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History of the Modern Middle East: Transformations and Challenges


Admission requirements



The goal of this course is to introduce students to major intellectual, political, social and cultural issues and practices in the Middle East from late 18th century until the present. The emphasis throughout will be on identifying the ways in which specific events and long-term processes such as the impact of colonialism and nationalist movements, political Islam, political liberalization, the role of non-state actors, gender, ethnicity, class, and popular culture have informed social and political realities in the contemporary Middle East. The second half of the course will deal with contemporary issues ranging from the Arab-Israeli conflict, the impact of the Iranian Revolution, the emergence of Islamic movements, and the recent Arab revolutions. In addition, the class will be based on various types of readings ranging from primary documents, historical narratives, and historiography, to works of fiction and movies. This is intended to familiarize students with the craft of historical work and the process of creating the historiographies of the Modern Middle East.

Course objectives

  • Acquired knowledge and understanding of history, its processes, structure, actors, factors, and events, and has familiarised themselves with the academic understanding of history and the history specific to the chosen area, with an emphasis on the last two centuries. Furthermore, the student has acquired a basic understanding of the theories used in the field of History and those with specific relevance to the Middle East.

  • The student has acquired basic research skills, which he/she has put into practice for the first time in the shape of a small individual research project.

  • Acquired a comprehensive understanding of the historical, political, social, and cultural developments of the Middle East.

  • Acquired familiarity with the main debates in the histiography of the region, as well as the research methods used to investigate and explain trends and events of the contemporary Middle East.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction


Lectures are held every week, with the exception of the midterm exam week. Weekly lectures will cover issues both inside and outside the readings.
This class’ powerpoint slides are limited to visual aids (no class notes) that complement the week’s readings and lecture themes. Therefore it is essential that you keep up with the readings weekly and attend class every week. During lecture, we sometimes engage in in-class activities that will benefit your grade.

Assessment method


Each student will be graded on the basis of two formal assignments: (1) midterm remindo exam (50%) (2) wikipedia final project (50%).

Final project: Your ultimate objective: The editing, researching, and contributing or creating of a new Wikipedia entry(s) that fits the themes of our course—developed, written, and posted.

You will be responsible for either overhauling an existing or creating a new Wikipedia entry(s). This is in addition to and separate from your weekly Wikipedia work, which is intended to help you navigate and train and familiarize yourself with the interface.

The gained skills from using Wikipedia in the classroom equip students to make an impact and participate in societal debates after graduation and in their future careers. Insufficient entries on the non-West and Global South (Rosenzweig, 2006, Muller and Damen, 2014) mean Wikipedia is ideal for motivating students and to create impact (Nix, 2010). Their edits and articles fill a need, contribute to the real world, and are accessible globally and immediately (Seligman, 2013). U.S. professors using Wikipedia report greater student engagement and motivation; students felt they benefited the public, even after graduating (Roth, Davis, Carver; 2013).
As a former student noted, “Writing a Wikipedia entry was totally different from what I did for other BA and MA courses at Leiden. It’s one of the great strengths of this course.”

Further information will be discussed in class.


The final mark for the course is established by determining the weighted average.


If the end grade is insufficient (lower than a 6,0), or the weighted average of midterm exam and final project is lower than 5.5, there is a possibility of taking a re-sit exam, replacing only the midterm exam grade. No resit is possible for the final project.

Inspection and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.

Reading list

Please see Brightspace.


Enrolment through MyStudyMap is mandatory.
General information about course and exam enrolment is available on the website.


  • For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the information bar on the right.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Education Administration Office Herta Mohr.


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