. Joseph Miller, Suzanne Miers, Gwyn Campbell (Athens: Ohio University Press, 2009), pp. 105-18.

Current Research

She is currently writing Black Basra: Race, Labor, and Piety in Early Islamic History, a history of the port city of al-Basra, Iraq, from its founding in 637 until c. 1000 CE. It will center the lives and experiences of free and unfree black people, who were broadly defined at that time as dark-skinned Africans and Asians.

Awards & Honors

2023 Monica H. Green Prize for Distinguished Medieval Research

2022 Dan David Prize

Courses Taught

HIME 3501: A Global History of Printing Before Gutenberg