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Dr Henry Clements

Roles and subjects

Junior Research Fellow in History



Academic Background

I received my BA in Arabic from Washington University in St. Louis, where I graduated Phi Beta Kappa. After two years living in Egypt, initially as a fellow at the American University in Cairo and latterly studying Arabic at the Center for Arabic Study Abroad (CASA), I began a doctoral program in History at Yale University, where I received my PhD in 2023. My dissertation was awarded the Arthur and Mary Wright Prize.

Undergraduate Teaching

Middle East, Ottoman Empire, Nineteenth Century, Religion and Secularism.

Research Interests

  • Middle East and Ottoman History
  • Modern Intellectual History
  • History of Religion and Secularism

My research centers on the modern Middle East’s intellectual and cultural history, particularly the emergence of secular forms of thought and political organization. I am interested in how the rise of secularism—understood both as a way of organizing society and politics and also as a set of ideas about time, nature, religion, and authority—has fundamentally reordered the modern world.

In my current book project, Ottoman Secularism: History and Difference in the Nineteenth Century, I draw on a unique set of communal sources to explore how one minority community negotiated the secularizing transformations of the late Ottoman Empire. This work has led me to pursue related theoretical projects on history, modernity, and the West, as well as historical investigations into modern Arabic and Turkish treatments of the histories of Islam and Christianity.


2022. “Modern Translations: Reflections on Postcolonialism, New Ontology, and the Secular.” History of the Present 12 (2): 241-269. Co-authored with Philip Balboni.

2019.“Documenting Community in the Late Ottoman Empire.” International Journal of Middle East Studies 51 (3): 423-443.

Book reviews

2022. Ussama Makdisi, Age of Coexistence: The Ecumenical Frame and the Making of the Modern Arab World (Oakland, C.A.: University of California Press, 2019). Toynbee Prize Foundation Roundtable Panel.


See also the Faculty of History.