Elizabeth Williams

Elizabeth R. Williams, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

College of Fine Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
(978) 934-4262
Dugan Hall, Room 106


History of the Modern Middle East, Ottoman History, Environmental, economic, and social history

Research Interests

History of the Modern Middle East; Ottoman History, Environmental, economic, and social history.


  • Ph D: History, (2015), Georgetown University - Washington, D.C
  • MA: Near Eastern Studies, (2007), New York University - New York City, NY
  • BA: Religious Studies and English, (2000), College of William and Mary - Williamsburg, Virginia


Elizabeth’s research examines the relationship between imperial governance, expertise, and the environment. Focusing on the transition from the late Ottoman Empire to the French Mandate period, she analyzes how agricultural technologies emerging during this period intersected with the development of new strategies of rule and conceptions of expertise. By tracing the movement and activities of global, imperial and local actors in networks involved in the production of knowledge regarding these new technologies and their implementation, she investigates intellectual and practical continuities and divergences in approaches to governance during the late Ottoman and French mandate periods and their impacts on rural communities and environmental management. Her work draws on materials from Ottoman and French archives as well as sources from Lebanon, the national archives of the UK and US, and the UN FAO archives in Rome.

Selected Publications

  • States of Cultivation: Imperial Transition and Scientific Agriculture in the Eastern Mediterranean. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2023.
  • "'The Agriculture Ministry of the Whole World’: The International Institute of Agriculture and the Politics of Ottoman Statistics Collection." Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East 43:2 (2023): 224-241.
  • “The Compounding Crises of Agriculture and Colonialism in French Mandate Syria." Arab Studies Journal 30:2 (Fall 2022): 96-101.
  • “Environmental History of the Middle East and North Africa.” In Jens Hanssen and Amal Ghazal, eds., The Oxford Handbook of Contemporary Middle Eastern and North African History. Oxford. Oxford University Press, 2017 (online), 2021 (cloth).
  • “Science and Technology (Ottoman Empire/Middle East).” In Ute Daniel, Peter Gatrell, Oliver Janz, Heather Jones, Jennifer Keene, Alan Kramer, and Bill Nasson, eds., 1914-1918-online. International Encyclopedia of the First World War. Issued by Freie Universität Berlin, Berlin 19 August 2019.
  • “Economy, environment, and famine: World War I from the perspective of the Syrian interior.” In M. Talha Çiçek, ed., Syria in World War I: Politics, Economy, and Society. New York: Routledge, 2016.
  • "Mapping the Cadastre, Producing the Fellah: Technologies and Discourses of Rule in French Mandate Syria and Lebanon. In Cyrus Schayegh and Andrew Arsan, eds., The Routledge Handbook of the History of the Middle East Mandates. New York: Routledge, 2015.
  • "Nazik al-‘Abid and the Nur al-Fayha’ Society: Independent Modernity, Colonial Threat, and the Space of Women." In Mohammed Bamyeh, ed., Intellectuals and Civil Society in the Middle East: Liberalism, Modernity, and Political Discourse. London: I.B. Tauris, 2012
  • "Contesting the Colonial Narrative’s Claims to Progress: A Nationalist’s Proposal for Agrarian Reform." Review of Middle East Studies, 44:2 (Winter 2010) 187-195.