The History and Politics of the Modern Middle East

This information is for the 2015/16 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr John Chalcraft CON5.16


This course is available on the MSc in Comparative Politics, MSc in Conflict Studies and MSc in Global Politics. This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

Course content

This course offers an advanced, inter-disciplinary introduction to the history and politics of the Middle East and North Africa from the nineteenth century to the present. The course adopts a chronological and thematic approach to a series of key topics and debates in the history of the region, including colonial rule, nationalism, popular protest, Israel/Palestine, gender, social change, armed struggle, neoliberalism, migration, rentier states, new religious politics, bread riots,the new imperialism, and the Arab uprisings of 2011-12. The cases are drawn from a wide range of countries in the region. Students will address concrete topics and problems in relevant historical contexts in the light of important social science debates. We draw in inter-disciplinary fashion on anthropology, politics, economic history, geography, sociology and international relations. The course material will avoid and challenge clichés associated with (1) culturally essentialist and exceptionalist (neo)Orientalism, (2) Eurocentric, materialist and teleological Modernism, and (3) wholly relativist or discursively determinist Postcolonialism. We will pay particular attention to the rise and fall of political regimes, the dynamics of consent and dissent, as well as to role of trans-national, trans-regional and global forms.


15 hours of lectures and 10 hours of seminars in the MT. 15 hours of lectures and 10 hours of seminars in the LT. 1 hour of seminars in the ST.

There will be a reading week in week 6 of the MT and week 6 of the LT for assessment preparation.

Formative coursework

One 2,500 word essay to be submitted at the end of the Michaelmas Term. One mock exam essay to be completed during the Lent Term.

Indicative reading

Michael Gilsenan, Lords of the Lebanese Marches (California, 1996); Isam al-Khafaji, Tormented Births (I B Tauris, 2004); Rashid Khalidi, Palestinian Identity (Columbia, 1998); Zachary Lockman, Contending Visions of the Modern Middle East (CUP, 2004); Giacomo Luciani, The Arab State (Routledge, 1990); Timothy Mitchell, Rule of Experts (California, 2002); Owen, Roger. State, Power and Politics in the Making of the Modern Middle East (Routledge, 2004); Parvin Paidar, Women and the political process in twentieth-century Iran (CUP, 1995); Edward Said, Orientalism (Penguin, 1978); Ted Swedenburg, Memories of Revolt (Arkansas, 2003); Robert Vitalis, America's Kingdom (Stanford, 2007).


Exam (80%, duration: 3 hours) in the main exam period.
Essay (20%, 3000 words).

Key facts

Department: Government

Total students 2014/15: 20

Average class size 2014/15: 10

Controlled access 2014/15: No

Lecture capture used 2014/15: Yes (MT & LT)

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Communication