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Turkey and the Middle East in the 20th Century


Admission requirements

Admission to the MA Middle Eastern Studies or the MA Middle Eastern Studies (research). Please, contact the student advisor, Drs. Eli van Duijnen or the instructor Dr. Alp Yenen prior to registration for permission, if you are interested in taking this course but NOT a student of the above-mentioned MA programme.


Focusing on Turkey but covering the whole region, this course traces the history of the Middle East throughout the twentieth century. The story starts with the break-up of the Ottoman Empire as part of a global history of empires in war, resulting in different paths to nation-state formation either by struggles for national self-determination or by international-colonial decrees of foreign powers. Politics of nation-state building in the Middle East will be discussed in the global context of the interwar years and the Second World War. The second half of the twentieth century will receive the be the primary focus of this course. On the one hand, revolutionary processes of decolonization, intensification of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and struggles of cooperation and rivalry among Arab countries made the Middle East a Cold War setting of its own. On the other hand, the countries of the Middle East’s non-Arab “Northern Tier” (Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan) constituted one of the decisive frontier regions between the North Atlantic Alliance and the Soviet Union. Finally, this course will elaborate on the idea of an early end of the Cold War order during the “Middle Eastern civil war” of 1976-1982. The result was the emergence of a variety of conservative-authoritarian regimes towards the end of the twentieth century that proved to be resilient and robust until first decades of the twenty-first century. By combining approaches from international-historical sociology with the comparative-historical study of contentious politics (revolutions, military coups, and social movements), this course will explore the history of the Middle East in the twentieth century in its local and global complexities. As part of the Turkish Studies track, this course will challenge notions of “Turkish exceptionalism” and embed the Turkish case within the regional context of the Middle East.

Course objectives

  • to become thoroughly acquainted with the current state of scholarship on various aspects of history and politics of Turkey and the Middle East in the twentieth century,

  • to become familiar with the main conceptual and theoretical approaches in international-historical sociology and the comparative-historical study of contentious politics,

  • to develop the ability to analyze and evaluate scholarship to formulate a research question,

  • to develop the ability to report on research findings both orally and in writing, in accordance with the basic standards of scholarship.



Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

Attendance and active participation are obligatory for seminars. Students are required to prepare for and attend all sessions. 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.

Course Load

Total course load is 10 EC 280 hs:
Seminars (13 x 2) 26
Readings and preparation for classes 100
Prepare 2-page essay and 20-minutes presentation 10
Term Paper 144

Assessment method

Academic Integrity

Students are expected to be familiar with Leiden University policies on plagiarism and academic integrity. Plagiarism will not be tolerated. If you submit any work with your name affixed to it, it is assumed to be your own work with all sources used properly indicated and documented in the text (with quotations and/or citations). It is also unacceptable for students to reuse portions of texts they had previously authored and have already received academic credit for on this or other courses. In such cases, students are welcome to self-cite so as to minimise overlap between prior and new work.
Students must submit their assignment(s) to the blackboard through turnitin, so they can be checked for plagiarism. Submission via email is not accepted.

Assessment and weighing

Partial Assessment Weighing
Participation (active participation in the in-class discussions) 15%
Presentation of reading assignments (20 minutes oral presentation in class and a 2-page written review, to be submitted 5 days before class) 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.

Participation, 2-page review and Presentation
Each week a set of questions on the readings of the week will be posted by a student onto the discussion board. Students are required to answer these questions through posts at least 24 hours before the class (so: by Wednesday morning). These statements will form the basis for the discussions each week. Each week, a student will present one of the readings in 20-munite oral presentation. In addition to the presentation, the presenting student will submit a two-page long critical review of the reading five days prior to the class session. This review will be distributed online on the day of the session.

Final Paper
Students are free to formulate a research topic that is related to the themes and time frame encompassed in this course on the history and politics of Turkey and the Middle East in the twentieth century. The term paper must use one of the proper academic citation systems (APA or Chicago 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 four stages: First, the topic of the term paper needs to be discussed and decided with the instructor. Second, an abstract (max. 300 words) must be submitted. Third, a first version which will be commented on must be submitted. Fourth, the final version will be submitted. 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 Wednesday, May 13, 17.00 hs. Feedback will be given by May 31 at the latest. The final version of the term paper is due on Monday, June 17, 9.00 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.


Blackboard will be used for internal communication and the distribution of additional reading and/or source material.

Reading list

The list of weekly articles will be made available after the first session.


Students are required to register through uSis. To avoid mistakes and problems, students are strongly advised to register in uSis through the activity number which can be found in the timetable in the column under the heading “USIS-Actnbr.”. More information on uSis is available in Dutch and English.

Not being registered, means no permission to attend this course. See also the webpage on course and exam enrolment for registration deadlines and more information on how to register.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.

Contact information

Dr. Alp Yenen.


Students with disabilities

The university is committed to supporting and accommodating students with disabilities as stated in the university protocol (especially pages 3-5). Students should contact Fenestra Disability Centre at least four weeks before the start of their courses to ensure that all necessary academic accommodations can be made in time conform the abovementioned protocol.