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Education and career
Mikhail graduated in History and Chemistry from Rice University in 2001, and received his MA in history from the University of California, Berkeley in 2003. His PhD was conferred from the same university in 2008. His thesis The Nature of Ottoman Egypt: Irrigation, Environment, and Bureaucracy in the Long Eighteenth Century was awarded the Malcolm H. Kerr Dissertation Award in the Social Sciences (2009) by Middle East Studies Association of North America (MESA).
He served as a postdoctoral scholar at Stanford University for two years, before becoming an assistant professor of history at Yale University in 2010. In 2013, he was promoted to full professor and became department chair in 2018.
His first monograph, Nature and Empire in Ottoman Egypt (2011), was a part of the Cambridge University Press series Studies in Environment and History. Based on his doctoral dissertation, the book argues for using an environmental lens to understand relations between the Ottoman Empire and the province of Egypt. It received a positive reception and won the Roger Owen Book Award from MESA for the best book in a two-year period in economics, economic history, or the political economy of the Middle East and North Africa.
The Animal in Ottoman Egypt, published in 2014 by Oxford University Press, examines Egypt's changing place in the Ottoman Empire and world economy from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries through the lens of human-animal relations. Scholarly reception was mixed. It received the Gustav Ranis International Book Prize, awarded for the best book on an international topic by a Yale ladder faculty member.
Under Osman's Tree, published by University of Chicago Press in 2017, received critical acclaim and was awarded the M. Fuat Köprülü Book Prize of the Ottoman and Turkish Studies Association.
Mikhail's fourth book God's Shadow was published by Liveright (an imprint of the trade publisher W. W. Norton) in August, 2020. The book argues for the central place of the Ottoman Empire in world history using the life and times of the empire's ninth sultan, Selim I. The book garnered mostly positive reviews and was given starred reviews in Library Journal, Kirkus, and Publishers Weekly. It was named a book of the year by the Times Literary Supplement, Publishers Weekly, History Today, and Glamour and was longlisted for the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction. Cornell Fleischer, Cemal Kafadar and Sanjay Subrahmanyam wrote a negative review of the book. In response, Efe Khayyat and Ariel Salzmann refuted the specific critiques of the review, described the three authors' misrepresentations of God's Shadow, and cited the authors' jealousy of Mikhail as the motive behind their review. Fleischer, Kafadar, and Subrahmanyam penned a rejoinder in which they repeated and expanded their claims. Mark Mazower, Peter Frankopan, Ian Morris, Mary Beard, Leslie Peirce, Natalie Zemon Davis, Stephen Greenblatt, Annette Gordon-Reed, David Levering Lewis, Greg Grandin, Alan Taylor, and David Nirenberg wrote favorably of the book.
In 2018, he received the Anneliese Maier Research Award of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation.
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- "Under Osman's Tree" – via press.uchicago.edu.
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- "Review of Water and Sand: Environmental Histories of the Middle East and North Africa". Arab Studies Quarterly. 35 (2): 214–215. 2013. doi:10.13169/arabstudquar.35.2.0214. ISSN 0271-3519. JSTOR 10.13169/arabstudquar.35.2.0214.
- "Yale's Alan Mikhail honored for work on environmental history | Humboldt Yale History Network". avh.yale.edu.