SOAS University of London

Department of History, School of History, Religions & Philosophies

H248 The Making of the Modern Middle East

Module Code:
FHEQ Level:
Taught in:
Full Year

Taught by Lena Obermaier - 2019-20

This course examines processes of modernisation in the Arab world, Turkey and Iran by analysing the transition from empires to nation states in the 19th and 20th centuries.

The first part of the course deals with reform movements in the Ottoman and Qajar Empires, and with indigenous responses to European penetration in the 19th century, including the outbreak of revolutions and the emergence of new movements such as Nationalism and Islamic Modernism.

The second part examines the emergence of a state system after the First World War, the creation of colonial societies, and the consolidation of Arab, Turkish and Iranian Nationalism. The later development of state formation is considered in the context of revolutionary movements in the Arab world and Iran, in the 1950s and in 1979 respectively.


  • Students enrol via the on-line Module Sign-up system. Students are advised of the timing of this process via email by the Dept. administrator

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

This course will enable students:

  • to familiarise with major themes in the modern history of the region
  • to understand the transition from imperial structures to nation states, and the role played by European colonial intervention in the process
  • to examine state/society relations in order to understand historical change from the perspective of indigenous actors
  • to understand historical processes from a continuity/change perspective particularly in the political, social and cultural fields
  • to engage with the cultural/political context within which historical literature was produced
  • to develop independent study and group work with reference to tutorial groups, and group discussions
  • to organise data and ideas effectively to produce a coherent argument to a deadline, both orally and in writing

Method of assessment

Exam -50% of final mark

Topic Reaction Paper - 2,500 words - 25% of final mark

Assignment - 3,000 words - 25% of final mark

Suggested reading

  • Hourani, A.A. History of the Arab Peoples (London, 1991);
  • Hourani, A. Arabic Thought in the Liberal Age (London, 1962 & 1967; Cambridge, 1983);
  • Hourani, A., P.S. Khoury and M. Wilson M (eds.). The Modern Middle East (London, 1993);
  • Keddie, N.R. Roots of Revolution: an Interpretative History of Modern Iran (New Haven, 1981);
  • Yapp, M. The Making of the Modern Near East 1792-1923 (London, 1987)


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules