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HIST 3550: The Middle East in the Twentieth Century: Syllabus

An OER for Louis Fishman's Course

About HIST 3550: The Middle East in the Twentieth Century

Following an extended introduction, the class will be divided into nine topics. The textbook reading should be read by the first day of the topic, and the additional readings will be divided evenly among the class and will be discussed briefly at the end of each segment.  All readings will be accessible on the class’ webpage. Blackboard will only be used for assignments.   

Syllabus: HIST 3550: The Middle East in the Twentieth Century

Course Information

Prof. Louis Fishman

Office Hours: Wednesdays 10-12; 2-3 PM

20th Century Modern Middle East

TTH 09:30-10:45AM 3150 BH

Learning Objectives

Course objectives:

-to improve critical thinking, reading, and writing skills

-to to be able to place events into a general and global context

-to understand the relation between economic, cultural, political, and social issues

-to encourage respect for cultural diversity

Grading and Assessment

Requirements: article review (20%), 5-6 pg. paper (20%), midterm (20%), final (30%), and participation (10%).  ALL LATE PAPERS WILL RECEIVE A 20% REDUCTION

Guidelines concerning participation and attendance

Both your attendance and participation will be evaluated and factored into your final grade (10% of the total).  I highly encourage you to participate in class discussions, and I will work to ensure an environment in which all opinions are treated respectfully. 

If you need to miss class for a religious observation, please notify me in advance.  Missing more than 3 class sessions for any reason other than illness or religious observance will lead to a zero in your participation grade and then a reduction in your final grade. For extreme circumstance, such as personal issues, please inform me as soon as possible so that we can decide on how you can make up what you have missed.


University Policy On Academic Integrity:

The faculty and administration of Brooklyn College support an environment free from cheating and plagiarism. Each student is responsible for being aware of what constitutes cheating and plagiarism and for avoiding both.  The complete text of the CUNY Academic Integrity Policy and the Brooklyn

College procedure for implementing that policy can be found at this site: If a faculty member suspects a violation of academic integrity and, upon investigation, confirms that violation, or if the student admits the violation, the faculty member MUST report the violation.

Center for Disability Services:

In order to receive disability-related academic accommodations students must first be registered with the Center for Student Disability Services. Students who have a documented disability or suspect they may have a disability are invited to set up an appointment with the Director of the Center for Student Disability Services, Ms. Valerie Stewart-Lovell at 718-951-5538. If you have already registered with the Center for Student Disability Services please provide your professor with the course accommodation form and discuss your specific accommodation with him/her.


Textbook (attached to online syllabus): Anderson, Betty S. A History of the Modern Middle East: Rulers, Rebels, and Rogues. Stanford University Press, 2016.

You must be able to login to your Brooklyn College Library account in order to read this textbook.


You can reach each section by going to the above "Unit" section: For example, "General Discussion on class" is Unit 1, Topic 1, and "Before Nation States" is Unit 1, Topic 2. 

1. General discussion on class and Syllabus (Thursday, January 26):

 An introduction: Mapping the Middle East and its Peoples

2. Before Nation States: The Ottoman and Safavid Empires (January 31-Feb 2)

Anderson, “Prologue,” 1-10. (January 31)

Anderson, Chapter 1. “Birth of Empires: The Ottoman and Safavid Empires through the 18th century, 11-58. (Feb 2)

3. Nationalism, Religion, and Identity during the 19th century (Feb 7-9)

Anderson, Chapter 2. “Reform and Rebellion: The Ottoman Empire, Egypt, and Qajar Iran.” 59-106.

4. “Egypt for the Egyptians” and the rise of Ottoman Constitutionalism (Feb 14-16)

Anderson, Chapter 3. “Social Transformation: Workers and Nationalists in Egypt, Mount Lebanon, and the Ottoman Empire in the 19th century,” 107-153.

5. World War One and a Survey of related Documents (Feb 23-28)

Anderson, Chapter 4. “The Great War: Qajar Iran and the Ottoman Empire,” 155-198.

6. Syria, Iraq, Turkey, and Iran until WWII (Mar 2-7)

Anderson, Chapter 5. “State Formation and Colonial Control: Turkey, Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Transjordan and Saudi Arabia in the 1920s and 1930s,” 199-239 (read by October 4).

Maktabi, Rania. “The Lebanese Census of 1932 Revisited. Who Are the Lebanese?,The British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, Vol. 26, No. 2 (Nov., 1999), pp. 219-241 (read for Oct 6).

Choose one of the two articles for class discussion on March 7 (will be divided in class):

Khoury, Philip S. "Syrian Urban Politics in Transition: The Quarters of Damascus during the French Mandate." International Journal of Middle East Studies 16, no. 4 (1984): 507-40.

Hanna Batatu “Of the Diversity of Iraqis, the Incohesiveness of their Society, and their Progress in the Monarchic Period toward a Consolidated Political Structure,” in his book The Old Social Classes and the Revolutionary Movements in Iraq (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1978), Chapter 2.


7. Palestine: the British Mandate in Palestine and the post 1919-1948, 1948, Israel and the Nakba, and Regional War (March 9-14)

Anderson, Chapter 6. “Rebels and Rogues: Egypt, Iraq, Transjordan, Palestine, and Israel in the interwar years,” 241-289 (read by October 11).

Khalidi, Rashid. “The Palestinians and 1948: the underlying causes of failure,” in Rogan, E., & Shlaim, A. (Eds.). (2007). The War for Palestine: Rewriting the History of 1948(Cambridge Middle East Studies). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; pp. 12-36. (read by October 13).

8. Revolutionary Politics enter the Picture (March 16-21)

Anderson, Chapter 7. “Military Coups, Politics and Violence: Iran, Turkey, and the Arab States, 1952-1980,” 291-323 (read by October 18)

James Jankowski “Nasserism and Egyptian State Policy 1952-1958,” in James Jankowski and Gershoni, Israel (eds.) Rethinking Nationalism in the Arab Middle East, New York 1997 (hereafter: Rethinking), Chapter 8 (read by Oct 20)

Midterm March 23

9. The Cold War Years: Peace Resolutions and Civil conflicts (March 28-March 30)

Anderson, Chapter 8. “The Suez Crisis, Arab-Israeli conflicts, and the Lebanese Civil War,” 325-359 (Oct 27)  

Quandt, William. “Camp David and Peace Making in the Middle East in Lustick I. From Wars to towards Peace in the Arab-Israeli Conflict. New York, 1984. pp. 293-314 (November 1)

10. The Baath Party in Syria and Iraq (April 4)

Anderson, Chapter 9. “Rulers for Life: State Construction, Consolidation, and Collapse,” 361-401 (November 3)

John F. Devlin. "The Baath Party: Rise and Metamorphosis." The American Historical Review 96, no. 5 (1991): 1396-407. (November 8)

Spring Break April 5-April 16

11. The Rise of Islamism and Challenges to the Ruling Elites (April 18-20)

Anderson, Chapter 10. “Islamism, Invasion, and Rebellion from the 1990s into the 21st century,” 403-445 (November 10)

Salwa Ismail, “Confronting the Other: Identity, Culture, Politics, and Conservative Islamism in Egypt,” in IJMES, Vol. 30, No. 2 (May 1998), pp. 199-225.

Hilal Khashan, “The New World Order and the Tempo of Militant Islam,” in the British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, Vol. 24, no. 1 (May 1997).

Oliver Roy “The Crisis of Religious Legitimacy in Iran” in Middle East Journal 53/2 (Spring 1999), 201-216.

12. Gender and migration in the Middle East (April 25-27)

Soha Bayoumi; Gender, Sexuality, and the Politics of Writing History in the Middle East: Interview with Afsaneh Najmabadi. Journal of Middle East Women's Studies 1 July 2020; 16 (2): 213–226. doi:

Kozma, Liat. "Women’s Migration for Prostitution in the Interwar Middle East and North Africa,” Journal of Women's History 28, no. 3 (Fall, 2016): 93-113,188.

Koçak, Mert. "Who is “Queerer” and Deserves Resettlement?: Queer Asylum Seekers and Their Deservingness of Refugee Status in Turkey." Middle East Critique 29.1 (2020): 29-46.

13. May 2-4 Music and Literature

14. May 9-11 The New Order: Stalemate, Division, and Alliances.

15. May 16 The Middle East Today

Anderson, “Epilogue,” 447-455.

Fishman, Louis. "The 'Successful Failure' of the Post-World War I Middle East."