The Arabic story cycle of the Thousand and One Nights is Indian in origin, Sinbad’s adventures reflecting real-life Indian, Persian, and Arab maritime commerce. Like all tales of marvels in faraway places, it served pious purposes as well. But what explains the modern transmutation of Sinbad from a cautious merchant into a swashbuckling sailor?
Join distinguished historian and public intellectual Robert Irwin as he follows the fortunes of this storied traveler.
Robert Irwin read modern history at Oxford and taught medieval history at the University of St. Andrews. He has also lectured on Arabic and Middle Eastern history at the universities of Oxford, Cambridge, and London. He is the director of a small publishing company and is also Middle East editor of The Times Literary Supplement and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.
His publications include The Middle East in the Middle Ages, The Arabian Nights: A Companion (Penguin, 1994), Islamic Art (Laurence King, 1997) and numerous other specialized studies of Middle Eastern politics, art, and mysticism. His six novels include The Limits of Vision (Penguin, 1986), The Arabian Nightmare (Penguin, 1988), The Mysteries of Algiers (Penguin, 1989), Exquisite Corpse (Dedalus, 1995), and Satan Wants Me (Dedalus, 1999).
Irwin's most recent book, Dangerous Knowledge: Orientalism and Its Discontents (Overlook, 2006) is a passionate defense of the work and scholarly achievements of Western scholars of the Orient against postcolonial critiques following the publication of Edward Said’s Orientalism.