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HISTORY 2A03 Mod Middle Eastern Societies

Academic Year: Fall 2017

Term: Fall

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Prof. Mark Sanagan

Email: sanagan@mcmaster.ca

Office: Chester New Hall 628

Phone: 905-525-9140 x


Office Hours: N/A

Course Objectives:


This course is an introductory survey of the political and social history of the “modern” Middle East, from the early 19th century to the present. The first half of the course will contextualize developments in the late Ottoman Empire, European colonialism, and the advent of nationalism. The second half of the course will focus on thematic issues particularly relevant to today: the Arab-Israeli conflict, political Islam, and the struggle for democratic change.

Because this course is a survey that spans over two hundred years and multiple continents, there will be a great deal left out. This is unfortunate, but it’s also a good reason to do your readings and come to class and tutorials prepared (beyond the impact on your grade) since our time together is limited.


Course Objectives


  • Introduce students to basic geopolitical and social forces – both from within and without – that have helped shaped the contemporary Middle East.

  • Challenge essentialist assumptions about the people of the region, while also placing their history within a trans-regional or global perspective.

  • Encourage students to read primary and secondary sources critically; to formulate coherent scholarly arguments in response to a historical question; to articulate these arguments in persuasive fashion. Namely, to become better historians.

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

You will, on average, have two sets of readings assigned to you each week. The first will be sections of a textbook written by William Cleveland and Martin Bunton. These readings will form the basic historical narrative, supplemented by lectures.

The second set of readings will be either primary source texts or academic articles. Both of these readings will be made available to you either online or through Avenue to Learn. The primary source texts will be important in showing you what historical figures thought, said, or wrote in their own words. This second set of readings will be the focus of your tutorial sessions so make sure to read them closely.

Additionally, I will be posting a series of texts that will help you produce a better term paper. You do not have to read them. But if you’re interested in becoming better historians or better writers in general, I suggest you peruse them at your leisure.

Required Texts

  • A History of the Modern Middle East (Sixth Edition) Edited by William L. Cleveland and Martin Bunton, (Westview Press, 2016).

Method of Assessment:

Method of Assessment


Your grade will be calculated according to the following criteria:

  1. Attendance and participation in tutorials (20%)

  2. Research exercise due on October 3 (5%)

  3. Midterm exam on October 20 (20%)

  4. A short paper due November 24 (25%)

  5. Final exam in December (30%).

Please Note the Following Policies and Statements:

Academic Dishonesty

You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process. Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity.

Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at www.mcmaster.ca/academicintegrity

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:

  1. Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
  2. Improper collaboration in group work.
  3. Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

Email correspondence policy

It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication sent from students to instructors (including TAs), and from students to staff, must originate from each student’s own McMaster University email account. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student.  Instructors will delete emails that do not originate from a McMaster email account.

Modification of course outlines

The University reserves the right to change dates and/or deadlines etc. for any or all courses in the case of an emergency situation or labour disruption or civil unrest/disobedience, etc. If a modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with an explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. Any significant changes should be made in consultation with the Department Chair.

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work. Please note these regulations have changed beginning Fall 2015. You can find information at mcmaster.ca/msaf/. If you have any questions about the MSAF, please contact your Associate Dean's office.

Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

Students who require academic accommodation must contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to make arrangements with a Program Coordinator. Academic accommodations must be arranged for each term of study. Student Accessibility Services can be contacted by phone 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail sas@mcmaster.ca. For further information, consult McMaster University's Policy for Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities.

Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous and Spiritual Observances

Students requiring academic accommodation based on religion and spiritual observances should follow the procedures set out in the Course Calendar or by their respective Faculty. In most cases, the student should contact his or her professor or academic advisor as soon as possible to arrange accommodations for classes, assignments, tests and examinations that might be affected by a religious holiday or spiritual observance.

Topics and Readings:


Tuesday September 5: Introduction: What are we talking about?

Friday September 8: What is the “Modern” and the “Middle East”?

  • Cleveland & Bunton, p. 1-4 (and skim p. 35-75)

  • Akram Khater “How to Read a Primary Source”

*** Note: tutorials begin this week***

Tuesday September 12: Empires of the Middle East

  • Cleveland & Bunton, p. 76-102

  • Donald Quataert “Why Study Ottoman History?”

Friday September 15: The Ottoman Empire I

  • Cleveland & Bunton, p. 124-134

  • “The Gulhane Proclamation”

  • “An Ottoman Bill of Right”

Tuesday September 19: The Ottoman Empire II

  • Cleveland & Bunton, p. 111-123

  • Jamal al-Din al-Afghani, “Plan for Islamic Unity”

Friday September 22: Nationalisms in the Middle East

  • C. Ernest Dawn, “From Ottomanism to Arabism: The Origins of an Ideology”

  • Rashid Khalidi, “The Origins of Arab Nationalism: Introduction”

Tuesday September 26: The First World War

  • Cleveland & Bunton, p. 139-159

  • “The Husayn-McMahon Correspondence”

Friday September 29: The Republic of Turkey, and Iran

  • Cleveland & Bunton, p. 161-183

  • Mustapha Kemal Pasha, “An Exhortation to Progress”

*** Research exercise due***

Tuesday October 3: The Inter-War Period (Sykes-Picot)

  • Cleveland & Bunton, p. 184-225

  • “The Sykes-Picot Agreement on Dividing up Arab Lands”

Friday October 6: Zionism to 1948

  • Cleveland & Bunton, p. 226-256

  • Theodore Herzl, “The Jewish State”

  • “The Basel Program”

  • “The Balfour Declaration”

  • Ze’ev Jabotinsky, “Evidence submitted to the Peel Commission”

Oct 9-15 Mid-term break

Tuesday October 17: Palestine to 1948

  • Mark Sanagan, “Teacher, Preacher, Soldier, Martyr”

  • Rashid Khalidi “The Formation of Palestinian Identity: The Critical Years…”

Friday October 20: *** Mid-term exam ***

Tuesday October 24: Nasserism and Arab Socialism

  • Cleveland & Bunton, p. 286-313

  • Jamal ‘Abd al-Nasir (Gamal Abd al-Nasser), “Egypt’s Liberation

Friday October 27: Autocracies in Syria and Iraq

  • Cleveland & Bunton, p. 423-446

  • “The Program of the Ba‘th (Arab Socialist Resurrection) Party, 1963”

Tuesday October 31: The 1967 War

  • Cleveland & Bunton, p. 313-327

  • Palestinian National Council, “The National Charter”

  • “UN Resolution #242: Withdrawal from Occupied Territory”

Friday November 3: (Movie)

  • Cleveland and Bunton, p. 273-285

  • Muhammad Mossadeq, “Nationalizing Iranian Oil”

Tuesday November 7: Political Islam I: The Egyptian Case

  • Cleveland & Bunton, p. 351-354, 371-375, 378-389

  • “The Rise of Mass Doctrinal Parties: the Program of Hassan al-Banna and the Muslim Brotherhood, 1936”

  • Sayyid Qutb, “Introduction” in Milestones, p. 5-10

*** Drop date is November 10 ***

Friday November 10: Political Islam II: The Iranian Revolution

  • Cleveland & Bunton, p. 355-371

  • Ayatollah Khomeini, “We Shall Confront the World with our Ideology”

  • Ervand Abrahamian, “Fundamentalism or Populism?”

Tuesday November 14: Lebanese Civil War

  • Cleveland & Bunton, p. 389-398

  • “The Taif Agreement”

  • “Text of Open Letter Addressed by Hezbollah to the Downtrodden in Lebanon and the World”

Friday November 17: The First Intifada (Guest Speaker)

  • Cleveland & Bunton, p. 451-456

  • Yasser Arafat, “Speech to the UN, December 13 1988”

  • Platform of the Likud Party

  • “Charter of the Islamic Resistance Movement of Palestine (Hamas)”

    Tuesday November 21: The Peace Process (Arab-Israeli Conflict since 1989)

  • Cleveland & Bunton, p. 474-498

  • Chronology of the Peace Process

  • “Israel-Palestine Liberation Organization Agreement: 1993” [The Oslo Accords]

  • Ariel Sharon, “Six Red Lines for Peace”


*** Essays due ***

Friday November 24: The War on Terror

  • Cleveland & Bunton, p. 519-536

  • Osama Bin Laden, “Letter to Americans: Why we are fighting you”

  • George W. Bush, “Freedom and Fear are at War”

  • Bernard Lewis: “The Roots of Muslim Rage”

  • Edward Said, “The Clash of Ignorance”

Tuesday November 28: “The Arab Spring”

  • Cleveland & Bunton, p. 537-556

  • James Gelvin, “The Arab world at the intersection of the national and transnational”


Friday December 1: Mass Displacement and Migration (Guest Speaker)

  • Sara Pursley, “‘Lines Drawn on an Empty Map’: Iraq’s Borders and the Legend of the Artificial State”

Tuesday December 5: Term Review

No class Friday

Other Course Information:

Other stuff to know

Submission of course work

Essays will be marked for content and analysis first and foremost, but also for clarity of writing, grammar and organization. If you’re worried about any of these aspects of your paper come and talk to me or your TA during office hours. While we won’t read your essay, we can talk about it and give you tips on how you might make it better.

Your essay assignment will be distributed to you early in the semester so you will have lots of time to work on it. Use the time wisely. Essays will be due November 24 at 3:30pm. Anytime after 3:30pm on the 24th, your paper will be assessed a 3% per day penalty. No electronic version of your essay will be accepted. Extensions and other accommodations will only be considered with proper documentation (see below). Finally, students are advised to retain a photocopy of each essay they submit, and to keep all research notes for their essay.

Avenue to Learn disclaimer

Students should be aware that in accessing the Avenue to Learn system via your McMaster email account, information such as first and last name, McMaster account username, and program affiliation, may be visible to other students in the same course. The visibility of the information is dependent on the technology used. Continuation in this course will be deemed consent to this disclosure.

Email communication

It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication sent from students to instructors (including TAs) and staff must originate from the student’s own McMaster University email account. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student. Instructors will delete emails that do not originate from McMaster accounts.

Modifications to the syllabus

The Instructor and the University reserve the right to modify elements of the course during the term. The University may change the dates and deadlines for any or all course requirements in extreme circumstances. If modifications become necessary reasonable notice will be given along with an explanation and the opportunity to comment on the changes. It is the responsibility of the students to check their McMaster email and course websites weekly during the term and to note any changes.

Requests for the extension of a deadline

Extensions or other accommodations will be determined by the instructor and will only be considered if supported by appropriate documentation. Absences of less than 5 days may be reported using the McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF) at www.mcmaster.ca/msaf/. If you are unable to use the MSAF, you should document the absence with your faculty office. In all cases, it is YOUR responsibility to follow up with the instructor immediately to see if an extension or other accommodation will be granted, and what form it will take. There are NO automatic extensions or accommodations.


This course was first taught in 2012 and though it has gone through a number of iterations since then, I want to acknowledge the initial sources of inspiration for this syllabus. First, Professor Paul Sedra (now of Simon Fraser University) taught “Introduction to the Modern Middle East” at the University of Toronto in 2003-2004. I was a student of his and his syllabus is the initial reference point for what was the first version of this course. For the lecture topics related to the Arab-Israeli conflict, I am indebted to Professor Laila Parsons of McGill. Lastly, while this syllabus differs from hers, Professor Virginia Aksan of McMaster has taught this course for many years and was instrumental in my initial syllabus design.