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