Center for Middle Eastern Studies founded

Area studies to Islamic studies 1954

Center for Middle Eastern Studies Founded

The Center for Middle Eastern Studies (CMES) at Harvard was founded in 1954 to “counter the Soviet threat in the Middle East” and “to train selected men for service in private industry and in government,” according to the proposal by the Committee on International and Regional Studies. Its first director was William Langer who, although primarily a scholar of modern European and diplomatic history, had been teaching courses on the modern Middle East since 1935. CMES saw tremendous growth from 1957 to 1964 under the leadership of Sir Hamilton Gibb, who secured significant funding for the Center, especially from the Ford and Rockefeller foundations. In 1990, in line with the emphasis of his predecessor as director, Roy Mottahedeh, the new CMES director, William Graham, sought to expand the mission of CMES to encompass the broader Islamic world by having Professor Mottahedeh chair a new Islamic Studies Committee under the CMES umbrella. This led to the two working together over a decade later to establish the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Islamic Studies Program in 2005, which enabled CMES to return to its original focus on the Middle East.

Center for Middle Eastern Studies

(Top left) Founding Director of CMES, William Langer; (top right) Founding Associate Director of CMES, Richard Frye; (bottom, left to right) Former Associate Director Susan Miller, Director William Graham, Professor Roger Owen, Former Associate Director Thomas Mullins, and Former Director Roy Mottahedeh in the mid-1990s