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

Key information

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Module code
FHEQ Level
Department of History

Module overview

This module focuses on the nation state as the dominant organisational form of political entities in the Middle East after the First World War and on nationalism as the most potent political ideology in the region. Nation states of the period can be divided, broadly speaking, into states that gained or retained independence directly after the First World War, such as the Republic of Turkey and Iran, as well as states that arose out of a colonial or quasi-colonial situation, such as the former League of Nations mandates. The module discusses the manifold challenges faced by individuals and movements aiming to establish national frameworks within societies previously defined in various other ways. National states were not established without resistance and disadvantage to groups and individuals with unclear or “divergent” identities. The module will give room to the voices of nationalism’s “Others”, giving an insight into the origins of many conflicts still haunting the region in the present.

Our inquiry will be based on a variety of secondary sources which should familiarise students with some of the main ideas, debates and tendencies in the historiography of the period. We will gain further insight from a critical reading of primary sources. Wherever possible, these primary sources will be produced by historical actors in the Middle East, thereby stress


  • 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

  • gain a solid overview of the main events, developments and trends in the history of the Middle East in the 20th century up to the Islamic Revolution in Iran.
  • practice discussing and critically applying broader historical concepts, such as Ideas of modernity, regional definitions of the Middle East, transformation, reform, empire and the nation state.
  • obtain confidence in reading advanced secondary texts and critically engaging with a variety of scholarly debates.
  • gain practice and confidence in the critical analysis of a wide variety of primary sources, including both official documents as well as text, images and sound from various other genres (e.g. personal narratives, literature, film, music, etc.).
  • undertake independent research and the discussion, analysis and presentation of their research in writing through a variety of diverse assignments, aimed at building up confidence towards more advanced research and writing in the final stages of their degree.


One hour lecture and one hour seminar for 10 Weeks

Scope and syllabus

  • Session 1: Introduction, main themes, debates and concepts
  • Session 2: The “long” First World War in the Middle East, 1912- 1923
  • Session 3: Experimenting the nation I: The Turkish Republic
  • Session 4: Experimenting the Nation II: Pahlavi Iran
  • Session 5: Arab nationalism: A trans-national community?
  • Session 6: Nations without a nation: Origins of the Israel- Palestine crisis
  • Session 7: Oil modernity and oil strategy: New forms of imperialism
  • Session 8: Alternatives to nationalism: The rise of political Islam
  • Session 9: Culture and society between revival and censorship
  • Session 10: Celebrating and reconstructing national pasts

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.


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