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


Admission requirements

Admission to the MA Middle Eastern Studies, MA Middle Eastern Studies (research), or MA International Relations.

The number of places available in this course are limited. Therefore, read the information below under registration carefully.

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.


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

All teaching, assignments, and assessments will be online.

Attendance and active participation are obligatory for seminars. Students are required to attend all classes, read the assigned material, participate in the discussion sessions and complete the assigned workload of the course. Students are expected to critically engage with the course material. The conveners need to be informed without delay of any classes missed for a good reason (i.e. due to unforeseen circumstances such as illness, family issues, problems with residence permits, the Dutch railways in winter, etc.). In these cases, it is up to the discretion of the convener(s) of the course whether or not the missed class will have to be made up with an extra assignment. The maximum of such absences during a semester is two. Being absent without notification and/or more than two times can result in exclusion from the term end exams and a failing grade for the course.

Assessment method

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

The final mark for this course is formed by the weighted average.
In order to pass the course, students must obtain an overall mark of 5.50 (=6) or higher.
The course is an integrated whole. All assessment parts must be completed in the same academic year. No partial marks can be carried over into following years.

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.

Late submissions of the final version will result in a deduction of paper grades as follows: 1-24 hrs late = -0.5; 24-48 hrs late = -1.0; 48-72 hrs late = -1.5; 72-96 hrs late = -2.0. Late papers will not be accepted more than four days after the deadline, including weekends and will be graded with 1.0.

The deadline of the first complete version is Friday, 15 November, 23.59 hs. Feedback will be given by 30 November at the latest. The final version of the term paper is due on Monday, 6 January, 23.59 hs.


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 may assign a (new) topic and give a new deadline.

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.


MA Middle Eastern Studies students may enroll directly through uSis. The number of places is limited and the principle is first come, first served.

MA Middle Eastern Studies (research) students should contact their Coordinator of Studies, dr. N.A.N.M. van Os for information on the enrollment procedure.

MA International Studies students should contact their Coordinator of Studies, Drs. E.J. Walstra for information on the enrollment procedure.