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HIST 276: The Modern Middle East

Purpose of the Course

History 276 is an introduction to the history of the modern Middle East. In this course we will examine the history of this region from the Ottoman Empire to the Arab Spring with a focus on the political, cultural, and intellectual changes that have occurred over the past 150 years. This course is designed not just to teach you the history of the Middle East, but also develop to your writing and critical-thinking skills through an engagement with the past.

The overarching goal of this course is to study the history of the Middle East through the eyes of its people, rather than solely as the subject of Western imperialism or for its position within post-9/11 geopolitics. We will focus on the agency of Egyptians, Palestinians, Syrians, Israelis, Iranians, Turks, Iraqis, and so on as they engaged with the incredible challenges and changes of the late nineteenth to early twenty-first centuries.

Themes of the Course

Course Aims

Required Materials

See course description for up-to-date listing of materials.

Web Resources

You are also encouraged to visit the following websites for additional information about the Middle East:

Use these websites as a supplement to the information provided in this course. I encourage you to visit the sites and become familiar with the type of content each offers. You will find them to be tremendously valuable resources in this course.

Assignments and Grades

Readings Forum (30%)

The readings forum is the main ongoing assignment of the course and will consist of weekly postings and responses on the readings. You can think of this as classroom participation; the only difference is that this forum requires written instead of oral discussion. For each lesson, you will receive a series of questions and you will be expected to answer one by 1:00 pm on Tuesday (approximately three hundred words, written in an academic style). You may access the forums via Sakai's sidebar.

Your posts should fully answer the question and include your observations and analysis of how the specific reading relates to the larger themes of the lesson and the course in general. Please format your responses in full sentences and paragraphs and proofread your response for typos. You will also be expected to respond to the postings of two students by 1:00 pm on the following Saturday (a minimum of 100 words each). Failure to participate fully will result in a lower grade. Meeting the requirements for the readings forum is the easiest way to succeed in the course. I encourage you to learn with your classmates and think together about the questions that will appear on the midterm and final exam.

Map Quiz (5%)

In Lesson 3, there will be a short map quiz on the geography of the Middle East (fifteen minutes). This short quiz is designed to give you a general knowledge of the location of the major cities and countries of the Middle East. You may access a list of items to know in the Map Quiz Review, accessible via Sakai's sidebar.

Film and Novel Writing Assignments (7.5% each, 15% total)

In addition to your weekly responses for the readings forum, you will complete two short writing assignments in which you will examine in depth two cultural products to emerge from the Middle East. These writing assignments should be a minimum of 500 words (approximately two pages) and are due by 1:00 pm Friday during the relevant week. The purpose of each assignment is to consider how the work grapples with the major themes and historical currents discussed in this course, as well as to critically analyze the work as an historical source. The Map Quiz Review (see the link in the sidebar) will provide guiding questions to direct your viewing/reading.

The writing assignments are associated with these lessons:

Midterm Exam (20%)

The midterm exam will consist of short analytical essays comparing and contrasting key terms from the course. In advance of the exam, you will be given a list of approximately twenty key terms to study. On the day of the midterm, I will give you six pairs of these key terms; you will be required to write a short essay on four of the six pairs. In each of these short essays, I will expect you to:

The minimum length for each essay is 250 words.

Note: This is not a “gotcha” exam. All terms will be provided in advance, and we will organize an online review session in order to brainstorm possible pairs of terms.

Final Exam (30%)

The final exam will have the same format as the midterm, but you will write six essays. You will pick six pairs of terms out of eight options. The minimum length remains the same, 250 words for each essay.

Academic Policies

By enrolling as a student in this course, you agree to abide by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill policies related to the acceptable use of online resources. Please consult the Acceptable Use Policy on topics such as copyright, net-etiquette, and privacy protection.

As part of this course, you may be asked to participate in online discussions or other online activities that may include personal information about you or other students in the course. Please be respectful of the rights and protection of other participants under the UNC-Chapel Hill Information Security Policies when participating in online classes.

When using online resources offered by organizations not affiliated with UNC-Chapel Hill, such as Google or YouTube, please note that the terms and conditions of these companies and not the University’s Terms and Conditions apply. These third parties may offer different degrees of privacy protection and access rights to online content. You should be well aware of this when posting content to sites not managed by UNC-Chapel Hill.

When links to sites outside of the domain are inserted in class discussions, please be mindful that clicking on sites not affiliated with UNC-Chapel Hill may pose a risk for your computer due to the possible presence of malware on such sites.

Honor Code

Remember that as a student of UNC-Chapel Hill, you are bound by the University’s Honor Code, which states that “It shall be the responsibility of every student at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to obey and support the enforcement of the Honor Code, which prohibits lying, cheating, or stealing when these actions involve academic processes or University students or academic personnel acting in an official capacity.”

All graded academic work must include a pledge comprised of the following: “No unauthorized assistance has been received or given in the completion of this work.”

An especially serious Honor Code violation is plagiarism. If you are uncertain about what constitutes plagiarism, contact me and/or familiarize yourself with this plagiarism tutorial, courtesy of UNC Libraries.

Course Mechanics


A few notes on using email to submit your course work:

We recommend that you use the Email feature of Sakai for this course. Click the Email link in the left navigation bar. Select Compose a Message, select your recipient(s), click the CC box to send a copy of the message to recipients’ email addresses (otherwise the message will be internal to the Sakai site), put “CCO HIST 276” in the Subject line, and compose your message. Then click Send. By using Sakai’s email, a copy of any messages you send will be automatically saved in the Sakai site. 

All communication from me will go to your UNC Onyen email address. You can use your preferred email program to access your UNC email account, called HeelMail, by following the instructions on the “About HeelMail” page on UNC’s Information and Technology Services Web site. Under “Useful Links” you will find a Help document called “How to access HeelMail using your preferred email program.”

Library Services and Resources (including e-reserves)

Students enrolled in Carolina Courses Online have access to the UNC Library System. Visit Distance Education Library Services to access a wide array of online services and resources including e-reserves, online databases, online journals, online books, and live help with research and library access.

Most online resources require you to log in with your Onyen and password. If you have any trouble finding the resource that you need or logging in to a resource, you can contact the library through the contact information at Distance Education Library Services. You can chat live about your problem, or send an email to request assistance.

Other Questions

Contact your instructor with questions regarding the content of the course and your progress. Please include “CCO HIST 276” in the subject line of your email.

Contact the instructional designer at the Friday Center about problems with this Web site, including bad links or navigation problems (not being able to find your way around).

Contact the UNC Help desk (not your instructor) for any problem you have with technology—your Internet connection, downloads, Sakai, and so on. Help is available twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.

If you have any logistical questions as you work through the course (enrollment, Onyen, credits, withdrawal, and so on), contact the Student Services staff at the Friday Center for Continuing Education (phone 919-962-1134 or 800-862-5669).

Lesson Schedule

Please note that our course follows the UNC-Chapel Hill academic calendar. All due-date times are Eastern Time. If you are in a different time zone, plan accordingly. It is essential that you adhere to the scheduled due dates and times.

Dates Topic
Lesson 1 Introduction to Middle Eastern History
Lesson 2    The Ottoman Empire in the Nineteenth  and Twentieth Centuries
Lesson 3    World War I and Nation Building in the Post-Ottoman World
Lesson 4    The Mandate of Palestine and the Creation of the State of Israel
Lesson 5    Syria and Lebanon from Mandates to Independence
Lesson 6 Revolutionary Stirrings (Part 1) and the Rise of Arab Nationalism
Midterm Exam
Lesson 7 Revolutionary Stirrings (Part 2) & Postcolonial Disappointments
Lesson 8 Lebanese Civil War, Palestinian Nationalism, and Israel’s Occupation(s)
Lesson 9 Saudi Arabia and the Politics of Oil
Lesson 10 The Iranian Revolution and its Aftermath
Lesson 11   The Iraq Wars and US Involvement in the Middle East
Lesson 12   The Arab Spring and Conclusion
Final Exam  

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