Alexander Bevilacqua

Alexander Bevilacqua

Assistant Professor of History

Hollander Hall Rm 225

On Leave 2020-2021


B.A. Harvard University (2007)
M.Phil. Cambridge University (2008)
M.A. Princeton University (2010)
Ph.D. Princeton University, History (2014)


Alexander Bevilacqua, Assistant Professor of History, specializes in the cultural and intellectual history of early modern Europe (ca. 1450 to 1800).

His research examines Western understandings of human diversity and of non-Western religious and intellectual traditions. He offers courses on the history of Europe from Renaissance to Enlightenment, and in particular on the cultural and intellectual transformations of what has often been called the first global era.

Bevilacqua’s book, The Republic of Arabic Letters: Islam and the European Enlightenment, appeared with Harvard University Press in February 2018. It explains how and why European understandings of Islam and its culture transformed from the mid-seventeenth century to the mid-eighteenth. The Republic of Arabic Letters shows that the Western effort to learn about Islam and its religious and intellectual traditions issued not from a secular agenda but from the scholarly commitments of a select group of Catholics and Protestants. These authors cast aside inherited views and bequeathed a new understanding of Islam to the modern West.

Bevilacqua’s articles have appeared in History of European Ideas, Journal of Qur’anic Studies, Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, and Past and Present. He was educated at Harvard College, the University of Cambridge, and Princeton University, from which he received his doctorate in 2014. From 2014 until 2017 he was a junior fellow in the Harvard Society of Fellows.

His research has been supported by the American Council of Learned Societies, the American Historical Association, the American Philosophical Society, the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies, the Centre for History and Economics at the University of Cambridge, the Renaissance Society of America, the William F. Milton Fund (Harvard University), and the Society for French Historical Studies. He has held fellowships at the Huntington Library and at the Warburg Institute.

In 2020-2021, he is a Fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg in Berlin.

Selected Publications


(w. F. Clark) Thinking in the Past Tense: Eight Conversations. University of Chicago Press, 2019.

The Republic of Arabic Letters: Islam and the European Enlightenment. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2018. Winner of the Thomas J. Wilson Memorial Prize. Shortlisted for the Longman/History Today Book of the Year Prize. Paperback published in March 2020.

Read an excerpt | Read an interview

Listen to a podcast about the book: Ottoman History Podcast | New Books in History

Reviews: Wall Street JournalFinancial TimesThe EconomistThe New RepublicLondon Review of Books, Times Literary Supplement, Svenska Dagbladet (Sweden), The Arab Weekly (UK), Standpoint (UK), Il Sole 24 Ore (Italy), Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (Germany); Asiatische Studien/Études asiatiques; Eighteenth-Century Studies; Al Akhbar (Lebanon); Al-Ahram Weekly (Egypt), The Historian; Reading Religion: A Publication of the American Academy of Religion; History of Humanities; Journal of Early Modern History; The Review of Metaphysics; Zeitschrift für Historische Forschung; Catholic Historical Review; Renaissance Quarterly; American Historical Review; Athenaeum Review; Avvenire (Italy); History Today; English Historical Review; Journal of Qur’anic Studies; Erudition and the Republic of Letters.

Translations: Arabic (Jarrous Press, forthcoming); Italian (Ulrico Hoepli Editore, 2019); Turkish (Yeditepe Basim Yayin Dagitim, 2020).


“Beyond East and West” in Ann M. Blair and Nicholas Popper, eds., New Horizons for Early Modern Europe. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. (Forthcoming in 2021)

(w. J. Loop) “The Qur’an in Comparison and the Birth of ‘scriptures.’” Journal of Qur’anic Studies 20 (2018): 148–173.

“How to Organise the Orient: D’Herbelot and the Bibliothèque Orientale.” Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 79 (2016): 213–261.

“The Qur’an Translations of Marracci and Sale.” Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 76 (2013): 93–130.

(w. H. Pfeifer) “Turquerie: Culture in Motion, 1650–1750.” Past and Present, no. 221 (2013): 75–118.

“Conceiving the Republic of Mankind: The Political Thought of Anacharsis Cloots.” History of European Ideas 38 (2012): 550–569.


The empathetic humanities have much to teach our adversarial culture,” in Aeon, 15 January 2019.

Theses Advised

Hannah Tager ’20Little Fools and Visionaries: Converso Children on Trial During the Spanish Inquisition

Kevin Silverman ’20“The Truth, Always the Truth and Nothing More Than the Truth”: Reimagining Spanish History After the Disaster of 1898

Rebecca Van Pamel ’19“The End is Near, the Turks are Here”: Instrumentalized History and the Politics of Siege Commemoration in 1883 Vienna