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Oral History of the Middle East


Admission requirements

This class is intended (in order of preference) for:

  • Students of the BA Middle Eastern Studies/track Modern Middle East who have successfully completed the propedeutic exam;

  • Premaster students for the MA Middle Eastern Studies;

  • Students of the BA Middle Eastern Studies/other tracks

  • Students from other programmes. Please contact the coordinator of studies, Eli van Duijnen, to find out whether you can be admitted to this class.


What relevance do historical events have, unless they impact on the everyday lives of people? This course is based on the premise that the study of Middle East history is incomplete when the human perspective is overlooked. The course centres on human experience of historical events in the Middle East region through employment of the method of oral history. Focusing on four localities in the region (Arabic, Turkish, Persian and Hebrew speaking), this course invites students to, first, become acquainted with the way particular historical developments are narrated in scholarly work. In preparing a literature review presentation about this, students answer the questions: What happened, what were the direct and indirect casues, and what was the social-political impact of these events? Second, students themselves engage in an oral history project through which they aim to uncover the human experiences of historical events through empathic listening. They ask the question: How did the event under study impact on the lives of the interviewees? Students write transcripts of their interviews and work together in groups to compare and combine respondents’ individual stories. Last, by combining the first (literature review) and second step (oral history), in the final stage of their project, students write a research paper reflecting an inclusive understanding of particular historical developments. They will have moved their awareness of these events beyond knowledge and understanding to include empathic human connection.

Students who have knowledge of regional languages are encouraged to use these in their projects. Students who do not have this knowledge are advised to chose a topic that allows for interviews in a non-regional language (English, Dutch, French or other).

Course objectives

After completion of this course, students:

  • have deep understanding of a specific historical episode in recent Middle East history;

  • are familiar with the field of oral history;

  • have improved their skill in writing literature reviews;

  • have developed interviewing and empathic listening skills;

  • have developed their presentation skills;

  • have gained experience in teamwork;

  • can combine historiographic methods into a limited but comprehensive analysis of a historical event.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction


Assessment method


  • Two group presentations: 15% each

  • Term paper (individual): 70%

Students are required to upload their practical work on Brightspace (pass/fail):

  • An interview recording

  • A transcript of the interview

  • Fieldnotes (see “assignments” for the different lectures)


In order to establish the final mark, determined by the weighted average, students first need to obtain a pass for their practical work.


A resit is available only to students whose final mark was insufficient (5.49 or lower). They rewrite their term paper which will count for 100%.

Inspection and feedback

Students will receive feedback on their presentations, which they will use to write their term paper.

Reading list

  • Doing Oral History by Donald A. Ritchie, available online through the digital library.

  • Journal articles (t.b.a.)


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 right information bar.

  • 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.