From Palestine to Israel

Key information

Start date
End date
Year of study
Term 1
Module code
FHEQ Level

Module overview

This module provides a historical overview of the Israel - Palestine conflict and examines its political, social and cultural reflections, from the late Ottoman period to the establishment of Israel in 1948.

Alongside the political history, the module will emphasise social and cultural aspects of the conflict. It will bring a variety of voices and persepectives, often contrasting and contradictory, on the conflict, its underlying causes and dynamics; these perspectives include not only tow "official" narratives, the Zionist-Israeli and the Palestinian, but also voices "from below" of marginalised groups.

Attention will be given to groups whose position does not fite easily with official narratives. The module aims to give students analytical tools that would help them make sense of the contested histories of Palestine/Israel. The ability of distentange competing claims and narratives would be useful for analysing other contested histories.

  • The module makes use of material history, art and visual media as means to analyse and understand conflict.
  • This module can be taken as an open option.


  • None

Objectives and learning outcomes

Through this module you will be able to: 

  • approach critically the contested histories of Palestine/Israel where the literature is polarised
  • grasp the development of Arab nationalism and the Jewish-Zionist society in Palestine
  • understand the roots of the conflict from the late-Ottoman period to the 1948 war
  • use social and cultural perspectives to discuss the conflict
  • understand the development of the conflict from different and contrasting viewpoints
  • apply wider frames of analysis (geographically and conceptually) to the Palestine conflict
  • deconstruct Palestinian and Jewish-Zionist societies beyond the national narratives
  • anaylse the colonial and settler-colonial, and national dimensions of the conflict


The module is taught over 10 weeks in a 2-hour seminar each week

Scope and syllabus


  • Late Ottoman Palestine - roots of Arab nationalism
  • Early Zionism
  • Arabs and Zionists
  • The Balfour Declaration
  • British Mandate (Visit to British Museum)
  • Arab revolt
  • The Yishuv
  • Partition
  • The 1948 War

Method of assessment

  • 1 x Essay (1000 words) to be submitted on day 5, week 6, term 1 (30%)
  • 1 x Essay (2000 words) to be submitted on day 5, week 11, term 1 (70%)

Suggested reading

  • Büssow, Johann. 2011. Hamidian Palestine: Politics and Society in the District of Jerusalem 1872-1908. BRILL., pp. 41-60
  • Gelvin, J.L., 2007. The Israel-Palestine conflict: one hundred years of war, Cambridge University Press, pp. 46-64.
  • Dolbee, Samuel, Shay Hazkani, and Menashe Meirovitch. 2015. “Impossible Is Not Ottoman": Menashe Meirovitch, ʿIsa Al-ʿIsa, and Imperial Citizenship in Palestine.” International Journal of Middle East Studies 47 (ii): 241–62.
  • Rhett, Maryanne A. 2015. The Global History of the Balfour Declaration: Declared Nation. Routledge. Chapter 2, 14-37.
  • Abu El-Haj, Nadia. 2001. Facts on the Ground: Archaeological Practice and Territorial Self-Fashioning in Israeli Society. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, pp. 22-44.
  • Khalidi, Rashid. 2006. The Iron Cage: The Story of the Palestinian Struggle For statehood. Boston: Beacon Press. Chapter 3, Pp 65-104, "A Failure of Leadership",
  • Almog, Oz. 2000. The Sabra: The Creation of the New Jew. University of California Press. 23-32.
  • Penny Sinanglou, "Analogical Thinking and Partition in British Mandate Palestine" pp. 154-72.
  • in Dubnov, Arie, and Laura Robson, eds. 2018. Partitions: A Transnational History of Twentieth-Century Territorial Separatism. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press.

Additional Reading:

  • Gelvin, J.L., 2007. The Israel-Palestine conflict: one hundred years of war, Cambridge University Press.
  • Smith, C.D., 2009. Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict: A History with Documents, Bedford/St. Martin’s.
  • Khalidi, R. , 2006. The Iron Cage: The Story of the Palestinian Struggle for Statehood, Boston: Beacon Press.
  • Tamari, S., 2009. Mountain against the sea: essays on Palestinian society and culture, University of California Press.
  • Kimmerling, B. & Migdal, J.S., 2003. The Palestinian People: A History, Cambridge: Harvard University Press
  • Morris, B., 1999. Righteous victims : a history of the Zionist-Arab conflict, 1881-1999, New York: Knopf.
  • Shindler, C., 2008. A history of modern Israel, Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules.