Middle Eastern History
History of Modern Middle East
This course introduces the history of the Middle East from the 16th-century rule of Selim I to today. We begin with a comparison of the early modern empires of the Ottoman Turks and the Safavid Persians. We will explore how an ascendant Ottoman Empire threatened Western Europe for two centuries. The rise of capitalist-driven states in Western Europe weakened these empires in the 18th century. We will then discuss how and why the Ottomans survived, while the Safavid dynasty collapsed. We then study how the Ottomans battled their European rivals with vigorous reforms in the 19th century, and how a new center of power, in Egypt, rose in response to Napoleon's 1798 invasion. The Middle East entered the 20th century with constitutional revolutions, but reformers had little time before World War I brought an end to 400 years of Ottoman rule and to the 120-year-old Qajar dynasty in Persia.
The second half of the course focuses on the period since 1918, and especially efforts of Arabs, Turks, Persians and Jews to build nation-states that would compete in a world dominated by industrial powers. The colonial and post-colonial period in the Middle East tracks the attempts of Arabs, Turks, Persians, and Jews to construct nation-states and overcome political, economic, and infrastructural limitations imposed by Western powers. Politics became a game of nationalist, communist, and religious mass movements that struggled for autonomy from European control. We study the origins of the Palestine-Israel conflict, the growth of political violence, and why people embraced religious revival in the closing decades of the century.
This is a four-credit lecture course, with weekly reading assignments of 125-50 pages and discussion sections. Reading centers on primary sources, and the textbook: William Cleveland’s History of the Modern Middle East (textbook) and Akram Khater’s Sources in the History of the Modern Middle East (source book). Additional texts will be posted on Collab. The course will include a map quiz, a vocab quiz, 2 papers, a midterm, and a final exam.