21H.601 | Fall 2006 | Undergraduate

Islam, the Middle East, and the West


Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 3 sessions / week, 1 hour / session

Syllabus Archive

The following syllabi come from a variety of different terms. They illustrate the evolution of this course over time, and are intended to provide alternate views into the instruction of this course.

Fall 2009, Bedross Der Matossian (PDF)

Fall 2008, Bedross Der Matossian (PDF)

Fall 2006, Mériam Belli (PDF)


Topics covered in this course are available in the calendar below.

Course Description

This course aims to provide students with a general overview of basic themes and issues in Middle Eastern history from the rise of Islam to the present, with an emphasis on the encounters and exchanges between the “Middle East” (Southwest Asia and North Africa) and the “West” (Europe and the United States).

First, we will examine the period which stretches from the 7th century (C.E.) to the end of the Abbasid Empire under the Mongol invasions of the 13th century. This saw the emergence of a new religion, Islam, the Christianization of Europe, and the flourishing of a Mediterranean world and culture. Second, we will study the period—between the 13th and the 17th century—characterized by the height of Ottoman territorial expansion, the flourishing of Northern European powers, European ventures into Asia, and the conquest of the Americas, which all redefined the physical and intellectual boundaries of both “East” and “West.” Finally, we will analyze European intrusion into, competition with, and colonization of Middle Eastern societies after the 18th century—typified by Napoleon’s invasion of Egypt in 1798—and Middle Eastern responses to Western hegemony and to the new social, economic, and political developments of the 20th century.


Class Participation 20%
Reaction Papers 10%
Short Essay 15%
Final Essay 25%
Final Exam 25%
Two Map Quizzes 5%

For detailed descriptions of the above, please visit assignments and exams.

Oral Participation in Class

While regular attendance is required, I expect you to demonstrate that you have read and critically analyzed the material in preparation for lectures and class discussions.

During discussions, students will:

  1. Present the material to be discussed and its author;
  2. Raise a few topics for discussion in relation to the week’s or the course’s overall themes;
  3. Situate the reading within a historiographical debate (and its various historical perspectives);
  4. Relate the historical topic under discussion with current events. Students will receive a grade with comments from the professor as well as comments from their peers (5 min. will be allotted at the end of each discussion for that purpose, peer comments will remain anonymous).


Goody, Jack. Islam in Europe. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, 2004. ISBN: 9780745631936.

Maalouf, Amin. The Crusades Through Arab Eyes. New York, NY: Schoken, 1985. ISBN: 9780805240047.

Matar, N. I. In the Lands of the Christians: Arabic Travel Writing in the Seventeenth Century. New York, NY: Routledge, 2002. ISBN: 9780415932288.

Al-Saffar, Muhammad. Disorienting Encounters: Travels of a Moroccan Scholar in France in 1845-1846. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1992. ISBN: 9780520074620.

Salih, Tayeb. Season of Migration to the North. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 1991. ISBN: 9780435909741.

Cleveland, William. A History of the Modern Middle East. 3rd ed. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2004. ISBN: 9780813340487.
A good reference for the 20th century.

Lapidus, Ira M. A History of Islamic Societies. 2nd ed. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2002. ISBN: 9780521779333.
An elaborate and extensive history that includes Sub-Saharan Africa and Far East Asia, from the incipience of Islam to the 20th century.

Gelvin, James L. The Modern Middle East: A History. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2004. ISBN: 9780195167894.
Concise topical account with good summaries.


1-2 Introduction No reaction paper due in Ses #2
3-5 Overview, “Islamic Civilization”

Map quiz in Ses #5

Students choose a week to lead class discussion

6-8 Islam in Europe: Andalusia  
9-10 Europeans in Islamdom: The Crusades

Short essay due in Ses #9

Critical reading review due two days after Ses #10

11-12 Europe and the Middle East: A Shared Renaissance  
13-14 Early Modern Age: The House of Osman and the Expansion of the West  
15-17 The Middle East in the Age of Napoleon’s Invasion  
18-20 Islam and the Middle East in European Thought  
21-23 Ethnic Representations in the Nationalist Age  
24-25 When Turkey Went West: From Tanzimat to Atatürk  
26-28 Resistance and Independence  
29-30 Migrations First draft of final essay due in Ses #30
31-33 Islamic Revolution, Terrorism, and Us  
34-36 Final Essays and Oral Presentations

Final essay due in Ses #34

Oral presentations of final essay in Ses #34, #35, and #36

Final exam and map quiz 11 days after Ses #36

Course Info

As Taught In
Fall 2006
Learning Resource Types
Written Assignments