The study of literacy has experienced a tremendous expansion in the last few decades, and consequently we know much more now about literacy in Europe in both the medieval and the early modern period, with some countries such as France and England being more studied than others. When we turn to the Arab and Ottoman world, what is known about the period before modern times (c.1500–1800) is relatively limited, and the subject has not been given much consideration by historians. Research on education has tended to focus on learned men, the ulama or religious scholars who formed part of the religious educational establishment and the bureaucracy. We know a lot about the Azhar in the eighteenth century, the scholars associated with it, their intellectual production, and the students who came from faraway lands to follow their classes. We know much less about the many other urban dwellers who were less educated, but who had access to certain forms of knowledge or literacy. The studies undertaken by James Heyworth-Dunne and Ahmad Izzat Abdul Karim in the 1930s are still considered standard works on the history of education. 1