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Profile: Dr Roberto Mazza

Dr Roberto Mazza joined the Department of History at the University of Limerick in January 2016. In this post, he outlines his research to date.

“I graduated from the University of Bologna in the summer of 2001 with a degree in Politics and History. I never though about an academic career so I decided to get ready for a career in diplomacy or in the NGO sector. I took an MSc in International Relations at the University of Bologna and then I worked for several months at the Italian consulate in Innsbruck. I then realized that I wanted to know more about the Middle East and perhaps get a job in the region. In 2002 I applied for an MA in Government and Politics of the Middle East at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. I completed my Masters and while applying for jobs I was offered the possibility to work on a PhD in the history department. I had no idea where I was going but I thought it was chance not to be missed. I worked at SOAS under the supervision of Dr Nelida Fuccaro and I wrote about Jerusalem in the transition from the Ottomans to the British with a focus on the period of the First World War. I traveled the world, working in the archives of Istanbul, Jerusalem, Rome, Madrid, Washington and many others, including the Vatican archives. I was able to write fast and at the same time to develop my teaching skills. I taught several modules as a TA and Lecturer. By 2005 I was then convinced that research and academic teaching was my life.

In 2007 I finished my PhD and I rapidly turned it into a book published  by IB Tauris in 2009. The same year I moved to the US as I was offered a job at Western Illinois University. Though a college mainly dedicated to teaching, I was given the possibility to carry out my research and to work on a number of publications. I then engaged in the translation of a diary that I used for my PhD and book from Spanish to English. The diary of the Spanish consul in Jerusalem during the war years was then published in 2011 by IB Tauris and it immediately received a lot of positive attention as the quest for new sources is always strong. At the same time I started researching other topics but always related to the First World War in the Middle East and Jerusalem.

While gaining a lot of experience teaching undergraduate and postgraduate classes on Middle Eastern history I started collecting questions and comments from students. I realized that while sharing my research with them, they were at the same time leading my research agenda. I worked then with a former student who is now completing his PhD at the University of Exeter and we published an article on First World Studies ‘For God and La Patrie: Antonin Jaussen, Dominican Priest and French intelligence agent in the Middle East, 1914-1920.’

Current events also led my research and in 2012 I started working on a project discussing urban violence, later in 2015 a chapter in relation to the Nebi Musa Riots that occurred in Jerusalem 1920 has been published in Urban Violence in the Middle East: Changing Cityscapes in the Transition from Empire to Nation State. Keeping in touch with the history of the First World War in the Middle East, I have recently written a chapter on the evacuation of the Jews of Jaffa in 1917 that has been published at the beginning of 2016 by Routledge.

Currently I am working on a new large project on the urban planning of Jerusalem from 1917 to 1926, to this extent I have been traveling a lot recently presenting papers, gathering feedback and above all looking for more and new sources.

I enjoy research as I realise it is not for myself but for the most part for my students, colleagues and possibly for the larger public opinion.”

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