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Josh Olsson

Josh Olsson

PhD student, Middle Eastern Studies

Subject groups/Research projects

Arabic & Persian Studies:

Research Interests

Current Research

Josh's PhD is entitled Design, Cosmos and Determinism in the Firdaws al-Ḥikma of 'Alī Ibn Sahl Rabban al-Ṭabarī, a ninth-century Arabic medico-philosophical compendium.

The main contours of his research involve tracing Ibn Rabban's view of a divinely-ordered cosmos by focusing on themes such as number symbolism, prognostication, astrological and environmental determinism, man as a microcosm, tetradic diagrams, etc.

He is also studying the sources of the Firdaws and Ibn Rabban's approach to them. A recent example of this has been his work on Ibn Rabban's verification, repudiation and 'cherry-picking' of notions extracted from his sources.

He is also extremely interested in issues of autopsia in medieval scientific texts, topoi in introductions to medical works, and questions of the circulations of texts in the ninth-century.

Other Interests

Josh is also interested in the peoples of the steppes – particularly the Khazars, medieval travel literature, and ‘wonder’ texts.

He is also rather keen on Tottenham Hotspur and is still trying to find the perfect ale.


Key Publications


"Coup d'état, Coronation and Conversion: Some Reflections on the Adoption of Judaism by the Khazar Khaganate" (JRAS, FirstView, 2013).

"The World in Arab Eyes: A Reassessment of the Climes in Medieval Islamic Scholarship" (forthcoming in BSOAS).