SOAS University of London

Department of History, School of History, Religions & Philosophies

Nationalism and Revolution in the Modern Middle East, 1914-1979

Module Code:
FHEQ Level:
Taught in:
Term 2

In parallel with Modernity and the Transformation of the Middle East I this course covers the Arab world, Turkey and Iran in the 19th and 20th centuries but considers the themes of Reform and Nationalism. Like its related half-unit it adopts a comparative and thematic approach in order to highlight the unity and diversity of manifestations of modernity in the political and social fields across time and space.  First, it examines different reform and nationalist movements as modernist projects of imperial regeneration and nation building, and as forms of resistance to established socio-political and cultural orders. Second, it focuses on the interplay between new ideas of nation and political community and the evolution of indigenous/colonial state traditions. This both in the context of the Ottoman and Qajar empires and in that of their 20th-century successor states.  Thirdly, it analyses how in the age of nation states nationalist ideologies and practices created new contexts of public action and spheres of public engagement. Particular emphasis is placed on a continuity/change perspective, that is how old ideas about political and social reform became recast in a new mould and how these ideas became part of a new politics of national ‘heritage’.         


  • Students  enrol via the on-line Module Sign-Up system. Students are advised of the timing of this process via email by the Faculty Office

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

  • a critical and comparative understanding of processes of modernisation in the Middle East in the 19th and 20th centuries through the themes of Empire, Revolution and Resistance;
  • an appreciation and critical evaluation of the transition from empire to nation state in the region and an ability to relate different forms of imperial government to patterns of popular and elite mobilisation, particularly through the agency of particular historical actors such as soldiers, urban and rural crowds and clergymen;
  • familiarity with the relevant historiography on the region in the light of theoretical approaches to modernity, empire, colonialism and revolution in order to develop a critical understanding of different manifestations of imperial power, including Ottoman, Qajar and European, and to relate these manifestations to specific contexts of contentious public action;
  • an ability  to question a number of ‘givens’ about history such as concepts of empire, class, race and rebellion, and the role of the West in ‘exporting’ modernity outside the European world;
  •  (in the case of students from disciplinary different backgrounds) a familiarity with processes of historical change through the revaluation of familiar concepts;
  • proficiency in handling secondary materials and primary sources under tutor guidance during tutorials and group discussions, and in carrying out advanced bibliographical searches, also in preparation to further postgraduate study in modern history.


One hour lecture and one hour seminar for 10 Weeks

Method of assessment

Reaction paper of 1,000 words worth 30% of final mark

Assignment of 1,500 words worth 35% of the final mark

Assignment of 1,500 words worth 35% of the final mark

Suggested reading

  • Anderson, Benedict, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origins and Spread of Nationalism, Verso, London, various eds.
  • Black, Carl. E/Brown, C., Modernisation in the Middle East. The Ottoman Empire and Its Afro-Asian Successors, Darwin, Princeton, 1992.
  • Crone, Patricia, Pre-Industrial Societies, Blackwell, Oxford, 1989.
  • Gellner, Ernest, Nations and Nationalism, Verso, Oxford,  various eds.
  • Dawisha, Adeed, Arab Nationalism in the Twentieth century, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 2003.
  • Hourani, Albert,  Arabic Thought in the Liberal Age, 1798-1939, CUP, various eds.
  • Hourani, A./Khoury, P./ Wilson, M. (eds),  The Modern Middle East, I.B. Tauris,  London, 1993.
  • Jankowski, J./Gershoni, I., Rethinking Nationalism in the Arab Middle East, Columbia University Press, New York, 1997.
  • Karpat, Kemal, The Politicisation of Islam: Reconstructing Identity, State and Community in the Late Ottoman State, OUP, Oxford, 2001.
  • Kasaba, Resat/Bozdogan, Sibel, Rethinking Modernity and National Identity in Turkey, University of Washington Press, Seattle, 1997
  • Lockman, Zachary, Contending Visions of the Middle East. The History and Politics of Orientalism, CUP, Cambridge, 2004.
  • Marashi, Afshin, Nationalising Iran: Culture, Power and the State, 1870-1940, University of Washington Press, Seattle, 2008.
  • Mekker, Michael E. A Nation of Empire: the Ottoman Legacy of Turkish Modernity, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 2002
  • Reid, Donald M. Whose Pharaohs? Archaeology, Museums and Egyptian National Identity, University of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles, 2002.
  • Smith, Anthony, The Ethnic Origins of Nations, Blackwell, Oxford, various eds.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules