William Lancaster (anthropologist)

William Osbert Lancaster (born 1938) is a British social anthropologist who has specialised in the study of the Arab world, particularly the bedouin tribes in the Levant and Middle East.

Life and work

Lancaster was born in 1938, the son of Sir Osbert Lancaster and his first wife Karen Elizabeth Harris. He was schooled at Eton College.

Together with his wife Fidelity, Lancaster has studied various tribes, communities and regions in the Arab world since 1971. The couple have worked in Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Oman and the United Arab Emirates.[1]

Lancaster's 1981 publication The Rwala Bedouin Today has been called "one of the best modern ethnographies on Middle Eastern ethnic groups" and a "highly regarded, unromanticized account of Bedouin life".[2] Lancaster and his family lived with the Rwala tribe of the Anazah confederacy in Eastern Jordan and northern Saudi Arabia for several years while gathering data for the book.[3][4]

Between 1991 and 1994 Lancaster was Director of the British Institute at Amman for Archaeology and History (BIAAH) at Amman in Jordan (now the Council for British Research in the Levant, CBRL).[5] He was recently editor of Nomadic Peoples, the journal of the Commission on Nomadic Peoples. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society in 1993.[6]

When not undertaking anthropological fieldwork in the Middle East, Lancaster lives with his family at Lyness on the island of Hoy in the Orkney Islands, off the northern coast of Scotland.

Selected publications

Co-authored with Fidelity Lancaster


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