The Making of the Modern Middle East
(Identical to MES 2.01, JWST 044.01)
This panoramic course surveys major developments in Middle East history, politics, and society. Covering more than a two hundred year stretch, we will move across an expansive geography encompassing North Africa, the Levant, the Arabian Peninsula, and parts of Central Asia. Throughout this journey, particular attention will be paid to five important themes: imperialism, modernization, nationalism, Islam, and revolution. In the process of navigating these seminal topics, we will develop a more nuanced understanding of the modern Middle East and a greater appreciation for the insights offered by primary sources, from poems and national speeches to songs and motion-pictures, into the region’s dynamic past. We will begin with a basic question – what and where is the Middle East? – prior to exploring the impact, importance, and mechanics of empires (Ottoman, French, British). Once elucidating this imperial backdrop, we will study sweeping reforms, struggles for independence, and the fashioning of nation-states, before examining a series of revolutionary moments, America’s presence in the Middle East, and the “Arab Spring” and its aftermath. Whenever possible, we will strive to illuminate ordinary people, as opposed to only elite actors, who contributed to the making of the modern Middle East.