Topic outline

  • General

    Modern Middle East, 1798-present

    MWF 10:30-11:20, Apple Tree

    Office Dalrymple 12, Office hours TBD

    "The principal turning point in the history of the Near East since 1923 is neither the end of European domination nor the rise of the oil industry but the replacement of the notables by new groups composed of what one might call a state middle class of bureaucrats and army officers during the great secular revolutions of the 1950s and 1960s." -- M. E. Yapp, The Near East Since the First World War (Essex: Pearson, 1996), p. 38. 

    This course examines the history of the modern Middle East through the lenses of conflict and its cessation. What has the "monopoly on legitimate force within territorial borders" looked like in this region during Empire, colonial domination, monarchy, nationalism, popular uprisings? The region has experienced terms of peace - treaties, colonial and Mandatory power-sharing agreements, population exchanges and cleansings, forced expulsions, identitarian violence, peace accords, arms and aid deals, foreign-orchestrated coups and regime changes - that have often proved as divisive as declared wars between internationally recognized parties. The Global War on Terror has ushered in an era of less visible, less accountable warfare: flourishing of asymmetrical conflicts, occupations, insurgency and counterinsurgency, political and religious terrorism, remote and air-based warfare, proxy warfare, military reliance on sub-contracted labor, aid, development and humanitarian infrastructure that can augment or compete with exercise of state authority.


    All or most of the course readings are open-source and/ or attached on this website as PDFs. Please PRINT OUT the readings, read actively (see texts in folder below), and bring them with you to class. 

    Attendance & Participation = 20 %

    ***MAP QUIZ ON FRIDAY, SEPT. 8*** = 5 %

    Short papers x 3 = 15 %

    Midterm = 10 %

    Annotated Bibliography (including main research question) for research paper = 10 %

    Peer Review of research paper draft = 10 %

    Final paper, 15-20pp. = 20 %

    Final exam = 10 %

    • Topic 1: Napoleon in Egypt

      Friday, Sept. 1 & Mon., Sept. 4

      Nota bene: these excerpts end at arbitrary points because the full ones are too long - it should be enough of the text for you to get a sense of it as a whole.  

      Primary source readings:

      Abd al-Rahman al-Jabarti, "Chronicle," excerpt

      Louis Antoine Fauvelet de Bourriene, Private Secretary to General Bonaparte, "Memoires," excerpt [there is a break after p. 147 to p. 162, which I included so that you can read Note 1, Napoleon's own words.]

      Secondary literature/ background on Napoleon's Egypt campaign:

      M. E. Yapp, The Making of the Modern Near East, 1792-1923, pp. 47-57. 

      • Topic 2 - Mehmet Ali's Army

        Wed., Sept. 6


        Khaled Fahmy, All The Pasha's Men (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge UP, 1997), intro. 

        • MAP QUIZ

          For Fri. Sept. 8, please be able to label the highlighted countries and their capitals, plus the Rivers Nile, Euphrates and Tigris (those rivers will appear as in the blank map, i.e., you do not have to draw them yourselves). 

          • Week 3: 9/11, cause & effect

            Mon. 9/11 & Wed. 9/13:

            Osama bin Laden, "Letter to America," Nov. 2002

            Authorization for the Use of Military Force [against terrorists], PL 107-40, Sept. 18, 2001

            [Fri. 9/15 no class]

            • Week 4: end of Ottoman Empire, WWI

              Ottoman Empire in WWI: Maps & timeline

              Mon. 9/18 - turn of the century Ottoman Empire, Young Turks, Awakening Arabs

              George Antonius, The Arab Awakening, 1938, chaps. 5-6. 

              Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities, Intro and chap. 3

              Reading questions: Were Young Turks a fundamentally new, post-imperial movement? Proto-nationalist? How are nations different from states? Is it necessary to posit a common quasi-biological origin (natio) to create a robust shared identity as citizens of a state? do we see in this a reason why multi-ethnic attempts to build durable institutions of government/ power can fail? Consider how Antonius distinguishes between "Arab,” "Turk,” and "Ottoman.” Where does he see fundamental historical change, and to whom or what does he attribute it? Whose stories does he tell? What relationship does he have to the sources - is he consulting official documents in an archive, doing interviews, observing first hand, other? 

              Moreover: why read a history written in 1939?

              See also "Reading secondary literature” document

              Wed. 9/20 & Fri. 9/22 - WWI & Armenian Genocide


              Primary source: American Committee for Armenian and Syrian Relief. Latest news concerning the Armenian and Syrian sufferers, Jan. 25, 1916. (United States: s.n., 1916). 12pp.

              Secondary literature: Taner Akçam, The Young Turks' Crime Against Humanity: The Armenian Genocide and Ethnic Cleansing in the Ottoman Empire (Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 2012), pp. 31-47. Chap. 1: "Ottoman sources and the question of their being purged    

              Reading questions: What are some major differences between the report by the American Committee and the sources Akçam discusses? Consider the kind of testimony they provide (or presents: in the case of Akçam's chapter, I mean the testimony of the Ottoman sources, which are not available in English). Whose perspective is recorded and what is the source of information?  What kind of authority is claimed? What kind of redaction/ editing/ purging has been done? To what end? What is the explanation that the source provides for the events it depicts (who is responsible/ at fault)? Do you find it a valuable source of information?    

              Mon. 9/25 - Paper #1, WWI, Sykes-Picot, Arab Revolt

              Paper assignment: write approx. 800 words on the Sykes-Picot agreement of 1916. You can choose one of the topics/ angles/ questions in the document Reading primary sources. The background readings will give you useful context, and the secondary literature raises further questions, but for the paper you should just focus on the Agreement itself and whatever you find most noteworthy about it.  


              Background: James Gelvin, The Modern Middle East: A history, 3rd. ed. (NY, NY and Oxford, UK: Oxford UP, 2011 [2005]), pp. 180-183, "World War I and the Middle East State System.”

              More background: Eugene Rogan, The Arabs, chap. 6 "Divide and rule

              Primary source: Sykes-Picot Agreement, 1916

              Secondary literature: Sara Pursley, " 'Lines drawn on an empty map': Iraq's borders and the legend of the artificial state,”, June 2-3, 2015: Part 1 and Part 2

              See also:

              The King-Crane Commission Report, Aug. 28, 1919 

              James Zogby, "Opinions matter: a lesson from history,” HuffPost, 7/11/2008 

              NYT article, Dec. 3, 1922, "Crane and King's long-hid report on the Near East

              This is a neat tool to look around on:


              King-Crane Commision Digital Collection at Oberlin College Archives



            • Postwar Turkey and Egypt

              Reading for Wed. 9/27/ Fri. 9/29:

              Gelvin, Modern Middle East, chap. 12 "State-building by revolution and conquest

              Primary sources:

              Kemal Atatürk, Letter on abolition of Ottoman caliphate, 3 Mar. 1924. In Sourcebook, eds. Amin et al., pp. 233-238

              Huda Shaarawi, Salon for Women. In Gelvin, Modern Middle East, pp. 169-70

              SEE ALSO (optional): Full text of Shaarawi's Harem Years: The Memoirs of an Egyptian Feminist, 1879-1924, on Google Books

              • Interwar, cont'd.

                Readings for Mon. 10/2: Oil, Saudi Arabia and Iran 

                Roger Owen, State, Power and Politics in the Making of the Modern Middle East, 3rd ed. (London: Routledge, 2004), chap. 1 "The end of empires” pp. 5-22.

                D'arcy oil concession, 1901

                British Library digital collection of oil and concession maps, read the article, and look at some maps: e.g., 1945    

                Readings for Wed. 10/4: Sykes-Picot redux

                Gelvin, Mod ME chap. 11

                Hanna Batatu, The old social classes and the revolutionary movements of Iraq: a study of Iraq's Old Landed and Commercial Classes and of its Communists, Ba'thists, and Free Officers (Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 1978), ch. 2 "Of the diversity of Iraqis,” pp. 13-36.

                Primary sources:

                An Appeal from the Iraqi Minorities Rescue Committee, 1931. In Amin, et al., eds., Sourcebook.

                See also Covenant of the League of Nations, Art. 22 establishing Mandates

                • Mon. 10/9

                  Charles Tripp, The Power and the People, pp. 219-237 "History wars"

                  Wed. 10/11

                  Tom Segev, One Palestine, Complete: Jews and Arabs under the Mandate, chap. 11 "A new man


                  Israel-Palestine 1967 war before and after

                  Israel-Palestine current 

                  Theodore Herzl, The Jewish State (1896), from section V "Society of Jews and Jewish State": 


                  It might be suggested that our want of a common current language would present difficulties. We cannot converse with one another in Hebrew. Who amongst us has a sufficient acquaintance with Hebrew to ask for a railway ticket in that language! Such a thing cannot be done. Yet the difficulty is very easily circumvented. Every man can preserve the language in which his thoughts are at home. Switzerland affords a conclusive proof of the possibility of a federation of tongues. We shall remain in the new country what we now are here, and we shall never cease to cherish with sadness the memory of the native land out of which we have been driven.

                  We shall give up using those miserable stunted jargons, those Ghetto languages which we still employ, for these were the stealthy tongues of prisoners. Our national teachers will give due attention to this matter; and the language which proves itself to be of greatest utility for general intercourse will be adopted without compulsion as our national tongue. Our community of raceis peculiar and unique, for we are bound together only by the faith of our fathers.


                  Shall we end by having a theocracy? No, indeed. Faith unites us, knowledge gives us freedom. We shall therefore prevent any theocratic tendencies from coming to the fore on the part of our priesthood. We shall keep our priests within the confines of their temples in the same way as we shall keep our professional army within the confines of their barracks. Army and priesthood shall receive honors high as their valuable functions deserve. But they must not interfere in the administration of the State which confers distinction upon them, else they will conjure up difficulties without and within.

                  Every man will be as free and undisturbed in his faith or his disbelief as he is in his nationality. And if it should occur that men of other creeds and different nationalities come to live amongst us, we should accord them honorable protection and equality before the law. We have learnt toleration in Europe. This is not sarcastically said; for the Anti-Semitism of today could only in a very few places be taken for old religious intolerance. It is for the most part a movement among civilized nations by which they try to chase away the spectres of their own past.

                  • Wed. 10/18

                    Dan Horowitz and Moshe Lissak, Origins of the Israeli Polity (Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1978), intro "The Historical and Sociological Perspectives"

                    Ilan Pappe, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine (London: Oneworld, 2006), Intro and chap 5

                    (N.B. Pappe chap 5 is long - concentrate on the 2 works' introductions)

                    • Fri. 10/20: Arab Nationalism

                      Nasser and the Free Officers

                      Gamal Abdul Nasser, Speech announcing the nationalization of the Suez Canal, 26 July 1956

                      Roger Owen, State, Power and Politics in the Making of the Modern Middle East, 3rd ed. (London and New York: Routledge, 2004), chap. 4

                      I advise taking a minute to familiarize yourself with the basic events of the Suez Canal Crisis of 1956; Wikipedia or Encyclopedia Britannica is fine.

                      Finally, consider this: 

                      Heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali visits Egyptian President Gamal Abdul Nasser in Cairo

                      • Nasser video links

                        News video of nationalization (source unknown):

                        AP news video (British perspective):


                        Nasser speech after 1956 war:


                        Nasser speaks about hijab (context is discussion of Muslim Brotherhood):

                        • Mon. 10/22 - Arab Nationalism, cont'd.

                          We'll discuss the Owen chapter we read for Friday, and also 

                          Roger Owen, The Rise and Fall of Arab Presidents for Life (Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 2014 [2012]), chaps. 1 & 2 (= pp. 12-36)

                          • Iranian Revolution

                            Mon. 10/30

                            Gelareh Asayesh, "I grew up thinking I was white"; Marjane Satrapi, "How can one be Persian?"; Reza Aslan, "From here to Mullahcracy," in Lila Azam Zanganeh (ed.), My Sister, Guard Your Veil; My Brother, Guard Your Eyes: Uncensored Iranian Voices (Boston: Beacon Press, 2006), pp. 12-29    

                            Gelvin, Modern Middle East, chap. 19

                            Wed. 11/1

                            Mana Kia, Afsaneh Najmabadi, and Sima Shakhsari, "Women, Gender, and Sexuality in Historiography of Modern Iran,” in Touraj Atabaki (ed.), Iran in the 20th Century: Historiography and Political Culture (London: I. B. Tauris, 2009), pp. 177-197    

                            Houchang E. Chehabi, "The Paranoid style in Iranian historiography,” in Atabaki 2009, pp. 155-176    

                            Fri. 11/3

                            • The 80s

                              Mon. 11/6: Iran-Iraq War, 1980-1988

                              Stacy E. Holden, A Documentary History of Modern Iraq (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2012), chap. 7 "The Iran-Iraq War, 1980-1990

                              See also: Omar Dewachi, Ungovernable life: Mandatory Medicine and Statecraft in Iraq (Palo Alto, CA: Stanford UP, 2017), chap. 6. This is a medical anthropologist's take on the interrelationship of medicine, statecraft, colonialism, and the waging of war. If you don't have time to read it for Mon., we will discuss it on Wed. 

                              Wed. 11/8: Lebanese Civil War, 1975-1990

                    , "Iran responsible for 1983 Marine barracks bombing, judge rules,” May 30, 2003 and

                              PBS Frontline "Target America,” Interview with Bob Woodward, late Sept. 2001

                              [novel] Hanan Al-Shaykh, Beirut Blues, trans. Catherine Cobham. London: Chatto & Windus, 1995, chap. 8    


                              Fri. 11/10: Soviets and Mujahideen in Afghanistan, 1979-1989

                              Svetlana Alexievich, Zinky Boys: Soviet Voices from the Afghanistan War (New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 1989), pp. vii-xix, 54-57, 88-94, 140-150

                              Lawrence Wright, The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11, with a new afterword (New York: Vintage, 2011 [2007]), pp. 114-138

                              Robyn Creswell and Bernard Haykel, "Why Jihadists Write Poetry,” The New Yorker, June 8 & 15, 2015

                              Wed. 11/15: Algeria

                              "Two views of women fighters during the Algerian war of Liberation,” in Amin, et al.,  Modern Middle East: A Sourcebook for History, pp. 214-220    

                              Franz Fanon, "Algeria Face to Face with the French Torturers,” El Moudjahid, September 1957    

                              Further reading:

                              William Langewiesche, "The Expendables," Vanity Fair, Dec. 2012. Longform on the French Foreign Legion

                              • Kuwait & Gulf War I; 9/11 & GWOT

                                Wed. 11/29 Reading:

                                Mehran Kamrava, The Modern Middle East: A Political History Since the First World War (Berkeley, CA: U of California P, 2005), pp. 183-203 

                                Ahmed Saadawi, Frankenstein in Baghdad (excerpt), in Beirut39: New Writing from the Arab World, ed. Samuel Shimon (New York: Bloomsbury, 2010), pp. 51-56

                                Fri. 12/1 Reading:

                                Jeremy Scahill, Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army, rev. ed. (New York: Nation Books, 2008 [2007]), pp. 1-48 "Baghdad's Bloody Sunday    

                                Darryl Li, "Hunting the 'Out-of-Place' Muslim,” South Asian Magazine for Action and Reflection, May 31, 2011

                                • Mon. 12/4: present-day GWOT

                                  Luke Mogelson, "Dark Victory in Raqqa," The New Yorker, Nov. 6, 2017

                                  Sudarsan Raghavan, "US soldier in Niger ambush was bound and apparently executed, villagers say," WaPo, Nov. 10, 2017