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Kathryn A. Schwartz

Assistant Professor of History

Kathryn A. Schwartz is a historian of the late Ottoman and modern Middle East. She earned her Ph.D. in History and Middle Eastern Studies from Harvard University, and her B.A. in Arabic and Middle Eastern Studies from King’s College, the University of Cambridge.

Professor Schwartz's research focuses on the social implications of technological change. She is currently working on a book project entitled Print and the People of Cairo, 19th c., which argues that a unique political economy of print emerged at the hands of the Egyptian government and the Cairene literate elite, before collapsing in the late 1870s with the rise of British imperial rule. In addition to challenging the narrative of the blossoming of Arabic print culture in the late nineteenth century, her book offers the experience of Cairo as a new model for understanding how a mainstream print culture can emerge. It also provides new perspectives on Middle Eastern book history by demonstrating the centrality of human agency, commerce, and manuscript continuity to Egyptians’ adoption of printing during the industrial era. 

Recent articles by Professor Schwartz have examined printing and the book trade in a global context as social praxis, and as an arena for forwarding ideas about advancement and backwardness. Her output also extends into digital humanities, where she is co-leading a project to recreate the manuscript and print collection of an important Egyptian intellectual who died in 1870, in order to draw empirical insights about this distinctive world of books in which he took part. 

Research Areas

History of the Modern Middle East, History of the Book, History of Technology, Digital Humanities 


Selected articles and book chapters

Omar Cheta and Kathryn A. Schwartz, “A Printer’s Odd Plea to Reform Legal Pluralism in Khedival Egypt.” Past & Present, forthcoming (summer 2021), advance copy available online.

Hansun Hsiung and Kathryn A. Schwartz, “Lithography.” Information: A Historical Companion, edited by Ann Blair, Paul Duguid, Anja Goeing, and Anthony Grafton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press (2021), 583-588.

Kathryn A. Schwartz, “An Eastern Scholar's Engagement with the European Study of the East: Amin al-Madani and the Sixth Oriental Congress, Leiden, 1883.” The Muslim Reception of European Orientalism: Reversing the Gaze, edited by Susannah Heschel and Umar Ryad, New York: Routledge (2019), 39-60.

Kathryn A. Schwartz, “Book History, Print, and the Modern Middle East.” History Compass (2017): e12434.

Kathryn A. Schwartz, “Did Ottoman Sultans Ban Print?”. Book History 20 (2017): 1-39.

Kathryn A. Schwartz, “The Political Economy of Private Printing in Cairo, As Told from a Commissioning Deal Turned Sour, 1871.” International Journal of Middle East Studies 49:1 (2017): 25-45.


Awards and Accolades

Research Fellowship, Institute for Advanced Study in Toulouse, 2017-2018, 2021-2022

Awarded Book History’s 2017 Graduate Essay Award

Postdoctoral Fellowship, Digital Library of the Eastern Mediterranean, Widener Library, Harvard University, 2015-2017

The Harvard University Certificate of Distinction in Teaching, Fall 2015

Pre-Doctoral Fellowship, The Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies, Harvard University, 2014-2015

Courses Recently Taught

The Middle East, 1500-Present, Gen Ed, History 131
Travel Literature & the History of the Middle East, Junior Year Writing Seminar, History 450
Middle Eastern Metropolis, Lecture Seminar, History 490
Mass Migration in the Modern Middle East, Honors Seminar, History 491