Chase Robinson

Chase_F_Robinson_200px photo

Research Interests

  • Early Islam


  • Ph.D. from Harvard University

A historian of the pre-modern Middle East, Professor Chase F. Robinson served as president of The Graduate Center from 2013 to 2018 and as provost from 2008 to 2013.

As president, Robinson deepened The Graduate Center’s commitment to advanced learning and education for the public good. With his leadership, The Graduate Center enhanced its reputation for excellence in scholarship and teaching. He ensured that The Graduate Center attracted record levels of philanthropic support and increased both its selectivity and its diversity. During his tenure, The Graduate Center acquired the Advanced Science Research Center, a state-of-the-art interdisciplinary research facility that is the focus of CUNY's investment in the experimental sciences.

As Graduate Center provost, Robinson led the institution's first comprehensive planning process. He secured major funding to enhance faculty support, helped establish The Graduate Center at the forefront of the digital evolution within higher education, expanded the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies program, and launched the Advanced Research Collaborative, the Initiative for the Theoretical Sciences, and the CUNY Institute for Language Education in Transcultural Context. During his tenure, The Graduate Center made major investments in financial aid and hired more than two dozen scholar-teachers of national and international standing, including its first Nobel laureate.

A scholar of Islamic history and culture, Robinson has authored or edited nine books and more than 40 articles that span the geographical and chronological breadth of the pre- and early-modern Islamic Middle East. They include A Medieval Islamic City Reconsidered: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Samarra (2001); Texts, Documents and Artefacts: Islamic Studies in Honour of D.S. Richards (2003); and the first volume of The New Cambridge History of Islam (2010). A recent book, Islamic Civilization in Thirty Lives: The First 1,000 Years (2016), was translated into Arabic and Portuguese. His most recent work is The Works of Ibn Wadih al-Ya’qubi: An English Translation (2017), a co-edited, three-volume set of translations of some of the earliest works of history and geography in Arabic. He is the general editor of Cambridge Studies in Islamic Civilization, a member of the editorial board of Past & Present, and conducts research in several European and Middle Eastern languages.

Robinson received an A.B. (Honors) from Brown University, and studied at the American University in Cairo, the University of Cairo, and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. In 1992, he earned a Ph.D. from Harvard University’s Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations. In 1993, he joined the Faculty of Oriental Studies and Wolfson College, Oxford, where he taught for 14 years. From 1999 to 2000, he was a member of the School of Historical Studies at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, and in 2005 he received a two-year British Academy Research Readership. As chairman of the Faculty Board of Oriental Studies at Oxford, he put in place the department’s first academic plan and forged new relationships with international donors and academic institutions in the Middle East and Asia.

Robinson is on leave during his tenure as the Dame Jillian Sackler Director of the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery and Freer Gallery of Art at the Smithsonian.