nl en

The Middle East in the 20th Century


Admission requirements

Students need to have acquired before at least a general knowledge of the methodologies employed in intellectual historical studies, as well as an introductory knowledge of the general history of the Middle East at least in the postcolonial era, through for example Cleveland, William. History of the Modern Middle East. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2009. ISBN: 978-0813343747


This course examines the political and cultural trajectories of change in the Middle East through the twentieth century. In this course, the main intellectual trends of thought will be explored against the context of the socio-political and cultural developments in the region in question. The emergence of modern ideologies like nationalism and religious reform movements and schools of thought will be contextualized in the processes of state-building and socio-political movements and revolutions. This course will thematically focus on topics like legal reforms, human rights, democracy, women’s rights and movements, and Muslim modern thought. Although the historical sequence of the developments are considered, the discussions will be analytical and problem-oriented rather than merely descriptive. As a seminar, this course is for a significant part so designed that students find a spacious room in it for their own participation and contribution to the discussions.

Course objectives

This course is to enable students to
1. acquire first and foremost the required methodological tools to analyze the major developments and trends in the region;
2. make sense of the main trends of the continuities and the ruptures of intellectual and socio-political developments over the twentieth century;
3. understand the current developments in the region in light of its past changes in the late twentieth century;
4. know the main analytical and ideological approaches in the literature about the Middle East;
5. categorize and criticize the literature efficiently;
6. conduct research and group work, as well as group discussion;
7. (for Master students) formulate clear questions that target the gaps in the literature and formulate reasons and criticisms consistently and vigorously about the relevant claims both in writing and orally.



Mode of instruction

This is a seminar course.

Assessment method

BA students: Weekly written/oral presentation (35%), two essays each of 1800 words (25%), mid-term exam (15%), final exam (25%),

MA students: Weekly written/oral presentation (50%), two analytical and critical essays each of 6000 words (50%),



Reading list

This is a preliminary and tentative reading list. The main reading list for each week will be provided later on in the syllabus.

  • Hourani, A.A. History of the Arab Peoples (London, 1991);

  • Hourani, A. Arabic Thought in the Liberal Age (London, 1962 & 1967; Cambridge, 1983);

  • Hourani, A., P.S. Khoury and M. Wilson M (eds.). The Modern Middle East (London, 1993);

  • Keddie, N.R. Roots of Revolution: an Interpretative History of Modern Iran (New Haven, 1981);

  • Yapp, M. The Making of the Modern Near East 1792-1923 (London, 1987)


Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Study in Leiden website for information on how to apply.

Contact information

Dr. M.M. Mojahedi


It is recommended that students planning to take part in this course go through these books as much as they can prior to the course.