SOAS University of London is the leading Higher Education institution in Europe specialising in the study of Asia, Africa and the Near and Middle East.

SOAS is a remarkable institution. With our vast repository of knowledge and expertise on our specialist regions, we are uniquely placed to inform and shape current thinking about the economic, political, cultural, security and religious challenges of our world. Our programmes are taught by respected academics engaged in fieldwork and research which influences government policy and the lives of individuals across the globe. SOAS scholars grapple with the pressing issues confronting two-thirds of humankind today: democracy, development, economy, finance, public and corporate policy, human rights, migration, identity, legal systems, poverty, religion, and social change.

Islamic Ceramics: Collection Histories

In association with the Oriental Ceramic Society

13 – 16 February 2023

Hexagonal tile with underglaze decoration. Istanbul or Iznik, Turkey, circa 1540-50. Set into William De Morgan tiles on the stairs at Leighton House, London. Bought by Frederick Leighton, probably in Istanbul in 1864 or 1867

Course Introduction


The production of ceramics in the Middle East the has an extremely long history—glazed wares are known from as early as the second millennium BCE. After the Islamic conquest of the 7th century, the rapid urbanization of the new territories led to the founding or expansion of various cities where fine ceramics were produced, and this continued through succeeding centuries as power shifted from one city to another. We can in fact trace an almost continuous history of the production of fine glazed wares from 9th-century Basra to 19th-century Tehran. This week-long course will explore the richness and variety of the ceramics from the Middle East and the admiration they inspired in their own time, but also much more recently when they were being acquired by European and American collectors.


After a brief survey to set some of the ceramic highlights that will feature during the week into a historical and geographical context, the lectures will present some of the notable collectors and collections from the 19th century to the present day. Visits to the superb ceramic collections of the V&A and to the famous Syrian and Turkish tiles in the ‘Arab Hall’ at Leighton House, newly-reopened after an extensive conservation project, are scheduled during the week. The lectures will be delivered by leading scholars and curators from the Benaki Museum in Athens, the Victoria & Albert Museum and Courtauld in London, the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford and the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin.


The course is convened by Dr Melanie Gibson and run in association with the Oriental Ceramic Society. Attendees will be eligible for a free one-year membership to the Oriental Ceramic Society.


Existing OCS members are eligible for a discounted fee.


Course Structure


The course runs Monday to Thursday, usually starting at 10am and finishing by 5pm. Lectures will take place in SOAS’ Russell Square, London campus. The course also features afternoon visits to Leighton House and the Victoria & Albert Museum (transport for these visits is not included).

Course Fee: £625


To see the full scheduleplease click here.


To book your placeplease click here.


OCS members can register at a discounted rate at this link.


Please note that capacity for this course is strictly limited and places are confirmed on a first-come, first-served basis. Please refer to our registration terms and conditions before booking your space.


For more information, contact: