Albert Hourani

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Albert Hourani
Native name ألبرت فضلو حوراني
Born Albert Fadlo Hourani
(1915-03-31)31 March 1915
Manchester, Lancashire, United Kingdom
Died 17 January 1993(1993-01-17) (aged 77)
Oxford, Oxfordshire, United Kingdom
Resting place Wolvercote Cemetery, Oxford
Occupation Civil servant, lecturer
Language English
Ethnicity Lebanese
Alma mater Magdalen College, Oxford
Notable works A History of the Arab Peoples (1991)
Years active 1946–93
Spouse Christine Mary Odile Wegg-Prosser (m. 1977–1993, his death)
Children Professor Susanna Hourani

Albert Fadlo Hourani (Arabic: ألبرت فضلو حورانيAlbart Faḍlū Ḥūrānī; March 31, 1915 – January 17, 1993) was a British historian, specializing in the Middle East. He was of Lebanese descent.

Life and career[edit]

Hourani was born in Manchester, England, the son of Soumaya Rassi and Fadlo Hourani,[1] immigrants from Marjeyoun in what is now South Lebanon. His brothers were George Hourani and Cecil Hourani. His family had converted from Eastern Orthodoxy to Scottish Presbyterianism and his father was an elder of the local church in Manchester. Hourani himself, however, converted to Catholicism in adulthood.

Fadlo Hourani tried to enroll Albert into a local preparatory school in Manchester but it did not accept him as it did not take 'foreigners', he instead opened an alternative school in which Albert studied in until the age of fourteen.[2] He later studied at Mill Hill School, London[3] before attending Magdalen College, Oxford, where he studied Philosophy, Politics, Economics and History (with an emphasis on international relations in the politics section of the degree), graduating first in his class in 1936. In World War II he worked at the Royal Institute of International Affairs and in the office of the British Minister of State in Cairo. After the war's end, he worked at the Arab Office in Jerusalem and London, where he helped prepare the Arab case for the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry.

He began his academic career, which would occupy the rest of his life, in 1948, teaching at Magdalen College, St. Antony's College (where he created and directed the college's Middle East Centre), the American University of Beirut, the University of Chicago, the University of Pennsylvania, and Harvard. He ended his academic career as Fellow of St. Antony's College and Reader in the History of the Modern Middle East at Oxford. Hourani trained more academic historians of the modern Middle East than any other university historian of his generation. Today his students can be found on the faculties of LSE, Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, Yale, University of Pennsylvania, Columbia, MIT and the University of Haifa, among others.

Hourani's most popular work is A History of the Arab Peoples (1991), a readable introduction to the history of the Middle East and an international best seller. Arabic Thought in the Liberal Age 1789–1939 (1962) is one of the first scientific attempts at a comprehensive analysis of the nahda, the Arab revival of the 19th century, and the opening of the Arab world to modern European culture, and remains one of the major works on this subject. Syria and Lebanon (1946) and Minorities in the Arab World (1947) are other major works. He also wrote extensive works on the orientalist perspective on Middle Eastern cultures through the 18th and 19th centuries, and he developed the influential concept of the "urban notables" – political and social elites in provincial Middle Eastern cities and towns that served as intermediaries between imperial capitals (such as Istanbul under the Ottoman Turks) and provincial society.

Hourani's headstone in Wolvercote Cemetery, Oxford

The top book prize in the Middle Eastern studies field is named the Albert Hourani Book Award and it is given annually by the Middle East Studies Association of North America (MESA). Hourani was an Honorary Fellow of both MESA and the American Historical Association (AHA).

In 1955 Hourani married Christine Mary Odile Wegg-Prosser (born 1914), while teaching at Magdalen College, Oxford. He died in Oxford at the age of 77. Mrs Odile Hourani died in 2003, shortly after the tenth anniversary of her husband's death. Both are buried in Wolvercote Cemetery in Oxford. Their daughter, Professor Susanna Hourani, survives them. She is Professor of Pharmacology and Head of Department in the School of Biomedical and Molecular Sciences of the University of Surrey, England.



  • Al-Sudairi, Abdulaziz A. A Vision of the Middle East: An Intellectual Biography of Albert Hourani. London: I.B. Tauris. 

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