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About Alyson Wharton

My PhD and book looked at the status and professional operations of the Balyan family, who were Armenians serving as Ottoman imperial architects in the nineteenth century. Using a basis of Ottoman archival sources, material in European archives and Armenian printed texts, I analysed the complex nature of their power.  I focused on how these architects manipulated the courtly setting, institutional framework, networks for building teams and the Armenian communal hierarchy, but also how they adapted their Parisian education to create a new kind of Ottoman architecture fit for the reforming sultans of that age. From 2012 to 2015 I worked at Mardin Artuklu University in S/E Turkey as Assistant Professor in the Department of Art History. Whilst in Mardin I carried out fieldwork on Armenian-Ottoman material culture in the region and began to publish book chapters on the Armenian churches in Upper Mesopotamia and the role of Armenian architects in reshaping the urban environment in the late nineteenth century. I also published on Ottoman architectural education in the nineteenth century. More recently, I have started to work on the political ties of Armenian architects in cities of the Caucasus and on an Armenian-Ottoman decorator in Victorian London.

Department Responsibilities

Coordinating L1 module- Friends and Enemies: A Thematic History. Running own modules at L2 (The Sultan and His Flock: Society, Culture and Power in the Ottoman Empire) and L3 (Faithful Community to Freedom Fighters?: Armenians Between Empires and Nation States).

Subject Specialism

Armenian, Ottoman and Armenian-Ottoman History, History of Architects,  19th-Century Architecture and Urbanism


  • PhD — SOAS, 2012
  • MA — SOAS, 2004


  • Book Grant — Gulbenkian Foundation, Lisbon,
  • Research Centre for Anatolian Civilisations,  Junior Residential Fellowship (nine months) — Koc University, Istanbul,
  • Central Research Fund — University of London,


Peer reviewer for New Perspectives on Turkey; reviewer for Armenian Review and International Journal of Islamic Architecture.

Orcid ID


Research Interests

  • Armenian Studies

  • History of Architecture

  • History of Art

  • Nineteenth-Century Studies

  • Ottoman Studies

Research Projects

  • Armenian architects in Hamidian-Era Ottoman East — awarded £1685 by British Institute for Archaeology at Ankara (BIAA) in 2016

Research in the Lincoln Repository

Professional Affiliations

  • MESA
  • Royal Asiatic Society — Fellow
  • Association of Art Historians (AAH) — Member
  • Society for Armenian Studies (SAS) — Member