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About Alyson Wharton

I completed my PhD in 2011 at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London as a student of historian and art historian of Mamluk and Ottoman Egypt, Doris Behrens-Abouseif. I benefitted from the school's ecumenical approach and took courses in Turkish language, Armenian language and Ottoman history in addition to my MA and PhD in History of Art. I spent time between my MA and PhD training to teach English as a foreign language and learning some Arabic in Cairo, then moving to teaching English in Istanbul and learning Turkish. I attended two summers at the idyllic Ottoman language summer school on Cunda Island, Ayvalik Turkey, where I began to hone my craft of reading archival documents. I can also say that I was greatly affected by my peers at the Koc University ANAMED (formerly Research Centre for Anatolian Civilizations), where I spent a 9-month fellowship whilst finishing my thesis. After my thesis, I worked for three years from August 2012 as Assistant Professor in the Department of History of Art, Mardin Artuklu University, Mardin, South East Turkey. I was fortunate enough to be at Mardin at a time when the university, a Turkish state institution, was actively recruiting specialists in Syriac, Kurdish and Armenian studies, amongst other areas previously erased or undermined in Turkish official histories. I was amongst an inspiring and dedicated group of academics and was lucky to teach engaged, and in some cases gifted, students. I taught a mixture of things, including a general survey of the History of Art, a course on Armenian art and architecture, Orientalism, exchanges between Islamic world and 'the West', all of which found entirely different reactions from those I would have encountered in the UK. Alongside teaching, I was able to carry out fieldwork on the Armenian heritage in the region, specifically churches and mansions built in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. I, sadly, left Mardin in the summer of 2015, knowing that I was one of 20 international academics placed on a list by the new rector for firing. I spent that summer in Yerevan, where I had been travelling to in semester breaks for research and for personal reasons throughout my years in Mardin. I moved to Lincoln in September 2015, where I began working as Lecturer and have been teaching a selection of L1 seminars, contributing some L1 lectures on the Ottomans, as well as offering my own courses at L2 and L3 on Ottoman and Armenian 19th-century history. My research has dwelt on the architectural history of the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire. I've so far published mostly on an important family of architects of Armenian ethnicity, the Balyan family, who were amongst the earliest Ottoman architects to receive a Parisian Beaux-Arts education, to implement elements of mass production into Ottoman architectural practice, and were responsible for a stylistic revolution or 'Ottoman Renaissance' in the imperial architecture of the time. However, since being based in Mardin, I've increasingly worked on the Armenian communities in the east of Turkey and their not-insignificant role in the remaking of the urban environment at the end of the 19th century. However, I've also worked on Armenians in the UK, the merchant community in Manchester, and a painter-decorator Sopon Bezirdjian, who was active there in the late 19th century. In terms of heritage-related activities and outreach, I've worked in collaboration with the NGO Hrant Dink Foundation in the past, for instance on their exhibition of Armenian architects' works in Istanbul in 2010. I've worked with Hayashen (Centre for Armenian Information and Advice), Ealing, on their project on Armenian servicemen in WW1 (as well as teaching in an adult education course there). I'm now working towards projects on the Armenian heritage in eastern Turkey, its digital preservation and events to encourage community participation in future protection and conservation.

Subject Specialism

Ottoman History, Armenian History, Islamic Architecture, 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