Empire and Nation in the Middle East

Module summary

Module code: HIST1067
Level: 5
Credits: 15
School: Liberal Arts and Sciences
Department: Humanities and Social Sciences
Module Coordinator(s): Michael Talbot



This is a level 5 15-credit History course for both single honours and joint honours History students. This course will introduce students to the political, social, and cultural history of the Middle East from the first major Ottoman reforms in the early nineteenth century until the establishment of modern nation states in the mid-twentieth century. In particular, we will think about the consequences of reform in the Ottoman Empire, the impact of the First World War on the modern Middle East, and seek to explain the development of nationalisms in the post-Ottoman world. Exploring imperial rivalries in the region between the Ottomans, British and French, the construction of nationalism and nation states in Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Palestine, and Egypt, as well as the role of political violence in bringing about change, this course will not only provide students with the opportunity to think critically about the political history of the Middle East, but also to consider how these historical developments have impacted the region today.

The course aims to:
• Develop an awareness and critical understanding of political and social history of the Middle East between 1800 and 1970.
• Equip students to work with interpretive concepts including empire, mandate, and nation, and to engage comparatively with different polities and ideologies.
• Introduce students to a range of historical methods, primary sources (in translation), and historiography and encourage critical thought and comparative reflection.

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of this course a student will be able to:

1 Analyse with confidence the major trends and key events in Middle Eastern history from the reform period of the Ottoman Empire until the military nationalisms of the 1960s
2 Identify and critique the major trends and debates within the historiography
3 Understand the relationship between intellectual, political and social trends.
4 Apply appropriate academic conventions with regard to referencing.
5 Work with self-discipline and self-direction; to work with others, and have respect for others' reasoned views.
6 Gather, organise and deploy evidence, data and information; show structure, coherence, clarity and fluency of oral and written expression.

Indicative content

This course will cover significant aspects of the political and social history of the Middle East ¬– defined as the Ottoman Empire and Egypt pre-WWI, and the polities that became Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Palestine/Israel, and Egypt post-WWI – by exploring the major events of the period, including the Tanzimat reforms, the caliphate of Abdülhamd II, the First World War, the British and French Mandates, and the Free Officers Revolution in Egypt. Through the examination of recent scholarship on the region, as well as primary source texts, images, videos, and material objects including coins, newspapers, documents, and postcards, students will gain a detailed understanding of how the Middle East underwent profound political and social changes through the pressures of modernisation, nationalism, imperialism, and Europeanisation. Students will be introduced and equipped to engage with historiographical debates and critique of primary sources by focussing on these key themes.
Indicative structure:

1. Orientalism and Beyond: Writing histories of the Middle East
2. The Ottoman Empire on the eve of reform
3. Ottomanism and the Tanzimat
4. Egypt between Mehmet Ali and the British occupation
5. Caliphate redux: Sultan Abdülhamid II
6. The Ottoman Arab provinces
7. Ottoman society and culture in the nineteenth century
8. Catastrophe: WWI and the Middle East
9. Atatürk and the Republic of Turkey
10. The French and the British in Syria and Iraq
11. The Mandate in Palestine
12. Nationalism and Islamism: Nasser and Qutb in Egypt

Teaching and learning activity

Students will be exposed to a range of approaches and skills sets.

The course will be taught through seminars with a focus on student-centred learning through discussion and analysis of primary and secondary texts, and well as images, videos, and material objects. Extensive use will be made of Moodle both as a repository for teaching and learning resources and as a means of facilitating group work and additional discussion. Classroom activities will take the form of discussions, debates, source-based analysis and writing exercises.

Students will be expected to engage in directed reading, to undertake independent research, and to interpret primary and secondary source materials in addition to demonstrating their ability to offer sound, well-informed, original arguments in a written format.


Methods of SUMMATIVE Assessment: Essay
Outcome(s) assessed by summative assessment
(Please use the numbers above to refer to these): 1,2,3,4,5,6
Grading Mode: Numeric
Weighting: 70%
Pass Mark: 40%
Word Length: 2500
Outline Details: An original essay of c 2500 words on a topic to be formulated by the student with approval from the course leader.

Methods of SUMMATIVE Assessment: Primary source analysis
Outcome(s) assessed by summative assessment
(Please use the numbers above to refer to these): 1,3,4,5,6
Grading Mode: Numeric
Weighting: 30%
Pass Mark: 40%
Word Length: 1000
Outline Details: Analysis of c1000 words of a written, visual, or material primary source to be chosen by the student form a selection provided by course leader.

Students are required to pass all components in order to pass the course.