Dr. Kristina Richardson is a historian of the medieval Islamic world and the Roma. Her investigation of Arabic manuscripts highlights the importance of understanding the lives of non-elites and marginalized groups when seeking to gain a complete view of a society as a whole.
Richardson’s research is based on the writings and material production of non-elites in the medieval Middle East. She has analyzed the intellectual networks of medieval disabled writers, explored the degraded position of blue- and green-eyed people in early Islamic societies, identified the only known pre-modern Arabic sign alphabet, and co-published a study and edition of the earliest known Arabic notebook of an artisan or merchant.
She has focused her study on the disabled and the Roma and she is currently writing a book about free and unfree African and Asian manual laborers in early Islamic Basra, Iraq.
Her findings force a radically new understanding of European modernity and the place of linguistic and ethnic minorities in its formation. Her research into Romani contributions to late medieval/early modern European society provide much needed context for modern appreciation of the long history of Roma in Europe.
She is the author of Difference and Disability in the Medieval Islamic World (2012), Roma in the Medieval Islamic World: Literacy, Culture, and Migration (2022) and co-author with Boris Liebrenz of The Notebook of Kamāl al-Dīn the Weaver (2021).
Richardson earned a BA in History and Certificate in Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University and later received a Master’s degree and a PhD at the University of Michigan. She is currently an associate professor of history at Queens College and the CUNY Graduate Center. Her work has been supported by the National Endowment of the Humanities, European Research Council, Marie Curie Foundation, Mellon Foundation, ArtSTOR, and the City University of New York. She is also the co-editor of the Der Islam journal.
In Fall 2022, Kristina Richardson was named the John L. Nau Professor of History and Middle Eastern and South Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of Virginia.