Professor Rex Smith

Visiting Professor

Summary: Arabic language, Classical Arabic and Modern Standard Arabic; Literary Mixed Arabic; the history and culture of medieval southern Arabia; the Arabs and Europe in the Middle Ages, using both Arabic and Latin sources.

BA (London), MA, PhD (Cantab), MA (Wales)

I obtained my first degree in Classical Arabic at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, after which I spent four years in the then Aden Protectorate. I entered the University of Cambridge to work under the late Professor R.B. Serjeant FBA and successfully completed a PhD thesis in 1976 on the Ayyubids and Rasulids in the Yemen (12th-13th centuries). I was appointed assistant lecturer in Arabic in Cambridge, after which I spent three years in the Department of Oriental Manuscripts in the British Library in London. From there I went to the University of Durham where I was successively lecturer and senior lecturer in Arabic in the School of Oriental Studies, as well as serving as Director of the Centre for Middle Eastern Studies. I subsequently moved to the University of Manchester, firstly as senior lecturer, then as Professor of Arabic. During the years 1990-94, I was head of the Department of Middle Eastern Studies in Manchester. I have been an editor of The Journal of Semitic Studies, Arabian Studies and New Arabian Studies. I was on the editorial board of the Cambridge History of Arabic Literature. I have written numerous entries for the Encyclopaedia of Islam.

Throughout my career I have been involved in the teaching of Classical and Modern Standard Arabic from beginners to MA level. I have supervised theses on the topics of Arabian history, Arabic language, the pre-Islamic epigraphic languages and the Modern South Arabian languages. Following my retirement from Manchester, I broadened my study of medieval history, spending a number of years working on medieval Welsh documents at Bangor University. There I participated in the teaching of a team-taught MA in Medieval Studies, taught ab initio medieval Latin to historians and led a medieval Latin reading group. A recent move back across the Pennines has brought me to the University of Leeds where I was appointed visiting professor in 2014.


Arabic Stylistics, level 3 BA and MA. 

Research Interests
Arabic language: Classical, Modern Standard and Literary Mixed Arabic
History and culture of southern Arabia
The Arabs and Europe in the Middle Ages, cultural contacts and the Crusades.

Research students

I supervise two PhD students in the fields of early Islamic Yemenite history and early Arabic epigraphy. I supervise one MA by research student in the field of Arabic grammar. 

Current research
I am currently engaged in a collaborative research project on Literary Mixed Arabic with a University of Durham colleague, in particular a linguistic analysis of some Arabic texts of mixed register of the 12th, 13th and 14th-15th centuries.

I am also examining two 19th-century Mixed Arabic texts which are essentially composed in the Ṣanʿānī dialect of the Yemen, with a view to translating them and providing detailed linguistic commentaries.

Selected publications
‘“Middle Arabic”? Morpho-syntactic Features of Clashing Grammars in a Thirteenth-Century Arabian Text’. Supplement to the Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies 44, Languages of Southern Arabia. Eds. Orhan Elmaz and Janet C.E. Watson (2014), pp. 9-19 (joint publication with Alex Bellem).

The Arabic Alphabet: its Origins and Forms (London 2009) (joint publication with John F. Healey)

A Traveller in Thirteenth-Century Arabia. Ibn al-Mujāwir’s Tārīkh al-Mustabṣir. Hakluyt Society, Series III, volume 19 (London 2008)

A Medieval Administrative and Fiscal Treatise from the Yemen: the Rasulid Mulakhkhaṣ al-fiṭan by al-Ḥasan b. ʿAlī al-Ḥusaynī. Journal of Semitic Studies Supplement 20 (Oxford 2006)

The Manuscript of al-Malik al-Afḍal al-ʿAbbās b. ʿAlī … Ibn Rasūl. A Medieval Arabic Anthology from the Yemen. E.J.W. Gibb Memorial Trust (London 1998) (joint publication with Daniel Martin Varisco)

Studies in the Medieval History of the Yemen and South Arabia. Variorum (Aldershot 1997)

The Arabic Papyri of the John Rylands University Library of Manchester (Volume 78, Number 2 of the Bulletin) (Manchester 1996)

The History of al-Ṭabarī. The Conquest of Iran. Volume XIV. Biblioteca Persica (Albany, New York 1994)

The Ayyubids and Early Rasulids in the Yemen (567-694/1173-1295). 2 vols. E.J.W. Gibb Memorial Trust 26/1-2 (London 1974-78)