History of Modern Middle East

Spring 2015

HIME 2002

History of Modern Middle East

Elizabeth F. Thompson

This course introduces the history of the Middle East from the 16th-century rule of Suleyman the Magnificent to today.  We begin with a comparison of the early modern empires of the Ottoman Turks and the Safavid Persians, their pluralistic cultures and their wealth gleaned from agriculture and a command of East-West trade routes.  The rise of capitalist states in Europe shook the foundations of these empires in the 18th century:  We study why the Ottomans survived, while the Safavid dynasty collapsed.  We then study how the Ottomans battled their European rivals with vigorous reforms in the 19th century, and how a new center of power, in Egypt, rose in response to Napoleon's 1798 invasion.  The Middle East entered the 20th century with constitutional revolutions, but reformers had little time before World War I brought an end to 400 years of Ottoman rule and to the 120-year-old Qajar dynasty in Persia.  The second half of the course focuses on the period since 1918, and especially efforts of Arabs, Turks, Persians and Jews to build nation-states that would compete in a world dominated by industrial powers.  Politics became a game of nationalist, communist, and religious mass movements that struggled for autonomy from European control.  We study the origins of the Palestine-Israel conflict, the growth of political violence, and why people embraced religious revival in the closing decades of the century.

This is a four-credit lecture course, with weekly reading assignments of 125-50 pages and discussion sections.  Reading centers on primary sources, and the textbook:  W. Cleveland's A History of the Modern Middle East (the basic textbook).  Other books include:  L. Ahmed, Women and Gender in Islam; A. Marcus, The Middle East on the Eve of Modernity; al-Jabarti, Napoleon in Egypt.  There are two midterms and a final exam.   This course fulfills non-Western and historical studies requirements.

Corcoran Department of History
University of Virginia
Nau Hall - South Lawn
Charlottesville, VA 22904

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