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The Making of the Modern Middle East (1870-1940)


Admission requirements

Admission to (one of) the programme(s) listed under Part of in the information bar on the right.
If you are interested in taking this course, but NOT a student of (one of) the listed programme(s), please contact the Education Coordinator.


The making of the modern Middle East (roughly from 1870s to 1930s) constitutes a complex period in world history. This course will provide a historical sociology of the Middle East by scrutinizing the comparative and connected history of contentious politics in the transitional period from empires to nation-states. The combined impact of macro violence in form of empire, revolution, war, and genocide as well as forces of colonialism, nationalism, and modernism are at the center of this period of change. This course will, first, discuss resistance against European colonialism and policies of imperial state-building and modernization in the Middle East. Second, the course will trace and compare the development of contentious politics in the Ottoman Empire, Khedivate of Egypt, and Qajar Iran at the turn of the century. Third, the course will provide a transnational history of the period of war and revolution before, during, and after the First World War, 1905-1925. Finally, the course will illustrate distinct paths of national and colonial state formation and modernization in the Middle East throughout the 1920s and 1930s. By embracing a new brand of scholarship that looks at agents of violence, subaltern movements, and cultures of resistance in transnational history, this course will attempt to offer a rereading of the making of the modern Middle East.

Course objectives

At the end of the semester, students will be able to:

  • critically evaluate the current developments and paradigms in the state of scholarship on the history of the Middle East in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century;

  • find primary sources on various themes of the modern Middle East in European and local languages in the university library and in online-available resources;

  • design a historical-sociological framework in studying empire, resistance, revolution, war, and genocide as well as nation-building and state-formation;

  • conduct original research based on an evaluation of scholarship, application of theory and methodology, and use of primary sources;

  • report on research findings both orally and in writing, in accordance with the basic standards of scholarship.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction


Assessment method

Assessment and weighing

Partial assessment Weighing
Participation 15%
Presentation and assignments 25%
5,000-word essay (term paper) 60%

Term Paper

Students are free to formulate a research topic that is related to the themes and time frame encompassed in this course on Middle East history from the late-nineteenth century to the early-twentieth century. The research paper must use one of the proper academic citation systems (Chicago style notes-bibliography preferred) and it must be authentic. The paper must conform to the designated limit of 5,000 words. Plagiarism will be checked and automatically means failing the class.

The term paper is written in two stages: a first version which will be commented on and a final version. Students who do not meet the deadline for the first version will lose the right to get comments and will only be graded based on their final version.


Only if the total weighted average is insufficient (5.49 or lower) and the insufficient grade is the result of an insufficient paper, a resit of the paper is possible (60%). In that case the convener of the course will set the re-sit deadline at least 10 working days after the fail grade has been issued.
A resit of the other partial assessments is not possible.

Reading list

A list of weekly articles will be made available after the first session.

Students who lack background knowledge in Middle East history are recommended to have read chapters 1-6 of Betty S. Anderson, A History of the Modern Middle East: Rulers, Rebels, and Rogues (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2016) by way of preparation for the course.


Enrolment through MyStudyMap is mandatory for:

  • MA Middle Eastern Studies students: the number of places is limited and the principle is first come, first served. Priority is given to students who started with the MA programme in 2023-2024.

  • MA Middle Eastern Studies (research) students who opt for the Research MA version of the course. The number of places is limited and the principle is first come, first served.

General information about course and exam enrolment is available on the website.

Students from the other MA programmes listed under Part of in the information bar on the right, need to contact their study adviser for information on the enrolment procedure. After admission they will be registered by the Education Administration Office Vrieshof.



Please note that the additional course information is an integral part of this course description.