John Ricardo I. "Juan" Cole (born October 1952) is an American scholar, public intellectual, and historian of the modern Middle East and South Asia. He is Richard P. Mitchell Collegiate Professor of History at the University of Michigan. As a commentator on Middle Eastern affairs, he has appeared in print and on television, and testified before the United States Senate. He has published several peer-reviewed books on the modern Middle East and is a translator of both Arabic and Persian. Since 2002, he has written a weblog, Informed Comment.
Cole was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico. His father served in the United States Army Signal Corps and afterwards in the Satellite Corps and, when Cole was age two, his family left New Mexico for France. His father completed two tours with the U.S. military in France (a total of seven years) and one 18-month stay at Kagnew Station in Asmara, Eritrea (then Ethiopia). (Cole reports that he first became interested in Islam in Eritrea, which has a population roughly half Christian and half Muslim.) Cole was schooled at a variety of locations, twelve schools in twelve years, at a series of dependent schools on military bases but also sometimes in civilian schools. Some schooling occurred in the United States, particularly in North Carolina and California.
Cole obtained his undergraduate degree at Northwestern University in 1975, having majored in History and Literature of Religions. For two quarters in his senior year he conducted a research project in Beirut and returned to the city as a graduate student in the fall of 1975, but the civil war prevented Cole from continuing his studies there. Therefore he pursued a Masters degree at the American University in Cairo in Islamic and Middle Eastern studies, graduating in 1978. Cole then returned to Beirut for another year and worked as a translator for a newspaper. In 1979 Cole enrolled at the University of California, Los Angeles as a doctoral student in the field of Islamic Studies, graduating in 1984. After graduation, Cole was appointed Assistant Professor of History at the University of Michigan where he became a full professor in 1995.