Reilly, James A.


Ph.D., Department of History, Georgetown University, 1987.
M.A., Department of History and Archaeology, American University of Beirut, 1981.
B.A., College of Arts and Sciences, Georgetown University, 1976. Major: History.


  • July 2003 – present: Professor, Department of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, University of Toronto. July 2001 – June 2006: Department Chair.
  • July 1992 – June 2003: Associate Professor, Department of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, University of Toronto.
  • July 1987 – June 1992: Assistant Professor, Department of Middle East and Islamic Studies, University of Toronto.
  • 1979-1980: Instructor, Department of History and Archaeology, American University of Beirut.

Research Specialties

History of Ottoman Syria between the eighteenth and twentieth centuries. Research and writing have focused on the social and economic history of Damascus and Hama, plus recent historiography of Syria and Lebanon during the Ottoman period.

Courses Taught

NMC 278 H “Introduction to the Modern Middle East”
NMC 378 H “Modern Arab History”
NMC479 H “Histories of Nationalism in the Arab World”
NMC 2170 H “Topics in Modern Arab History I ”
NMC 2171 H “Topics in Modern Arab History II”

Selected Publications

Refereed Monographs:

    • A Small Town in Syria: Ottoman Hama in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries. Bern and London: Peter Lang, 2002.
    • The Ottoman Cities of Lebanon: Historical Legacy and Identity in the Modern Middle East. London: I. B. Tauris, 2016.

Refereed Articles:

  • “Sharî’a Court Registers and Land Tenure around 19th-Century Damascus,” MESA Bulletin 21 (1987): 155-169.
  • “Status Groups and Propertyholding in the Damascus Hinterland, 1828-80,” International Journal of Middle East Studies 21 (1989): 517-539.
  • “Properties around Damascus in the Nineteenth Century,” Arabica 37 (1990): 91-114.
  • “Rural Waqfs of Ottoman Damascus: Rights of Ownership, Possession and Tenancy,” Acta Orientalia 51 (1990): 27-46.
  • “Property, Status and Class in Ottoman Damascus: Case-Studies from the Nineteenth Century,” Journal of the American Oriental Society 112 (1992): 9-21.
  • “Damascus Merchants and Trade in the Transition to Capitalism,” Canadian Journal of History 27 (1992): 1-27.
  • “From Workshops to Sweatshops: Damascus Textiles and the World Economy in the Last Ottoman Century,” Review 16 (1993): 199-213.
  • “Women in the Economic Life of Late-Ottoman Damascus,” Arabica 42 (1995): 86-113.
  • “Inter-Confessional Relations in 19th-Century Syria: Damascus, Homs and Hama Compared,” Islam and Muslim-Christian Relations 7 (1996): 213-224.
  • “Past and Present in Local Histories of the Ottoman Period from Syria and Lebanon,” Middle Eastern Studies 35 (1999): 45-65.
  • “Regions and Markets of Ottoman Syria: Comparisons and Transformations,” Chronos no. 10 (2004), pp. 111-144.
  • “Rafeq’s Ghazza: An Early Exploration of a Secondary Town,” in Peter Sluglett with Stefan Weber (eds.), Syria and Bilad al-Sham under Ottoman Rule (Leiden: Brill, 2010): 91-97.
  • “Ottoman Beirut: Crisis, History, and Sectarian Memory,” Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East 31 (2011):164-171.
  • “Ottoman Saida and Problems of a Lebanese ‘National’ Narrative,” in Jørgen Nielsen (ed.), Religion, Ethnicity and Contested Nationhood in the Former Ottoman Space (Leiden: Brill, 2012): 173-186.
  • “Ottoman Syria: Social History through an Urban Lens,” History Compass 10, no. 1 (2012): 70-80.
  • “The End of an Era: Pre-Reform Damascus in the 1820s,” Bulletin d’études orientales 61 (2012): 209-222.
  • “The Universal and the Particular: A View from Ottoman Homs ca. 1700.” The Journal of Ottoman Studies 44 (2014): 341-356.
  • “Town and Steppe in Ottoman Syria: Hostility, Exploitation and Cooperation in the Late Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries,” Der Islam 92, 1 (2015): 148–160.

Book Chapters:

  • “Elites, Notables and Social Networks of Eighteenth-Century Hama,” in Islamic Urbanism in Human History: Political Power and Social Networks, pp. 211-232. Edited by Tsugitaka Sato. London: Kegan Paul International, 1997.
  • “The Islamic Middle East,” in Echoes from the Past: World History to the 16th Century, pp. 226-257. Edited by Garfield Newman. Toronto: McGraw Hill Ryerson, 2001.
  • “The ‘Azms of Hama: Patricians in an Ottoman Town,” in Qasr al-‘Azm: Ein osmanischer Gouverneurspalast in Hama/Westsyrien, pp. 15-22. Edited by Karin Bartl and Abdelqader Farzat. Darmstadt: Verlag Philipp von Zabern, 2013.

January 25, 2016: An interview with McMaster professor and NMC graduate faculty colleague Virginia H. Aksan.