1° Semester
Teaching materials


This course deals with the historical, political and social processes in the Middle East. It starts with the new order created in the Middle East following the fall of the Ottoman Empire, ending with the post-Arab Spring distinguished by a new regional configuration and several proxy conflicts. Attention will be paid to the links between the history of the modern Middle East and current events such as the Syrian civil war, the sectarianization process and the enlargement of regional borders.



Students will hear the perspectives of both Western and non-Western scholars. Students will be required to attend all lectures and to keep up with the reading according to the schedule below. The students are also advised to familiarize his/her-self –at least one from each- with mainstream national, regional and global daily newspapers, news agencies, political magazines, journals and periodic publications and also web sites of countries’ political and bureaucratic institutions.


The objective of this course is to give students a more nuanced and complete understanding of the Middle East, its states, and its peoples. Specifically, the course provides the basic tools for the knowledge of the history of the Middle Eastern states, with particular reference to the study of the regional security issues. At the end of the course, students will have acquired the analytical tools and knowledge necessary to understand the main features of the political, social, and cultural history of the modern Middle East. In addition, students will have the opportunity to develop their own professional thinking in this field. Students will acquire a top-down and a bottom-up perspective on the major historical processes and developments in the modern Middle East; to formulate her/his arguments in a clear way (by oral presentation and class discussion); to evaluate and compare between events and processes across the time; and begin to offer a critical view of the academic literature.


Contemporary History - International Relations.

Teaching methods

Frontal lectures, students' presentations, use of media, class discussion.


Week 1: Overview of the course (presentation of the syllabus; audiovisual tools; hashtags; journals; archives) and preliminary inputs. Introduction to the study of modern and contemporary Middle Eastern history

Required reading: Karen Culcasi, Constructing and Naturalizing the Middle East, in Geographical Review, Vol. 100, No. 4 (2010), pp. 583-597.

Week 2: Reform and Rebellion in the ME: the Tanzimat and the end of religious coexistence, Mohammad Ali's Egypt, the Qajar Iran.

Required reading: Guang Pan, Revelations of Muhammad Ali’s Reform for Egyptian National Governance, in Journal of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies, Vol. 7, No. 4 (2013), pp.17-35.

Week 3: The Great War in the Middle East: the Ottoman Empire and the Qajar Iran from the revolution to the First World War.

Required reading: Eugene Rogan, Rival jihads: Islam and the Great War in the Middle East, 1914–1918, in Journal of the British Academy, Vol. 4, (2016), pp. 1–20.

Week 4: The modern Middle East state-system: the mandates and the State formation (Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Transjordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iran).

Required reading: Peter Sluglett, An improvement on colonialism? The ‘A’ mandates and their legacy in the Middle East, in International Affairs, Vol. 90, No. 2 (2014), pp. 413-427.

Week 5: The Second World War and the entry of superpowers: the Israel’s birth, Nasser’s pan-Arabism and the military coups (Iran, Turkey and the Arab States).

Required reading: Maqbool Ahmad Awan, Gamal Abdel Nasser’s Pan-Arabism and Formation of the United Arab Republic: An Appraisal, in Journal of Research Society of Pakistan, Vol. 54, No. 1 (2017).

Week 6: Cold War Battles: The Suez Crisis, Arab-Israeli Conflicts, the Lebanese Civil War.

Required reading: Douglas Little, The New Frontier on the Nile: JFK, Nasser, and Arab Nationalism, in The Journal of American History, Vol. 75, No. 2 (1988), pp. 501-527.

Gasiorowski, Mark J., U.S. Perceptions of the Communist Threat in Iran during the Mossadegh Era, in Journal of Cold War Studies, Vol. 21 No. 3 (2019), pp. 185-221.

Week 7: The rise of political Islam: the Islamic Revolution, the Turkish-Islamic synthesis, the Kurdish issue, the Iran-Iraq War and the Afghanistan Jihad.

Required reading: Shireen T Hunter, Iran and the spread of revolutionary Islam, in Third World Quarterly, Vol. 10, No. 2 (1988), pp. 730-749.

Hakan M. Yavuz, Five stages of the construction of Kurdish nationalism in Turkey, in Nationalism and Ethnic Politics, Vol. 7, No. 3 (2001), pp. 1-24.

Week 8: The Middle East security in the post-Cold War era:

Required reading: Efraim Karsh, Cold War, post-Cold War: does it make a difference for the Middle East?, in Review of International Studies, Vol. 23, No. 3 (1997), pp. 271-291.

Week 9: The 9/11 and the Pax Americana project for the ME: the Iraq War, the new Turkey’s foreign policy and the rise of small powers (UAE, Qatar).

Required reading: Raymond Hinnenbusch, The US Invasion of Iraq: Explanations and Implications, in Critical Middle Eastern Studies, Vol. 16, No. 3 (2007), pp. 209-228.

Welch Tyler, Theology, heroism, justice, and fear: an analysis of ISIS propaganda magazines Dabiq and Rumiyah, in Dynamics of Asymmetric Conflict, Vol. 11, No. 3 (2018), pp. 183-198.

Week 10: The Arab uphevals and the reshuffle of regional balances: Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, the Syrian proxy-war, Gezi Protests, the sectarianization process and the birth of Daesh.

Required reading: Monier, Elizabeth Iskander Ranko, Annette, The Fall of the Muslim Brotherhood: Implications for Egypt, in Middle East Policy, Vol. 20, No. 4 (2013), pp. 111-123.

Nader Hashemi and Danny Postel, Sectarianization: Mapping the New Politics of the Middle East, in The Review of Faith & International Affairs, Vol. 15, No. 3 (2017), pp. 1-13.

Week 11: The reshuffle of Middle Eastern balances: the rise of the third Axis, the Rouhani quite diplomacy, the Yemeni civil war and failed coup in Turkey.

Required reading: Hanau Santini, Ruth, A New Regional Cold War in the Middle East and North Africa: Regional Security Complex Theory Revisited, in International Spectator, Vol. 52, No. 4 (2017), pp. 93-111.

Crystal A. Ennis and Bessma Momani, Shaping the Middle East in the Midst of the Arab Uprisings: Turkish and Saudi foreign policy strategies, in Third World Quarterly, Vol. 34, No. 6 (2013), pp. 1127-1144.

Week 12: The greater Middle East: a new regional security complex, the battle for the Red Sea, Qatar blockade and the role of old (U.S., Russia) and new (China) great powers.

Required reading:  Brendon J. Cannon and Federico Donelli, Middle Eastern States in the Horn of Africa: Security Interactions and Power Projection, in ISPI Analysis, (2019).

Chaziza, Mordechai, China's Middle East Policy: The ISIS Factor, in Middle East Policy, Vol. 23, No. 1, (2016), pp. 25-33.


Students are required to purchase the following book.

  •  Peter Mansfield, A History of the Middle East (4th Edition), London: Penguin Books, 2013 (ch. 3-4-6-7-8).
  • Louise Fawcett (ed.), International Relations of the Middle East (4th Edition), Oxford: OUP, 2016 (ch. 1-3-7-11-15).

All other reading materials will be provided on the class website. Attending students will prepare the readings following the schedule which will be distributed at the beginning of the course. All teaching materials for attending students will be made available to students in a dedicated page of dropbox. The following reading list is divided into 15 parts, each corresponding to one lesson. Students are requested to prepare the required readings carefully, in order to be able to participate to class discussions. Additionally, each week one student (in turn) will be asked to prepare a short oral presentation (no longer than 15 minutes) on one source included in the reading list (see below). The list of presentations will be agreed during the first lesson.

The use of the historical maps is highly recommended.


Exam Board




Teaching methods

Frontal lectures, students' presentations, use of media, class discussion.


October 7th.


Exam description

Attending students:

Student grades will be calculated using the following criteria:

Attendance and Class Performance                                                             10%    

Oral presentation                                                                                          15%               

Final written/oral examination                                                                       75%               

Total                                                                                                             100%


Attendance and Class performance: this course is based on seminar format and the goal is to get students to actively debate, engage, and critically reflect on class material. Students will present a current event orally to the class each week. The presentation should be no more than five minutes in length. The current event must relate to conflict or politics in the Middle East. The source should be from a respected news source, be less than one week old and pertain in some way to one or more international organizations. Each student should try to relate the article to some element of what we have been discussing in class. Although class roll will be taken and unexcused absences will be sanctioned, the bulk of the grade is about the quality and frequency of your participation. Come ready to participate, challenge, and debate issues.

Students who are unable to attend classes are required to prepare the two texts required and to contact the lecturer in order to agree on one or more supplementary texts.

Oral presentation: Students’ presentations should be organized in the following way: 1) present the thesis that the reading proposes; 2) summarize the main arguments used by the author to support the thesis; 3) present your comments on the article; 4) raise a number of questions to be discussed in class.

Final examination: 25 multiple choice and 3 open questions: all taken from the required readings.

Non attending students:

  • Peter Mansfield, A History of the Middle East (4th Edition), London: Penguin Books, 2013 (cap.  3-4-6-7-8).
  • Louise Fawcett (ed.), International Relations of the Middle East (4th Edition), Oxford: OUP, 2016 (cap. 1-3-7-11-15).

In addition, one of the following books replace the notes and the reading list of the attending students:

  • Nader Hashemi, Danny Postel (eds.), Sectarianization: Mapping the New Politics of the Middle East, Oxford: OUP, 2017.
  • Raymond Hinnebusch, Adham Saouli (eds.), The War for Syria: Regional and International Dimensions of the Syrian Uprising, London: Routledge, 2019.
  • Mark Lynch, The New Arab Wars: Uprisings and Anarchy in the Middle East, Washington, Public Affairs, 2017.
  • Rosita Di Peri, Il Libano contemporaneo. Storia, politica, società, Firenze: Carocci, 2017.
  • Federico Donelli, Le due sponde del Mar Rosso. La politica estera degli stati mediorientali nel Corno d’Africa, Milano: Mondadori Università, 2019.
  • Massimiliano Trentin (a cura di), L'ultimo califfato: L'Organizzazione dello Stato islamico in Medio Oriente, Bologna: Il Mulino, 2017.

Exam schedule

Date Time Location Type Notes
19/06/2020 14:00 GENOVA Orale
13/07/2020 14:00 GENOVA Orale
04/09/2020 09:30 GENOVA Orale