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Qatar Unified Imaging Project (QUIP)

Qatar National Research Foundation

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British Scholar annual conference 2009

British Academy

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Photo of Dr James Onley

Dr James Onley

CD, BA, PBD, DPhil (Oxon), FRHistS, FRAS

Honorary Research Fellow

Director of Historical Research and Partnerships, Qatar National Library                                          (with responsibility for the Qatar Digital Library and QNL's relationship with archival partners) 

Founding Editor, Journal of Arabian Studies (Taylor & Francis / Routledge)

A member of the Centre for Gulf Studies (Director during 2005–12)

Research interests

  • The Gulf region (Arabia, Iran, Iraq), 17th–21st century
    • Heritage (museums)
    • History
    • Culture
    • Society
    • Politics
    • Merchant families
    • Ruling families
    • British involvement
  • India, 17th–20th century
    • British involvement
    • Merchant families
    • Ruling families
    • Culture
  • The Indian Ocean, 17th–20th century
    • Merchant networks
    • Cultural and political transnationalism (especially foreign influences on Arabia)
    • British involvement
  • European imperialism / world empires, 16th–20th century
    • Britain and the Middle East (especially the Gulf region, Yemen, and Egypt)
    • Britain and India
    • Local cooperation and collaboration in the maintenance of empire
    • Culture and empire (such as the Westernization of indigenous elites)
  • Diasporas, 16th–21st century
    • British, Indian, and Iranian communities in Arabia
    • British, Arab, and Indian communities in Iran
    • British, Arab, and Iranian communities in India

For office hours and research leave go here.


Research interests

See main page.


View my CV here.

PhD and MA dissertations supervised

  • Shaikh Abdullah Al Khalifah, Ruler of Bahrain 1796–1843
  • Shaikh Abdullah as-Sabah, Ruler of Kuwait, 1950–1965
  • The Origins of the Al Khalifah of Bahrain, 1600s–1783
  • The Origins of the Indian Business Community in Dubai, 1900–1970
  • A History of Dubai, 1833–2007
  • UAE-Saudi Border Dispute: The Case of the 1974 Treaty of Jeddah
  • The Formation of the United Arab Emirates, 1950–1971
  • British and the Development of Security Forces in the Gulf States, 1921–1971
  • Britain and the Third Saudi State, 1902–1932
  • British Military Involvement in Oman, 1913–2009
  • Britain in Aden, 1950–1967
  • Britain in the Middle East, 1945–56
  • Omani Naval Doctrine
  • The Muslim Brotherhood in Kuwait, 1941–2000
  • The Baghdad Pact, 1953–1959
  • American Propaganda in Iran, 1945–55
  • The Rule of Saddam Hussein, 1968–2003

Archival experience

Other information


  • Leigh Douglas Memorial Prize (1st place), 2002. Awarded annually by the British Society for Middle Eastern Studies to the best PhD dissertation on the Middle East written in the UK.
  • Malcolm H. Kerr Dissertation Award (2nd place, humanities), 2001. Awarded annually by the Middle East Studies Association of North America to the best international PhD dissertations on the Middle East written in English.

Research grants

Professional memberships


James Onley is Director of Historical Research and Partnerships at the Qatar National Library (with responsibility for the Qatar Digital Library and QNL's relationship with archival partners), a founding Editor of the Journal of Arabian Studies (Taylor & Francis / Routledge), and an Honorary Reseach Fellow at the IAIS  He was Director of the Exeter Centre for Gulf Studies during 2005–2012 and has been a member of the IAIS since 2002.  He specializes in Gulf history, heritage, culture, society, and politics.  Prior to entering academia, he served in the Canadian Army for 12 years and was a UN peacekeeper in Iraq at the end of the Iran–Iraq War (1988).




1996, 1997, 1998:  







  • Director of Historical Research and Partnerships, Qatar National Library
  • Honorary Research Fellow, Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies, University of Exeter




  • Lecturer, Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies, University of Exeter








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