Professor of History

Member, The Committee on Global Thought

Richard W. Bulliet is a professor of history at Columbia University who specializes in the history of Islamic society and institutions, the history of technology, and the history of the role of animals in human society.

Richard grew up in Illinois. He attended Harvard University, where he received a BA in 1962 and a PhD in 1967.

Several of his books focus on Iran but deal also with the larger Muslim world, including The Patricians of Nishapur: a Study in Medieval Islamic History (1972), Conversion to Islam in the Medieval Period: An Essay in Quantitative History (1979), and Islam: the View from the Edge (1994). His books on a broader view of Islamic history and society include Under Siege: Islam and Democracy (1994) and The Case for Islamo-Christian Civilization (2004). His book The Camel and the Wheel (1975) brings together his interest in the histories of technology, animal domestication, and the Middle East, dealing for example with the significant military advantage early Muslim armies gained from a slight improvement in the design of cloth camel saddles. He would return to the history of animal domestication with his Hunters, Herders, and Hamburgers: The Past and Future of Human-Animal Relationships (2005).

Hunters, Herders, and Hamburgers: The Past and Future of Human-Animal Relationships presents the four stages of human-animal relationship history: separation (when humans began to consider themselves as fundamentally separate from animals), pre-domestication (rich in symbolic expression of animals), domestication (exploiting and taming animals for human use), and post-domestication (our current industrialized consumption and separation from domestic animals).

He is the writer and editor of books of more general interest as well, including The Columbia History of the Twentieth Century (editor, 1998), The Encyclopedia of the Modern Middle East (co-editor, 1996), and The Earth and Its Peoples: A Global History (co-author, 1997). He has also written several novels which draw on his knowledge of international politics and the Middle East, and is a promoter of the validity of comics as an art form.

His first fiction book, Kicked to Death by a Camel (1973), was nominated for an Edgar for “Best First Mystery”. His other fiction includes Tomb of the Twelfth Imam (1979), The Gulf Scenario (1984), The Sufi Fiddle (1991), and The One-Donkey Solution (2011).

Bulliet’s commentaries and opinion pieces on the Middle East have appeared in such newspapers The Guardian, New York Times International, and Süddeutsche Zeitung.

Curriculum Vitae


Select Publications

Select Honors and Awards

  • Carnegie Scholar, 2009
  • American-Indian Commission Fellowship, 1990 (resigned)
  • Dexter Prize of the Society for the History of Technology for The Camel and the Wheel, 1977
  • Guggenheim Fellow, 1975-76


  • BA, History (magna cum laude), Harvard University
  • MA, Middle East Studies, Harvard University
  • PhD, History and Middle East Studies, Harvard University