Magnús T. Bernhardsson

Magnús Bernhardsson

Brown Professor of History and Faculty Affiliate in Arabic Studies, Leadership Studies and Religion

Stetson Hall Rm 607

On Leave 2021-2022


B.A. University of Iceland (1990)
M.A. Yale University, Religion (1992)
Ph.D. Yale University, History (1999)

Current Committees

  • Curricular Planning Committee
  • Global Studies


Magnus T. Bernhardsson specializes in the modern Middle East, specifically the political and cultural history of Hashmite Iraq (1921-1958). After earning his B.A. degree in theology and political science at the University of Iceland, he came to the United States and completed a masters degree in religion from Yale Divinity School in 1992. After a year in Syria studying Arabic, he returned to Yale and finished a Ph.D in Middle Eastern History in 1999. Prior to coming to Williams in 2003, he taught at Hofstra University for four years. He is the author of several books and edited volumes including Reclaiming a Plundered Past. Archaeology and Nation Building in Modern Iraq (Texas, 2005). He is currently researching and writing a book called History be Dammed! which is about hydro-electric dams in the Middle East and how they have impacted and destroyed historical sites.

Selected Publications

Mið-Austurlönd. Fortíð, nútíð, framtíð [In Icelandic. The Middle East. Past, Present, Future]. Published by Forlagið, Reykjavík, 2018.

Editor, with Abbas Amanat, U.S-Middle Eastern Historical Encounters. A Critical Survey (Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 2007).

Editor, with Hanna Ragnarsdottir and Elsa Jonsdottir, Fjölmenning á Íslandi [in Icelandic] (e. Multiculturalism in Iceland) (Reykjavik: University of Iceland Press, 2007).

Reclaiming a Plundered Past. Archaeology and Nation Building in Modern Iraq (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2005).

Píslarvottar Nútímans. Íslam í Írak og Íran [in Icelandic] (e. Martyrs of Modernity. Islam in Iraq and Iran) (Reykjavik: Mál og Menning, 2005).

Editor, with Abbas Amanat, Imagining the End. Visions of Apocalypse from the Ancient Middle East to North America (London: I.B. Tauris, 2001).

Research Interests

Modern Middle Eastern history, Modern Iraq, Nationalism, US-Iraqi relations, History of Archaeology.

Theses Advised

Kenneth Thomas Marshall ’20 Fighting the Jihad of the Muslims: Al-Sulami’s Kitab al-Jihad and continuity in Islamic thought during the “counter-Crusade

Ian Concannon ’19 Williamstown and the Peacock Family Throne: Constructing Meaning from the Exile of the Iranian Royal Family
(with Karen Merrill)

Phoebe Hall ’16 Representations of Workers on the Aswan High Dam Project

Alexandra Oviedo ’14 Creating Kings:  Gertrude Bells’ Evolving Views of Arab Political Aspirations and the Creation of Iraq

Nicholas Tyson ’14Atatük and the Turkish Language Reforms:  One Man’s Vision and the Future of a Nation

Galen Jackson ’09Militarized Democracy: The American Reactions to the Coups in Turkey

Si-Hyun Woo ’09 (with Eric Goldberg) – Scripture and Tradition:  A Rappprochement of the Reformations

Jimmy Bierman ’08Interventions: Lebanon 1958-1982

Karl Naden ’06 Securing the American Stake in Iraqi Oil. The Open Door Policy in American Foreign Oil Policy, 1922-1931

Zachary Ulman ’06What Kind of Israel Do We Want? Israel’s Existential Crisis and Battle Over Rabins Legacy

Marissa Doran ’05Pulling Teeth. Energy and Crisis in the Carter Era 1976-1981

Sarah Whitton ’05Fighting the Dead Hands of Sarah. Premillennialists, Arabs and Islam from Balfour to Babylon

Program Connections at Williams

Arabic Studies

Global Studies

Jewish Studies

Leadership Studies

Religion Department