The Making of the Modern Middle East

Key information

Start date
End date
Term 2
Module code
FHEQ Level
Department of History

Module overview

Where do we locate the ‘colonial’? At what moments does it come to be elaborated? Is it merely a result of “physical” occupation by European powers, or does it begin in another set of relations? Did the Ottoman empire become more ‘colonial’ as the nineteenth century progressed, and if so, how? What reconfigurations of selfhood, difference, and rationality might this have entailed? This module does not begin with a preconceived conception of the ‘colonial.’ Examining a series of spatial and temporal transformations taking place in the Middle East over the course of the long nineteenth century, it interrogates the very nature of the ‘colonial.’ It focuses on several conceptual distinctions that emerged—a product of important reorganisations of power and knowledge—between the ‘economic, the ‘religious, and the ‘political,’ understood to be separate domains, requiring separate modes of historical analysis. Can we avoid applying such conceptual distinctions in our reading of history, to instead ask how they might have come into being during the very period we are examining? Each week of this module examines one of the central categories of political and economic history, unpacking the processes by which they have emerged, transformed, or come to be reconfigured.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

On successful completion of this module a student will be able to:

  • demonstrate familiarity with central questions in the study of the history of the modern Middle East in the context of shifting historiographical paradigms and situate this history in current debates about coloniality;
  • engage critically with the relevant scholarship;
  • formulate a historical argument, both orally and in writing;
  • to assemble the material necessary to support this argument, and to organize and present it in a coherent and persuasive way.


  • 2 hours of teaching per week for 20 weeks.

Method of assessment

  • Response paper, 1000 words (25%)
  • Essay , 3000 words (75%)

Suggested reading

  • Timothy Mitchell, Rule of Experts: Egypt, Techno-Politics, Modernity (2002)
  • Roger Owen and Martin P. Bunton (ed.), New Perspectives on Property and Land in the Middle East (2000)
  • Sara Pursley, Familiar Futures: Time, Selfhood and Sovereignty in Iraq (2019)
  • Sherene Seikaly, Men of Capital: Scarcity and Economy in Mandate Palestine (2015)
  • Samera Esmeir, Juridical Humanity: A Colonial History (2012)
  • Khaled Fahmy, In Quest of Justice: Islamic Law and Forensic Medicine in Modern Egypt (2018)


Hengameh Ziai


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules