77918 - History and international Relations of The Middle East

Course Unit Page


This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.

No poverty Decent work and economic growth Industry, innovation and infrastructure Peace, justice and strong institutions

Academic Year 2019/2020

Learning outcomes

The course examines the historical development of the International Relations of the Middle East from the early XIX century to current events. At the end of the course, students will acquire a better understanding of: The patterns of interaction between local institutions (Empires, nation-states, regional organizations, sub and trans-national groups) and their counterparts in Europe, North America, Asia and Africa; The interaction between regional and global patterns of economic development; The influence of international factors on the patterns of state-building in the Middle East. Eventually, students will acquire the necessary tools to analyze critically the interaction between the agency of local and regional forces and international and global dynamics affecting the region. Students will also master the historiographic and political debate concerning the region; and will be able to elaborate analytical and interpretative products about the Middle East and its role in international politics.

Course contents

The first section (10hrs) will provide students with an introduction to the international history of the Middle East from the XIXth century till today. Topics dealt with are:

  • The Politics of Geography: Shifting Boundaries in the Middle East.
  • Patterns of Change in Governmental Institutions: from Caliphate to "Empire" to National and Territorial States.
  • Patterns of Development and Contentious Politics in the XXIst century.

The second section (14hrs) will focus on the Cold War in the Middle East. At the crossroad of the end of European empires, post-colonial independence and superpower rivalry, the interaction between regional forces and rising or declining foreign powers will shed light on the impact of a set of international processes on o the region and, conversely, the agency of local actors in shaping their projects. Case studies from the US, USSR and their allies on the one side, and the Arab world and Iran on the other side will be analysed as for the topics of armed conflicts, economic and institutional development. The study of the patterns of foreign interventions in the Middle East during the Cold War will be useful to compare and assess successive interventions after 1991. Topics dealt with are:

  • The Global Cold War in the Middle East: Postcolonial Politics, Local Conflicts, "Modernization" Programmes.
  • Patterns of Intervention and Internal/External Relationship: Intra-Western Competition for Influence, the 1950s.
  • Patterns of Intervention and Internal/External Relationship:the Socialist States, 1950s-1970s.
  • The Energy Shocks, Reassessing Partnerships: the Long 1970s.
  • Debt and Rivalries in the 1980s.

Guests Lectures:

  • The PLO and the Cold War.
  • The USSR and State-Building in the Middle East.

Final Debate and Presentations

The third section (16hrs) will focus on the international history of modern Syria.This section will analyse how local forces and and factors interacted with regional and international dynamics to shape the international relations as well as the domestic politics of the Arab country from independence in 1946 to current war. Social, economic and political factors will be taken into account and weighed according to time and space of modern Syria. Topics dealt with are:

  • An Introduction to the Politics and Development of Postcolonial Syria.
  • Neoliberalism and "Authoritarian Upgrading" in the 2000s.
  • Dynamics of Conflict since 2011: an Outline.
  • Forces at Play, the Local Actors: the Government.
  • Forces at Play, the Local Actors: Secular Oppositions, Political Islam, Jihadis.
  • Forces at Play, the Regional Actors: Turkey, Iran, the Arab Gulf States.
  • Forces at Play, the International Actors: USA, Russia, EU

Guest Lectures:

  • The Politics and War for Heritage.
  • State Sovereignty and Non-State Actors in the Syrian Conflict


For those students who have not approached the history of modern Middle East before, it is highly recommended the study of James L. Gelvin, The Modern Middle East: A History, Third Edition. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011. Alternatively, Marcella Emiliani, Medio Oriente: una storia dal 1918 al 1991 e MedioOriente: una storia dal 1991 a oggi, Laterza, Bari, 2012.

Main Textbook

Louise Fawcett (eds.) International Relations of the Middle East, Third Edition, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2013 and later versions.

Section II: The Cold War in the Middle East

Rashid Khalidi, Sowing Crisis. The Cold War and American Dominance in the Middle East, Beacon Press, Boston Mass, 2009.

Section III: An International History of Modern Syria

Raymond Hinnebusch, Syria. Revolution from Above, Routledge, London-New York, 2001

Teaching methods

The course is based mainly on Frontal Lectures; Ppt and Visual documentaries will integrate the teachings. Paying attention to the un-exceptional complexity of the area, the aim of the frontal lectures is to provide a consistent line of historical interpretation of the patterns of change in the Middle East.

Voluntary, Oral Presentations by groups of students on topics related to the Second and Third sections will take place at the end of each of these. The aim is to stimulate cooperation among students on bibliographical research, both by their own and under supervision of the Professor, as well as to improve their capabilities in public speeches.

Lectures by guest-scholars will integrate the teachings on specific topics related to the course programme, with the aim to provide different approaches to the events and processes under scrutiny.

Assessment methods

Attenders (80% of lessons, at least)

The final result is made by one Written Exam: 2 long questions concerning the course programme (1 question) and the monograph at choice (1 question).


The Final, Written Exam will consist on 3 long questions relating to: the Main Textbook (1 question) and the two monographs (2 questions)

The Final Exam is a written one in order to grant students due time to elaborate proper answers and suitable arguments. Oral capabilities will be tested along the course by either presentations or participation to discussions.



Because of the current health emergency, next exam sessions will take place along with the following rules:

WRITTEN EXAM WITH OPEN QUESTIONS, ONLINE (similar to the previous, normal ones).

BIBLIOGRAPHY IS CONFIRMED, WITHOUT ANY CHANGE for both attending and non-attending students.


The University of Bologna is setting the suitable software for the online exam session.

Teaching tools

Suggested readings, which related to the specific topics of single classes, will be uploaded on the web platform Insegnamenti Online: iol.unibo.it

 These readings will provide students with more differentiated analysis on the topics under scrutiny, with two aims: first, to let them acknowledge the current scientific debate; second, to stimulate active participation to in-depth discussions during classes, both with Professor and colleagues.


List of Suggested Readings.

Part One - Introduction

Fred Lawson, "International Relations Theory and the Middle East" in Louise Fawcett (eds.), International Relations of the Middle East, 3rd ed., Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2013

Amira Bennison, "Muslim Universalism and Western Globalization" in A.G. Hopkins (eds.), Globalization in History and History in Globalization, Pimlico, London, 2002

Einar Wigen, "Ottoman Concepts of Empire", Contributions to the History of Concepts,Vol.8, 1, Summer 2013, pp. 44–66

Raymond Hinnebusch, "The Middle East in World Hierarchy. Imperialism and Resistance", Journal of International Relations and Development, 14, 2011, pp. 213–246

Şevket Pamuk, Jeffrey G. Williamson, "Ottoman De-Industrialization 1800-1913: Assessing the Shock, Its Impact and the Response", February 2009 draft, JEL No. F1, N7, O2

Lorenzo Kamel, "Artificial nations? The Sykes-Picot and the Islamic State’s narratives in a historical perspective", Paper submitted to the Gingko conference (SOAS, December 6, 2014); under review for “Nations and Nationalism”.

Karen Pfeifer, "Social Structure of Accumulation Theory for the Arab World: The Economies of Egypt, Jordan and Kuwait in the Regional System", paper WEHC, 2009

Adam Hanieh, "Khaleeji-Capital: Class-Formation and Regional Integration in the Middle-East Gulf", Historical Materialism, 18, 2010, pp. 35–76

Samir Aita, Employment and Labor Law in the Arab Mediterranean and the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership. A Comparative Study, Fundación Paz y Solidaridad Serafín Aliaga de Comisiones Obreras. Madrid 2008

Asef Bayat, "Activism and Social Development in the Middle East", International Journal of Middle East Studies, 34, 1, 2002, pp. 1-28

Raymond Hinnebusch, "Historical Sociology and the Arab Uprising", Mediterranean Politics, 19, 1, 2014, pp. 137-140,

Hinnebusch, Raymond, “The Arab Uprisings and The MENA Regional States System”, Uluslararası İlişkiler, 11, 42, Summer 2014, p. 7-27.

Asef Bayat, "Revolution in Bad Times", New Left Review, 80, 2013

Andrea Teti,"Democracy Wit hout Social Just ice: Marginalization of Social and Economic Rights in EU Democracy Assistance Policy after the Arab Uprisings", Middle East Critique, 24,1, 2015, pp. 9-25

Yezid Sayigh, "Who Made the Arab Spring Intoan Arab Crisis?", al Jazeera, 20 November, 2016

Morten Valborn, André Bank, "The New Arab Cold War: rediscovering the Arab dimension of Middle East regional politics", Review of International Studies, 2011, pp.ì 1-22


Part Two - The Cold War in the Middle East

Odd Arne Westad, The Global Cold War. Third World Interventions and the Making of our Times, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2005, Introduction

Peter Sluglett, "The Cold War in the Middle East" in Louise Fawcett (eds.), International Relations of the Middle East, 3rd ed. Oxford University Press, Oxford

Michael Latham, "The Cold War in the Third World, 1963–1975", in O.A. Westad, M. Leffler (eds.), Cambridge History of the Cold War, vol. 2, 2010

Matthieu Rey, «"Fighting colonialism" versus "Non-Alignment", two Arab points of view on the Bandung Conference.», in Nataša Mišković, Harald Fischer-Tiné (eds.), Nada Boškovska Delhi—Bandung—Belgrade: Non-Alignment between Afro-Asian Solidarity and the Cold War, 2012

Paul Kingston, British Modernization in the Middle East, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge,

Nathan Citino, "The Ottoman Legacy in the Middle East", International Journal of Middle East Studies, 40, 2008, pp. 579–597.

Yezid Sayigh, "Armed Struggle and State Formation", Journal of Palestine Studies, 26, 4, Summer, 1997, pp. 17-32

William D. Graf, “The Theory of the Non-Capitalist Road” in Brigitte Schulz, William Hansen (eds.), The Soviet Bloc and the Third World, Boulder CO, Westview Press, 1989

Massimiliano Trentin, "Tough negotiations'. The two Germanys in Syria and Iraq, 1963-74", Cold War History, 8, 3, pp. 353 — 380

Artemy Kalinowsky, The Blind Leading the Blind: Soviet Advisors, Counter-Insurgency and Nation-Building in Afghanistan, Cold War International History Project, Woodroow Wilson Center, Working Paper 60, 2010

Amin Saikal, "Islamism, the Iranian revolution, and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan", in O.A. Westad, M. Leffler (eds.), Cambridge History of the Cold War, vol. 3, 2010

Artemy Kalinowsky, Sergey Radchenko (eds.), The End of the Cold War and the Third World. New Perspectives on Regional Conflicts, Routledge, London, 2011

William Cleveland, Martin Burton, A History of Modern Middle East, part. 4, Westview Press, Boulder CO, 2009

Jane Harrigan, Chenghang Wang, Hamed el-Said, "The Economic and Political Determinants of IMF and World Bank Lending in the Middle East and North Africa", World Development, 34, 2, 2006, pp. 247–270.

Massimiliano Trentin, "Divergence in the Mediterranean. The Economic Relations Between the EC and the Arab Countries in the Long 1980s", Journal of History of European Integration, 21, 1, 2015, pp. 89-108

As for historical and primary sources, please look at:



Part Three - Syria at War

Raymond Hinnebusch, Revolution from Above, Routledge, Abingdone, UK, 2001, Chapter 1, 2

Fred Lawson, Syria, Global Security Watch, Praeger, 2013, Chapter 1

Lorenzo Trombetta, "The Shifting Structures of Syrian Power", in Luca Anceschi, Gennaro Gervasio, Andrea Teti, Andrea Teti (eds.), Informal Power in the Greater Middle East. Hidden Geographies, Routledge, London, 2014

Raymond Hinnebusch, "Syria: from ‘authoritarian upgrading’ to revolution?", International Affairs, 88, 1, 2012, pp. 95-113

Raymond Hinnebusch, Tina Zintl, eds., Syria from Reform to Revolt. Political Economy and International Relations, Syracuse University Press, 2015, Introduction, Part I, II

Raymond Hinnebusch, "Documenting the Roots and Dynamics of Syrian Uprising", The Middle East Journal, 67,3, Summer 2013, pp. 467-474

Syrian Center for Policy Research, The Socio-Economic Roots and Impact of the Syrian Crisis, Damascus, 2013

Christopher Kozak, "An Army in All Corners", Assad's Campaign Strategy in Syria, Institute for the Study of War, 2015

Gareth Stansfield, "Explaining the Aims, Rise and Impact of the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham", The Middle East Journal, 70, 1, Winter 2016, pp. 146-151 (Review)

Yezid Sayigh, The Syrian Opposition Leadership's Problem, The Carnegie Papers, April 2013

Sami Mubayed, Under the Black Flag. At the Frontier of the New Jihad, IB Tauris, 2015, Chapter 4

Raymond Hinnebusch, "The Sectarian Revolution in the Middle East", R/evolutions: Global Trends and Regional Issues, 4, 1, 2016, pp. 120-152

Vittoria Federici, "The Rise of Rojava: Kurdish Autonomy in the Syrian Conflict", SAIS Review of International Affairs, 35, 2, Summer-Fall 2015, pp. 81-90

Jennifer Cafarella, Genevieve Casagrande, Syrian Armed Opposition Powerbrokers, Report 29, Institute for the Study of War, 2016

Luigi Narbone, Agnès Favier, Virginie Collombier (eds.), Inside Wars. Local Dynamics of Conflict in Libya and Syria, European University Institute, Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies, Middle East Directions, 2016

Fred Lawson, Implications of the 2011-13 Syrian Uprising for the Middle Eastern Regional Security Complex, Georgetown University, School of Foreign Service, Qatar, Occasional Papers, n. 14, 2014

Yezid Sayigh, Syria’s Very Local Regional Conflict, Carnegie Middle East Center, June 2014

F. Gregory Gause, III, Beyond Sectarianism: The New Middle East Cold War, Brookings Institute Analysis Papers, 11, 2014

Lina Khatib, Tim Eaton, Haid Haid, Ibrahim Hamidi, Bassma Kodmani, Christopher Phillips, Neil Quilliam, Lina Sinjab, Western Policy Towards Syria: Applying Lessons Learned, Chatham House, Research Paper, March 2017

Dmitri Trenin, Putin’s Syria Gambit Aims at Something Bigger Than Syria, Carnegie Middle East Center, October 2015

Dmitri Trenin, Fateful Triangle. How does Russia position itself between Iran and Israel in the Middle East?, Carnegie Middle East Center, March 2017

Perry Cammack Joseph Bahout, A New Great Game? U.S. airstrikes against the Assad regime present both dangers and possibilities in Syria, Carnegie Middle East Center, April 2017

Jihad Yazigi, Syria's War Economy, Policy Brief, 97, European Council on Foreign Relations, April 2014

Syrian Center for Policy Research, Syria. Confronting Fragmentation. Impact of Syrian Crisis Report, Quarterly Based Report, 2015

Mohanad Hage Ali, Wasta Rule. The Islamic State’s governing system in Syria looks a great deal like that of the Assad regime, Carnegie Middle East Center, March 2017

As for historical and primary sources, please look at:



Office hours

See the website of Massimiliano Trentin