The Middle East, 1500 – Present 

Spring 2021, General Education Lecture Course, History 131

Is the Middle East an isolated pocket of the world where war and conflict have always abounded, with people mired in timeless sectarianism and impenetrable politics? Or can we instead use History to help situate the Middle East in global forces, to make sense of the past, and to unravel the complications and complexities of the region which reach us in the news headlines today? This course aims to give you the tools to enable you to think, read, and write critically about the modern Middle East. We will be dealing with the political, social, and cultural history of the region with an emphasis on its interconnections with the rest of the world, most notably Europe and America during the modern period. We begin with an overview of early Islamic history, and then turn to focus on the rise and functioning of the Safavid Empire in Iran and the Ottoman Empire in the Eastern Mediterranean and Western Asia. We then look at the shifting balances of power within these empires which were caused by both internal and external forces. Next, we move into the era known as the “Modern” Middle East, exploring both the essential role of European imperialism in shaping this period and trans-regional reactions to it. We continue on towards our final destination, the present day, examining particular events and longer trends that have fundamentally shaped the region, including the First World War and the politics that literally drew the map of the area, the founding of the state of Israel and the Palestinian struggle for nationhood, Nasserism and Pan-Arabism, the Lebanese civil war, the Iranian Revolution and the rise of Political Islam, and the politics of oil and the Gulf Wars. We end our course with a look at the unprecedented wave of revolutionary activity which engulfed the region during the Arab Uprisings, and reflect upon contemporary events.

Travel Writing: Explorations into the History of the Modern Middle East

Spring 2021, Junior Year Writing Seminar, History 450

In this Junior Year Writing Seminar, we will explore major milestones in the history and historiography of the modern Middle East through travel writing, construed broadly as texts composed by authors on the move. We will use the vantage points of men and women from the region and beyond to examine Middle Eastern political and social history from circa 1800 to the present day. General topics include: the origins of the modern era, the rise of Western imperialism, new conceptions of political belonging, the formation of nation states, and the road to revolution. The priority of this course is to improve the quality of your writing through papers based on our study of these topics, and through regular and fun grammar drills. Towards this end, you will write several Short Papers and one term paper, and will workshop your drafts in class with me and with your classmates. Strengthen your ability to communicate effectively to readers, while learning about key moments in modern Middle East history and how they have been experienced by those who lived through them.

Mass Migration in the Modern Middle East

Last offered fall 2019, Honors Seminar, History 491

Media headlines across the world today contain news of the humanitarian, political, economic, and social implications of the refugee crises that have resulted from the Arab Uprisings. Seen through the lens of history, however, these recent events form part of a long tradition in which people have been displaced during the modern era. This course will connect contemporary events to the history of mass migration in the Middle East, taking the settlement of major cities during the mid-eighteenth century as our starting point. Together we will explore the pushes and pulls of population transfer through urbanization, invasion, state centralization and forced labor, European and Ottoman imperialism, technological change, the development of nationalism, genocide, world wars, and economic migration. Along the way we will stop to focus on the lived experience of migration, examining topics such as protest and subversion, cosmopolitanism, identity and belonging, mahjar (emigration), exploitation, and historical memory. We will also contemplate how these earlier episodes in mass migration impact the Middle East today through topics like identity, political and ideological organization, citizenship, and globalization. Students will leave this course with an understanding of major historical topics concerning the modern Middle East, a framework for interpreting contemporary events, and practice in the skills of research, writing, critiquing, and presenting.

Middle Eastern Metropolis

Last offered spring 2019, Lecture Seminar, History 490

Some of the world’s largest and longest inhabited cities are to be found in the Middle East. How did these cities originate? What types of social arrangements and ideas did they support? How did they evolve over time? And how were they, and the people who inhabited them, impacted by specific forces such as imperialism, colonialism, tourism, consumerism, war, oil, and political protest? This course uses cities as a lens to explore the history of the Middle East, and the history of how the Middle East has been studied, from the 7th century to the present day. We will draw on interdisciplinary research ranging from art history, anthropology, literature, and political science to capture the various ways in which the city has been studied academically, and we will analyze primary sources such as travelogues, maps, memoirs, and films to appreciate the different ways in which cities have been recorded and experienced by people over time. The course is structured temporally and thematically around typologies of Middle Eastern cities. Each week we will investigate a new ‘type’ or ‘aspect’ of the city, such as the classical city of Baghdad, the colonial city of Algiers, and the war-torn city of Beirut. In addition to giving you a solid overview of the history of the Middle East, this course will introduce you to historiographical criticism.