78449 - History and Institutions of The Modern Middle East

Course Unit Page

Academic Year 2017/2018

Learning outcomes

At the end of the course, students - are able to articulate informed and coherent arguments about the main aspects of Middle Eastern political , social and cultural development in Turkey, Iran and the Arab Middle East by referring to the relevant scholarly literature.

Course contents

This course surveys the history of the modern Middle East by analysing the main features of the process of nation building and state building in Turkey, the Arab East and Iran fron the end of the 18th century until the end of the Cold War. Attention will be devoted to aspects of continuity and change in the political development of these areas while modernization trends and their contestations will be discussed with reference to their main social and cultural implications. The course will provide students with the analytical tools and knowledge necessary to understand the main  features of the political, social, and cultural history of the modern Middle East in the period under consideration.

  • Week 1-Introduction to the study of modern and contemporary Middle Eastern history: working definitions, historical and cultural background.
  • Week 2-Defensive modernization in the Modern Middle East: Tanzimat in the Ottoman Empire, Mohammad Ali's Egypt and Persia under the Qajar
  • Week 3- The 1st world war in the Middle East. The end of the ottoman empire and the emergence of the modern Middle East state-system. State and Nation building processes under the mandates.
  • Week 4-Authoritarian Reformism in Modern Turkey and Iran
  • Week 5-The Palestinian Question, from its origins to the birth of Israel
  • Week 6-The Indipendent Middle East in the Cold War.
  • Week 7-Israel and Palestine from 1948 to 1967
  • Week 8-Multiple directions in th 70's: the legitimicy crisis of secular Aran nationalism, the revival of political Islam, the Arabian penisula and the oil boom, the failure of multi-communitarian democracy in Lebanon (1975-90)
  • Week 9-Khomeini's Islamic revolution in Iran and its export
  • Week 10- The end of the cold war and the Middle East



For a comprehensive chronological and thematic overview, students are required to study:

William Cleveland and Martin Bunton, A History of the Modern Middle East, Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2009 (copies are available from Ruffilli library's course collection).

Karen Armstrong, Islam, a Short History, Phoenix, 2001

The use of the following historical atlas is highly recommended:

The use of the historical maps is highly recommended. A very good selection of maps can be found here:


Instructions for non-attending students: 

Non-attending students are kindly requested to contact the lecturer within 1 month after the beginning of the course to fix an appointment. A first contact will be established and queries about the exam preparation and study methods will be answered.

Non attendings students are required to study the core texts above (Anderson and Armstrong) and are assigned the following reading list about

Celebrating and Reconstructing National Pasts

Podeh, E. (2011) The Politics of National Celebrations in the Arab Middle East, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, chps 1 and 4

Marashi, A. (2014) “Paradigms of Iranian Nationalism: History, Theory, and Historiography.” In Rethinking Iranian Nationalism and Modernity, edited by Kamran Scot Aghaie and Afshin Marashi. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, [Link at https://afshinmarashi.wordpress.com/articles/ ]

_________ (2003) “Performing the Nation: The Shah’s Official Visit to Kemalist Turkey, June to July, 1934.”. In The Making of Modern Iran, edited by Stephanie Cronin. London: Routledge [Link at https://afshinmarashi.wordpress.com/articles/ ]

____________ (2000) “Re-Imagining Nationalism: New Studies in Arab, Turkish, and Israeli Historiography,” Critique: A Journal for Critical Studies of the Middle East 16: 89- 103. [Link athttps://afshinmarashi.wordpress.com/articles/ ]

Yilmaz, Y. (2011) “Learning to Read (Again): the Social Experience of Turkey’s 1928 Alphabet Reform “, IJMES, 43,4 : 677-697

Nereid, C.T. (2011) “Kemalism on the Catwalk: the Turkish Hat Law of 1925”, Journal of Social History, 44, 3: 707-728

Khalili, L (2005) Places of Memory and Mourning: Palestinian Commemoration in the Refugee Camps of Lebanon". Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East, 14, 25,1: 30–45

Goode, J. (2007) Negotiating the Past, Archeology, Nationalism, and Diplomacy in the Middle East, 1914-1941, Austin, TX: Texas University Press, chps 6, 7 9 and 10



Teaching methods

The course will be taught by a combination of lectures and tutorials. featuring individual or group presentations on assigned readings and discussion of key research questions. Active contribution to class seminars is considered extremely important and it will be subjected to informal assessment. Every student will be required to present at least once during the course. Students will be required to base their presentations on compulsory weekly readings, trying to provide critic analyses of these materials, compare and contrast different case-studies, discuss peers' responses, situate their arguments within the relevant scholarly debate and elaborate indipendently on the main conceptual points raised in the lectures.

Assessment methods

Two 3,500 word take-home essays counting toward the 35%of the final mark each, and a final interview (30% of the final mark). Essays must be typed, double-spaced, properly footnoted and containing a brief- but relevant- final bibliography. Sources- at least 5 among scholarly articles, book chapters, and monographies- must build on weekly compulsory and additional readings. See general bibliography above for useful suggestions.

Essay titles will be announced at the beginning of the course. In general terms, the first essay should be handed by week 4, the second one by week 8. Late submissions will be penalized. Plagiarism should be avoided with the outmost attention: make sure quotations are done correctly. 

Teaching tools

Pc, videos, slides, maps.

Links to further information


Office hours

See the website of Francesca Biancani