Dr Arezou Azad

Dr Arezou Azad

Department of History
Lecturer in Medieval History
Chair, Centre for the Study of the Middle Ages

Contact details

Arts Building, Room 323

I am a historian of medieval Central Asia, Afghanistan and Iran, with a particular interest in cities, religious practices, social diversity and historiography.


  • BA, BS Boston University
  • MA, Columbia University
  • M.St, D.Phil (PhD), University of Oxford


I joined the School of History of Cultures as a Lecturer in Medieval History in September 2013. This followed on from a postdoctoral research position at Oxford University on a three-year Leverhulme Trust-funded project entitled ‘Balkh Art and Cultural Heritage’ which explored the early Islamic history of Balkh, Afghanistan. Before this, I worked as a peacekeeper and development worker for the United Nations and NGOs.



First year

  • Discovering the Middle Ages 

Second year

  • Prophets, Rulers and Rebels of early Islam
  • Research Methods (Dissertation Preparation)

Third year

  • Cities of Paradise and Empire in the Islamic World: From the 15thCentury to the Present Day.
  • Dissertations. I'm happy to discuss possible topics with students. Please email me to arrange a meeting or drop by in my office hours


  • Global Histories: Comparisons and Connections (tutor)

Postgraduate supervision

I am happy to discuss offering postgraduate supervision in any topic relating to the history of the Islamic World, particularly Central Asia, Afghanistan or Iran. I would be especially interested to work with students on histories of cities, cultural and religious landscapes, conquest and settler systems, frontier lands, scholarship, gender, historiography, and European encounters.


In my research I explore the ways in which the arrival of Islam impacted the urban, social and religious fabric of Central Asia, Afghanistan and Iran. I am concerned by the ways in which histories of Islam, Buddhism, and nationality are relevant to contemporary debates on issues as diverse as Islamic militancy, jihadism and women’s rights.

My first book, Sacred Landscape in Medieval Afghanistan, explored the ways in which the sacred sites of Balkh, Afghanistan, survived the vicissitudes and boundaries of politics and time. The memory of sacredness was maintained through texts and ritual acts of pilgrimage.

I am currently working on a number of research articles relating to female rulers, marriage practices, and political systems of conquest and rule in the earliest days of Islam in Bactria (Afghanistan).

Other activities

Balkh Art and Cultural Heritage project
I co-facilitate a group of scholars in the UK, France, Germany, Afghanistan and the USA who are working on the early Islamic history of Balkh. The project cuts across the disciplines of history, archaeology, and linguistics, and involves a training element for Afghan cultural heritage workers.

I also convene the MA Medieval Studies and the MRes Medieval History.



  • Sacred Landscape in Medieval Afghanistan: Revisiting the Faḍāʾil-i Balkh. Oxford Oriental Monograph Series (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013)
  • Faḍāʾil-i Balkh, revised edition and translation with annotations. Co-authored with Ali Mir-Ansari and Edmund Herzig. Gibb Memorial Translation Series (London: Gibb Memorial Trust, in press, due 2015).
  • Early Islamic Balkh: History, Landscape and Material Culture of a Central Asian City. Co-edited with Edmund Herzig and Paul Wordsworth ( in press, due 2015).


  • “Female Mystics in Mediaeval Islam: the Quiet Legacy”, Journal of Economic and Social History of the Orient 56 (2013): 53-88.
  • “The Faḍāʾil-i Balkh and its Place in Islamic Historiography”, IRAN – Journal of the British Institute of Persian Studies 50 (2012): 79-102.
  • with Olga Yastrebova, “Reflections on an Orientalist - Aleksandr Kun, the man and his legacy”, Iranian Studies (in press, due 2015).
  • “A Review of Three Rock-Cut Cave Sites in Iran and their Possible Tibetan Buddhist Heritage”. In Anna Akasoy, Charles Burnett and Ronit Tlalim (eds), Islam and Tibet. Interactions Along the Musk Routes. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2010: 209-30.
  • with Hugh Kennedy, “The Coming of Islam to Balkh”. In Marie Legendre and Alain Delattre (eds), Authority and Control in the Countryside: Late Antiquity and Early Islam. Late Antiquity and Early Islam Series. London: Darwin Press (in press).

Reference works

  • Faḏāʾel-e Balkh, a thirteenth-century local history from Balkh in eastern Khurāsān, with a collection of biographies of Balkh’s early Islamic scholars and mystics”. In Encyclopaedia Iranica .