Many of the critical issues facing our world focus on, or otherwise involve the 'Middle East'. In this unit we study historical, cultural and political commonalities, diversity and conflicts in this complex region in order to provide a basis for developing a critical understanding of contemporary events, issues and contending arguments. The unit begins with a brief general historical survey of the politics and peoples of the region, with particular attention given to the evolution of Islamic institutions and culture. Attention is given to the critical period of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, which saw the decline of the Ottoman Empire and a significant reshaping of political boundaries after WWI through the provision of the Versailles Treaty, which aimed to benefit western powers. We then study a selected number of countries, groups and issues in the region, covering topics that include: the influence of and reactions to the West; the emergence of Arab nationalism; the modernisation efforts of Middle Eastern Governments; the struggle of various peoples for political independence; Zionism; Palestine and the course of the Arab-Israeli conflict; the reassertion of Islamic values and power; the Gulf War and the foundations of the current Iraq war.

Unit details

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Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this unit, students will be able to:
  1. Understand the history of the Middle East, from Egypt to Iran, and from Turkey to the Arabian Peninsula, over the past 150 years;  
  2. Demonstrate the skills of thinking historically;  
  3. Undertake primary historical research;  
  4. Write as a historian; and  
  5. Demonstrate a deepening of their love of history as a discipline.  


Assessment type Description Grade
Essay short essay 10%
Report Class paper and essay 40%
Research Paper Research paper 50%

Required reading

Making Modernity: From the Mashrig to the Maghreb,
Pascoe, Rey, James eds, 2015
North Carltom/Arena Publications.

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