HI5045 - Origins of the Modern Middle East, c. 1770-1970

What will I learn on this module?

This second-year module will study the Middle East, from Morocco to the Persian Gulf, from the late eighteenth to the late twentieth century. It will focus particularly on the Arab East, the modern countries of Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine/Israel, and Iraq. We will look at how the Ottoman world was transformed by contact with capitalism and European empires, to give rise to the modern Middle East, and how both ruling elites and ordinary people responded to these changes to shape the region’s history. We will study the origins of several aspects of the contemporary Middle East: nation-states and imperialism, capitalism and the oil economy, tensions over gender roles, sectarian violence, authoritarianism and subaltern struggles.

This course will begin by introducing the early modern Ottoman Empire and its relations with Europe. It will situate the ‘Middle East’ by discussing how this region has been defined in the past, looking at Western orientalism and competing approaches to studying the region. We will discuss and call into question the conventional division between ‘early modern’ and ‘modern’ periods. We will look at Ottoman reform movements from the late eighteenth century, before moving on to the growing power of European empires through the nineteenth century. We will learn about European ‘indirect’ and territorial imperialism, along with anticolonial resistance and the beginnings of modern nationalism and sectarianism. We will discuss the impact of the First World War, the dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire and the post-war settlements. The rise of nationalisms and anticolonial struggles to their heyday in the 1960s will then be the major focus, before we turn to the growing importance of militant Islamism and sectarian tensions. You will form an understanding of the role played by both local and European actors in shaping the region’s history by reading both scholarly studies and a range of primary sources: diaries and letters, chronicles, petitions, and newspaper articles.

How will I learn on this module?

You will learn on this module by attending lectures and seminars. The lectures will introduce you to the module’s core themes and key historiographical debates related to the subject area. You will be expected to prepare for the weekly seminars by undertaking the set reading (available via the electronic reading list), and will build on your independent reading by presenting your ideas and arguments in seminar discussions with your peers. Each week's class will involve both small group work and large group discussion, built around focused questions on themes and topics. Carefully selected primary sources will feed into these discussions. You will receive formative feedback throughout the learning process and summative assessment will match your learning against the learning outcomes for the module.

How will I be supported academically on this module?

Your academic development will be supported through your module tutor, engagement with your peers, and through the programme leader. The module tutor will be accessible within publicised Feedback and Consultation hours and via email. Your peers will provide you with a collaborative learning environment, and your programme leader will guide you through the requirements and expectations of your degree programme, of which this module is part. You will also be supported through individual engagement with the academic literature, lectures, and resources available on the eLP. Formative feedback will be on-going through seminar activities and assessment tasks.

What will I be expected to read on this module?

All modules at Northumbria include a range of reading materials that students are expected to engage with. The reading list for this module can be found at: http://readinglists.northumbria.ac.uk
(Reading List service online guide for academic staff this containing contact details for the Reading List team – http://library.northumbria.ac.uk/readinglists)

What will I be expected to achieve?

Knowledge & Understanding:
1. Knowledge and understanding of the history of the early modern and modern Middle East.
2. Understanding of a variety of methods for studying the Middle East.

Intellectual / Professional skills & abilities:
3. Demonstrate a range of transferable skills, including the ability to make independent critical judgements, to critically evaluate sources, to summarise the research of others, and to present arguments in a cogent and persuasive way.

Personal Values Attributes (Global / Cultural awareness, Ethics, Curiosity) (PVA):
4. Curiosity about the nature of evidence on which our knowledge of the past, and therefore our understandings of the present, depend.

How will I be assessed?

2 x 2,500-word essays (MLOs 1–5)
These essays will be written in response to questions chosen from two thematic lists provided by the module tutor.

Formative feedback for each assessment will be provided in seminars. Verbal and written feedback will be given on all summative assessed work. Feedback on initial summative assessments will enable you to improve on later ones.





Module abstract

This module looks at the transformation of the Ottoman Empire into the modern Middle East from the eighteenth to the late twentieth centuries. It follows what became the modern nations of Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine/Israel and Iraq, as well as others, through their transformation from a distinctive Ottoman world into part of a Western-dominated modernity. We will think about how both ruling elites and ordinary people – peasants, working women, soldiers, Mediterranean migrants – lived through and responded to these changes, and how their actions shaped the Middle East as it is today, with its internal tensions and complex connections with the world outside it. Through reading a range of different texts – such as diaries and letters, chronicles, petitions and newspaper articles – you will develop your skills in argument, research and analysis.

Course info

UCAS Code V100

Credits 20

Level of Study Undergraduate

Mode of Study 3 years full-time or 4 years with a placement (sandwich)/study abroad

Department Humanities

Location City Campus, Northumbria University

City Newcastle

Start September 2023 or September 2024

Fee Information

Module Information

All information is accurate at the time of sharing.

Full time Courses starting in 2023 are primarily delivered via on-campus face to face learning but may include elements of online learning. We continue to monitor government and local authority guidance in relation to Covid-19 and we are ready and able to flex accordingly to ensure the health and safety of our students and staff.

Contact time is subject to increase or decrease in line with additional restrictions imposed by the government or the University in the interest of maintaining the health and safety and wellbeing of students, staff, and visitors, potentially to a full online offer, should further restrictions be deemed necessary in future. Our online activity will be delivered through Blackboard Ultra, enabling collaboration, connection and engagement with materials and people.


Current, Relevant and Inspiring

We continuously review and improve course content in consultation with our students and employers. To make sure we can inform you of any changes to your course register for updates on the course page.

Your Learning Experience

Find out about our distinctive approach at 

Admissions Terms and Conditions

Fees and Funding

Admissions Policy

Admissions Complaints Policy