The Levant

The Levant

CBRL works across the Levant, covering the breadth of the social sciences and humanities in the Middle Eastern countries of Jordan, Palestine, Israel, Lebanon, Syria and Cyprus. We sponsor and facilitate many individuals and research projects in topics ranging from Palaeolithic archaeology to contemporary social sciences, fostering collaborative research and knowledge exchange.

What is the Levant?

Orthographic map of the Levant. (Credit: Winkpolve, via Wikimedia Commons).

The Levant is an old term, with its first use in English in the 16th century, and initially generally meaning the Mediterranean east of Italy. The working definition of the term migrates further east with the establishment of the English Levant Company in 1581, with regional headquarters in Aleppo. 

The flexible geographic connotation of “the Levant” suits our desire for soft geographical research boundaries. Though considered by some to be an outdated term – not entirely without merit – it retains relevance in the context of the absence of politically neutral shorthand terms for the region, including ‘Near’ and ‘Middle East’. The Arabic term Bilad al-Sham, is equally historically situated, as is the main alternative, al-Mashriq al-‘Arabi. In this light, it is understandable that no one term can encapsulate the entirety of an area with such a deep, rich and complex past and present.