nl en

History of the Modern Middle East




Admissions requirements

Completion of a world history course, for example from the Global & Contemporary History track of the Human Diversity Major.


The goal of this course is to introduce students to major intellectual, political, social and cultural issues and practices in the Middle East mainly between the 19th and 21st centuries. The emphasis throughout will be on identifying the ways in which specific events and long-term processes have informed social and political realities in the contemporary Middle East. Geographically, we will focus on Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel/Palestine, the Arabian Peninsula, and Egypt. We will study some of the most significant political, social, economic and cultural developments in the region, including (but not limited to): the rise and formation of modern nation states, the role of imperialist and colonial powers, economic incorporation into global capitalism, the emergence of nationalisms, authoritarianism, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the politics of oil, the rise of Islamic political movements, and will finally examine major contemporary issues like the “Arab Spring” and “Gezi Revolt.”

Course objectives

  • Ability to grasp and reflect on the major issues in the history of the modern Middle East

  • Ability to situate the regional developments in the Middle East within the larger global context

  • Ability to comprehend and evaluate the processes of economic incorporation into global capitalism, formation of modern states and emergence of nationalisms in the Middle East

  • Ability to produce critically informed and analytical information about the modern Middle East


Once available, timetables will be published here.

Mode of instruction

Ninety minutes of each session will consist of an interactive lecture: the remainder will be devoted to questions and discussion. This course is specifically designed to be a lecture oriented survey course due to the vastness and the complexity of the content covered.


All assignments will require comprehension and a certain competency of the content presented both in the readings and in the lectures.

Students will be graded on the basis of three assignments:

  • an in-class multiple-choice midterm exam with short-essay questions (35%),

  • a short-essay assignment (30%) and

  • a long final term paper (35%) on topics provided by the instructor.


There will be a Blackboard site available for this course. Students will be enrolled at least one week before the start of classes.

Reading list

Main Reading Material (Mandatory):

  • William Cleveland and Martin Bunton. A History of the Modern Middle East. New York: Westview Press, 2013. There are earlier editions of the same book. Students are strongly encouraged to buy the Fifth Edition (2013) of the book.

Required Reading (Mandatory):

  • Nikki Keddie. “Iranian revolutions in Comparative Perspective.” In The Modern Middle East: A Reader, edited by Albert Hourani, Philip Khoury, and Mary C. Wilson, 615-637. New York: IB Tauris, 2005.

  • Edward Said. Orientalism. New York: Vintage Books, 1979, pp. 1-28.

  • Avi Shlaim. “Israel and the Arab Coalition” In The Modern Middle East: A Reader, edited by Albert Hourani, Philip Khoury, and Mary C. Wilson, 535-556. New York: IB Tauris, 2005.

Recommended Reading (Optional):

  • Feroz Ahmad. “War and Society under the Young Turks, 1908-1918.” In The Modern Middle East: A Reader, edited by Albert Hourani, Philip Khoury, and Mary C. Wilson, 125-143. New York: IB Tauris, 2005.

  • Ziad Abu-Amr. “Hamas: A Historical and Political Background.” Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 22, No. 4. (Summer, 1993).

  • Cihan Tuğal. “Resistance everywhere: The Gezi revolt in global perspective.” New Perspectives on Turkey, no. 49 (2013): 157-172.


This course is open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Registration is coordinated by the Curriculum Coordinator. Interested non-LUC students should contact


Dr. Emre Erol
Office Hours: TBA
Leiden Office: Vrieshof 4 / 0.18b


Students are expected to do the first week’s readings and familiarize themselves with the map of the contemporary Middle East before the first class.

The first week’s readings are as follows:

Cleveland, Chapters 2 & 3.
“The Development of the Islamic Civilization to the 15th century” and “The Ottoman and Safavid Empires: A New Imperial Synthesis” pp.18-33; 34-52.