James Onley

Dr James Onley is a historian. He is currently an Honorary Member of ArCHIAM.

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Liverpool School of Architecture
University of Liverpool
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Honorary Research Fellow


James Onley is Director of Historical Research and Partnerships at the Qatar National Library, with responsibility for the Qatar Digital Library and QNL’s relationship with archival partners. He is a founding Editor of the Journal of Arabian Studies (Taylor & Francis/Routledge) and an Honorary Research Fellow at the IAIS, of which he has been a member since 2002. Between 2005 and 2012 he was Director of the Exeter Centre for Gulf Studies. James specializes in Gulf history, heritage, culture, society, and politics. Prior to entering academia, he served in the Canadian Army for 12 years and was a UN peacekeeper in Iraq at the end of the Iran–Iraq War (1988).

Research, scholarly and professional interests

  • The Gulf region (Arabia, Iran, Iraq), 17th–21st century
    • Heritage (museums)
    • History
    • Culture
    • Society
    • Politics
    • Merchant families
    • Ruling families
    • British involvement
  • India, 17th–20th century
    • British involvement
    • Merchant families
    • Ruling families
    • Culture
  • The Indian Ocean, 17th–20th century
    • Merchant networks
    • Cultural and political transnationalism (especially foreign influences on Arabia)
    • British involvement
  • European imperialism / world empires, 16th–20th century
    • Britain and the Middle East (especially the Gulf region, Yemen, and Egypt)
    • Britain and India
    • Local cooperation and collaboration in the maintenance of empire
    • Culture and empire (such as the Westernization of indigenous elites)
  • Diasporas, 16th–21st century
    • British, Indian, and Iranian communities in Arabia
    • British, Arab, and Indian communities in Iran
    • British, Arab, and Iranian communities in India



  • Qatar National Library
  • University of Exeter
  • University of Liverpool


  • Qatar University
  • Doha Institute for Graduate Studies
  • American University of Sharjah
  • Georgetown University
  • University of Oxford
  • University of Bahrain

Areas of expertise

  • Gulf history, heritage, culture, society, and politics