Dr Fanny Bessard

Dr Fanny Bessard

B.A., Ph.D. (Sorbonne, Paris)


Contact Details

E-mail - fb67@st-andrews.ac.uk
Telephone - +44 (0)1334 463386
Fax - +44 (0)1334 463334

Research Profile on Research@StAndrews


Teaching and Research Interests

I have a strong interest in architecture, archaeology and generally the material culture of classical Islam, essentially of the Umayyad dynasty and the first Abbasids (700-1000 CE). My research focus on the architecture of new Islamic cities, as well as on the reoccupation patterns of the Byzantine and Sassanid cities from the Levant to Central Asia. From Syria to Uzbekistan, I also currently investigating the changing occurred in the economic activities of the ancient cities and the newly urban settlements after the Muslim conquests, with a particular focus on the role of  the central power and the local elites in the growth of the production and the market economy. I am examining how this led to the emergence of a powerful mercantile bourgeoisie by the end of the eighth century. My research also includes the issue of evolving modes of production, with emphasis on the transition in material culture from the Late Byzantino-Sassanid Antiquity to the early Abbasids. The first centuries of Islam are characterised by progressively breaking from the ancient artisanal traditions, an evolution of tableware towards fully Islamic technology.

Main Publications

Single Authored Books

  • Early Islamic Urban Economy (700-900 CE) – Oxford University Press, Date of completion June 2015.

Articles in Journals & Edited Volumes

  • “Between localism and a desire for greater openness: The urban economy in southern Greater Syria from the 7th century to the end of the Umayyads,” in Local Economies?: Regional Production and Exchange in Late Antiquity, dir. L. Lavan, Leiden, Brill (2013) 363-406.
  • “Archaeology of Labour in early Islamic Mašreq,” Oxford Handbook for Islamic Archaeology (2015) (7,004 words)
  • “Productivity in the Household in the Middle East and Central Asia (6th-9th c.),” in The Palimpsest of the House. Re-assessing Roman, Late Antique, Byzantine and Early Islamic Living Patterns, ed. University’s Research Center for Anatolian Civilizations, Istanbul (2015) (3,343 words). 
  •  “Jérash et l’essor de l’économie urbaine au début de l’Islam,” Sudies in History and Archaeology of Jordan 12 (2013) 305-318.
  • “Arabic Shopkeepers’ Accounts from Islamic Jarash,” ADAJ 52 (2008) 122-126.
  •  “Industrie sanitaire, produits d’hygiène et de soin dans les bains, d’après les traités médicaux des ixe-xe siècles,” Bulletin des Etudes Orientales 57 (2008) 109-123.
  • “Foundations of Umayyad Economy,” al-‘Usur al-Wusta, The Bulletin of Middle East Medievalists, 19/1, ed. Oriental Institut, Chicago (2007) 1-7.
  • “Abd al-Malik by Ch. Robinson (Book review),” BCAI, Bulletin Critique des Annales Islamologiques 23 (2007) 20-25.
  •  “Islam and Tibet, Interactions along the Musk Routes by A. Akasoy, Ch. Burnett, R. Yoeli-Tlalim (Book review),” Bulletin Critique des Annales Islamologiques, 2014 (2,517 words).

Articles in preparation

  •  “Power, Patronage and Markets in early Islam” –  Date of completion April 2015.
  • “Politics and Economics of the early Caliphate,” the Routledge Handbook on Early Islam, ed. Herbert Berg, Date of completion September 2015.
  •  “Merchants and Artisans in the Abbasid court, according to Arabic prose literature” –   Date of completion October 2015.


International Research Projects

International Leverhulme Networking

With professor Hugh Kennedy (SOAS), I am supervising a project entitled Economic integration and social change in the Islamic world system, 800-1000 CE. It examines the construction, structuring and decline of the Islamic Economy as a world system from the 8th to the 11th century. It explores the economic and social impacts of the integration within a globalised world of the previously isolated macro-regions of mediaeval Syria, Egypt, Iraq, Iran and Soghdia. Their integration led to a change in the local artisanal and commercial practices, and affected the regional and global dynamics. It focuses on the political mechanisms in the development of this world system. Finally, it aims to define the social changes, which were conditioned by the evolution of the economic practices.


Excavation projects

2013-14, Excavation of Paykand (Uzbekistan)
2007-10, Excavation of the Islamic Remains in the Hippodrome of Jarash, Jarash (Jordan)
2008, Excavation of Late Sassanid structures in Qusur, Failaka (Kuwait)
2007-8, Danish-Jordanian Islamic Jarash Project, Jarash (Jordan)
2006, Excavation in Wadī Tunbak, Wadī Tunbak (Syria)
2005, Excavation in Late Antique Déhès, Déhès (Syria)
2004, Spanish Excavation of the Medieval Vascos, Vascos (Spain)


Teaching Duties

I lecture and teach on MH2002 Introduction to Middle Eastern History and offer the following Honours course:

ME3164 Archaeology of Late Antiquity and the Early Islamic Middle East: ‘Architecture and Representations of Power (4th-12th centuries)





Main Publications