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Avi Shlaim (born October 31, 1945) is an Iraqi-born British historian. He is a professor of International Relations at the University of Oxford and a fellow of the British Academy.

Shlaim is especially well-known as a historian of the Arab-Israeli conflict. He is considered one of the leading New Historians,[1] a group of Israeli scholars who put forward critical interpretations of the history of Zionism and Israel.[2]


Early life and education

Shlaim was born to Jewish parents in Baghdad, Iraq. His family moved to Israel, but he left Israel for England at the age of 16 to study at a Jewish school.[3][4] He returned to Israel in the mid-60s to serve in the Israel Defense Forces, then moved back to England in 1966 to read history at Jesus College, Cambridge. He obtained his MA and married the great-granddaughter of David Lloyd George, who was the British prime minister at the time of the Balfour Declaration. He has lived in England ever since, and holds dual British and Israeli nationality.[5]

He obtained an MSc (Econ.) in International Relations in 1970 from the London School of Economics, and his PhD from the University of Reading.[6] He was a Lecturer, then Reader, in politics at the University of Reading from 1970-87.[7]


Shlaim taught International Relations at Reading University, specializing in European issues. His academic interest in the history of Israel began in 1982, when Israeli government archives about the 1948 Arab-Israeli War were opened, an interest that deepened when he became a fellow of St. Antony's College, Oxford in 1987.[4] He was the Alastair Buchan Reader in International Relations at Oxford from 1987 to 1996, and the Director of Graduate Studies in that subject in 1993-1995 and 1998-2001. In 1995-97, he held a British Academy Research Readership in 1995-97, a Research Professorship in 2003-6. In 2006, he was elected Fellow of the British Academy.[7]

Shlaim served as an outside examiner on the doctoral thesis of Ilan Pappe, another notable New Historian. Shlaim's approach to the study of history is informed by his belief that, "[t]he job of the historian is to judge."[4]

He is a regular contributor to The Guardian newspaper, and signed an open letter to that paper in January 2009 condemning Israel's military intervention in Gaza.[8]


Like other "New Historians", Shlaim has been criticized by the "Old Historians" of Israel. Josef Heller and Yehoshua Porat have argued that Shlaim "misleads his readers with arguments that Israel had missed the opportunity for peace whilst the Arabs are strictly peace seekers".[9]


  • Collusion across the Jordan: King Abdullah, the Zionist Movement and the Partition of Palestine (winner of the 1988 Political Studies Association's W. J. M. Mackenzie Prize)
  • The Politics of Partition (1990 and 1998)
  • War and Peace in the Middle East: A Concise History (1995)
  • The Cold War and the Middle East (co-editor, 1997)
  • The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World (2001)
  • Lion of Jordan: The Life of King Hussein in War and Peace (2007)
  • Israel and Palestine (2009)

See also


  1. ^ Jerome Slater, Political Science Quarterly, Spring 2001.[1]
  2. ^ Morris, Benny. The New Historiography in Morris, Benny. (ed) Making Israel. 1987, pp. 11-28.
  3. ^ Shlaim, Avi. How Israel brought Gaza to the brink of humanitarian catastrophe, The Guardian, January 7, 2009.
  4. ^ a b c Miron Rapaport (11.08.2005). "No Peaceful Solution". Ha'aretz Friday Supplement.  
  5. ^ Avi Shlaim: "And for the last forty years, I have lived in Britain, and I teach at Oxford." Shlaim's interview, - May 09, 2007.
  6. ^ Governing Body Fellows
  7. ^ a b Professor Avi Shlaim, University of Oxford.
  8. ^ Growing outrage at the killings in Gaza, The Guardian, January 16, 2009.
  9. ^ [2]

External links



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