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Dr Hugh Beattie

Profile summary

Professional biography

After reading history at Cambridge, six months spent at a kibbutz in Israel led to an interest in the Middle East and in Islam and Islamic history and society, and I took an MA in Middle Eastern studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. Then, switching from history to social anthropology, in the late 1970s I did some field research in a small town in northern Afghanistan. I was unable to spend as long there as I had hoped because of the Soviet occupation, but it was an unforgettable experience thanks to the hospitality of the people and the harsh beauty of the landscape.

Back in Britain I wrote an M.Phil. dissertation on the subject of Islamic shrines and pilgrimages in Iran and Afghanistan. Following this, while working for the Open University as an Associate Lecturer, I did archival research in the India Office archives in the British Library. This resulted in a doctoral thesis on British relations with the tribes of the North-West Frontier (Waziristan in particular) in the 19th and early 20th centuries, which included a discussion of the role of Islam and Islamic leaders. Since then I have continued to conduct archival research on Britain, Afghanistan and Waziristan. My recent publication Empire and Tribe in the Afghan Frontier Region (2019) has been described as 'A terrific contribution to the literature on the colonial history of the Afghan/Pakistan frontier in general, and on the exemplary case of Waziristan in particular'.

I am a critical reader for several publications and supervising a PhD student.


Dr Hugh Beattie

Department of Religious Studies,



The Open University




Research interests

My research interests include

  • Islam and Islamic movements in 19th and 20th century Afghanistan, the North-West Frontier, Punjab and Iran
  • the history of Sikhism
  • religion in diaspora
  • martyrdom
  • pilgrimage
  • millennialism.

I’m currently working on religious leadership and conflict on the North-West Frontier.

Selected publications

2019 Empire and Tribe in the Afghan Frontier Region: Custom, Conflcit and British Strategy in Waziristan until 1947, I.B.Tauris, London.

2015 'Hostages on the Indo--Afghan border in the later nineteenth century', Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, 43(4) pp. 557–569.

2013 ‘The Mahdi and the End-Times in Islam’, in Prophecy in the New Millennium When Prophecies Persist, S. Harvey and S. Newcombe (eds), Farnham, Ashgate, pp.89-103.

2013 ‘Custom and Conflict in Waziristan: Some British Views’, in B. Hopkins and M. Marsden (eds) Beyond Swat History, Society and Economy along the Afghanistan-Pakistan Frontier, London, Hurst, pp.209-220.

2002 Imperial Frontier Tribe and State in Waziristan, London, Routledge Curzon.

2003 ‘Etnicidad, nacionalismo y el Estado en Afghanistan’, in S. Devalle (ed) Identidad y etnicidad: continuidad y cambio, Mexico City: El Colegio de Mexico, pp.83-117.

1984 ‘Effects of the Saur Revolution in the Nahrin Area of Northern Afghanistan’, in M. Nazif Shahrani and Robert L. Canfield (eds) Revolutions & Rebellions in Afghanistan Anthropological Perspectives, Berkeley, Institute of International Studies, University of California.

See also Open Research Online for further details of Hugh Beattie’s research publications.

Teaching interests

In 2007 I joined the RS department and became Staff Tutor in the East of England regional office in Cambridge; currently I’m on the module teams for A227 Exploring Religion and A332 Religion Why is it Controversial. Course material I’ve written includes the Sikhism Study Guide for the now discontinued module A217 Introducing Religions, as well as chapters in A227 and A332.

Research groups

NameTypeParent Unit
The Ferguson Centre for African and Asian StudiesCentreFaculty of Arts


Hostages on the Indo-Afghan border in the later nineteenth century (2015)
Beattie, Hugh
Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, 43(4) (pp. 557-569)

Negotiations with the tribes of Waziristan 1849-1914-the British experience (2011-11-01)
Beattie, Hugh
Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, 39(4) (pp. 571-587)

Empire and Tribe in the Afghan Frontier Region: Custom, Conflict and British Strategy in Waziristan until 1947 (2019-09-19)
Beattie, Hugh
ISBN : 9781848858961 | Publisher : I.B.Tauris | Published : London

Imperial Frontier Tribe and State in Waziristan (2001-12-21)
Beattie, Hugh
ISBN : 0-7007-1309-3 | Publisher : Curzon Press | Published : Richmond, Surrey

Afghanistan (2016-09-02)
Beattie, Hugh
In: Daniel, Ute; Gatrell, Peter; Janz, Oliver; Jones, Heather; Keene, Jennifer; Kramer, Alan and Nasson, Bill eds. 1914-1918-online. International Encyclopedia of the First World War
Publisher : Freie Universität Berlin | Published : Berlin

The Mahdi and the end-times in Islam (2013-04)
Beattie, H.
In: Newcombe, Suzanne and Harvey, Sarah eds. Prophecy in the New Millennium: When Prophecies Persist (pp. 89-104)
ISBN : 9781409449959 | Publisher : Ashgate | Published : Farnham

Custom and conflict in Waziristan: some British views (2012-06)
Beattie, Hugh
In: Marsden, Magnus and Hopkins, Benjamin eds. Beyond Swat: History, Society and Economy Along the Afghanistan-Pakistan Frontier (pp. 209-220)
ISBN : 9781849042062 | Publisher : Hurst & Co. (Publishers) Ltd. | Published : London

Etnicidad, nacionalismo y el Estado en Afganistán (2002)
Beattie, Hugh
In: Devalle, Susana ed. Identidad y Etnicidad Continuidad y Cambio (pp. 83-117)
ISBN : 9789681210601 | Publisher : El Colegio de Mexico | Published : Mexico City

The Taliban Past and Present (2014-02-04)
Beattie, Hugh
Radicalisation Research