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Tel Aviv University

The Emergence of the Modern Middle East - Part I

Tel Aviv University via Coursera


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This course will review the emergence of the modern Middle East from the fall of the Ottoman Empire, at the end of the First World War to the present. We will discuss the Ottoman legacy in the region and the Western imperial impact on the creation of the Arab state system. The course will review the rise and retreat of Arab nationalism, the problems of internal cohesion of the Arab states, issues of religion and state, and the evolution of Islamist politics. We will also focus on the evolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict and its impact on the region and will conclude with an in depth analysis of the “Arab Spring” by placing these contemporary revolutionary events in their historical context. Please note that there is a second part to this course which is a direct extension of this part. We highly recommend to continue to the second part after you finish this one ( This course will temporarily close for enrollment from March 1st, 2022 to August 31st, 2022. During this time, the course will be closed for new enrolments. All of the course materials will continue to be able available to previously enrolled learners; however, the course staff will not provide support in the Discussion Forums during this period. Best, The Tel Aviv University Team


  • Intro
    • In our first lesson, we will locate the Middle East in time and space. We will get to know the 19th-century Middle East, the structure of its society and economy as well as the dynamics of its politics. We will then look into the dramatic change that took place in the last quarter of the 18th century, that is the widening gap between Europe and the Middle East as we will dwell on the impact this change had on the future of the region. We will conclude our first lesson with a discussion on the "Eastern Question," which refers to the fate of the Ottoman Empire and the balance of power in Europe.
  • Modernity, Tradition and the Age of Reform
    • Our second lesson is a discussion on the forces of modernity and tradition in the Middle East. The filtering of European ideas into the Middle East engendered a process of reform in the region throughout much of the 19th century. We will analyse two centres of reform in this respect, namely the Ottoman Empire and Egypt. This analysis will take us next to the Islamic responses to the crisis of modernity as a result of the inherent tension between faith and secularism. We will see how various Islamic thinkers tried to find a compromise between these obvious tensions and at times went in more fundamentalist directions.
  • The Rise of Nationalism; The Demise of Empire
    • In lesson three, we will witness the rise of nationalism in the Middle East, as it became a much more acceptable idea in the late 19th and early 20th century among an intellectual, elitist, urban minority, who were the graduates of western-style schools (remember lesson two and the process of reform!). We will concentrate on the emergence and development of three nationalist movements; Turkish, Egyptian and Arab. Lastly, we will speak about the First World War and how it brought the end of the Ottoman Empire as well as the end of 400 years of Ottoman Turkish rule in the Arab countries. We will also see how the Middle East began to take its current shape following the First World War.
  • The Creation of the Middle East State System
    • In our fourth lesson, we will be speaking about the creation of the Middle East state system in accordance with British and French designs after the First World War. First, we will discuss Egypt and how its distinct historical development gave way to a unique liberal experiment in Egypt during the 1920s and 1930s and consequently to a steady shift toward Islam and Arab nationalism. Second, we will discuss the area of the Fertile Crescent in comparison to Egypt and the creation of British (Palestine, Trans-Jordan, Iraq) and French mandates (Syria, Greater Lebanon) in this region. Our attention will then shift to the non-Arab states. We will learn about the creation of the Republic of Turkey on the ruins of the Ottoman Empire and the sweeping process of modernising reform under Mustafa Kemal. Lastly, we will take a look at Iran, which was, like Turkey, not a new state created by the Great Powers but a country with a long history and cultural tradition. Our discussion on Iran will include an overview of its history from early 16th century onwards as well as the basic principles of the Shi'a which shaped greatly the political culture in Iran.

Taught by

Asher Susser and Duygu Atlas


4.8 rating, based on 25 Class Central reviews

4.7 rating at Coursera based on 1125 ratings

Start your review of The Emergence of the Modern Middle East - Part I

  • RoosWilhelm
    Recommended! The course offers a very interesting overview of the history of the region. Lots of countries and trends are discussed so - especially if you're new to this - keep a pen and notebook at hand. I recently found myself going over my notes of last year to make a little more sense of current events. If you feel (like I do) that news coverage on the region often doesn't include the necessary contextual info or the historical timeline, then you will definitely appreciate this course.
    PS I did the course when it wasn't yet split into two parts so this review counts for both part I and II>
  • Has been very interesting. Middle East's history is very puzzled but still worth of attention considering the recent wars there and the so-called Arab Spring. I hope to attend a similar course led by an Arab staff in the future.
  • David Biber
    brilliant! must do course for anyone interested in world history and politics or just someone trying to understand the current world.
  • (This review applies equally to the two halves of the course. As an aside, I don't understand why the course was split in two. It's unnatural and unnecessary.)
    A fascinating overview of the history of the Middle East over the past two+ centuries (since Napoleon's invasion of Egypt in 1798). He covers the rise of nationalism, the role of political Islam, the high-handed and arbitrary geographical division of the Middle East following WWI, the establishment of Israel, and (briefly) the Arab Spring.
    In particular, in his discussion of the Israeli - Palestinian conflict, he seems to be fair-minded and objective, favoring neither side. (Although I don't know if any Palestinians or Israelis would agree with that perception!)
  • Anonymous
    This first part I liked a lot because it made me see how little I knew about Middle Eastern history. The videos were very easy to understand and the additional readings adequately complement the information they gave us during the course. One problem I found is that in several videos, the translation into Spanish is delayed with respect to the teacher's narrative, which is a bit confusing
  • You will want to pull out the trusty pen and notebook and take good notes! A lot of information is given but it is well ordered and very fascinating. Great overview if you're a history buff or interested in the Middle East!
  • A very good fundamental course for beginner to understand modern Middle East. The content is easy to follow and allow student to have a basic idea on the history of Middle East in recent century.
  • Anonymous
    Fantastic course. Very interesting and engaging. The professor is very clear and straight to the point. The themes are treated objectively and impartially.
  • Anonymous
    It is very excellent course for Middle East learners who want to enhance knowledge in this area. I am enjoying this course very earnestly.
  • Martin Bamford
    Interesting course looking forward to part 2. reading list could be updated one of the books seems to be out of print or very expensive
  • Anonymous
    Great teacher and really interesting class. I really enjoyed the teacher's way of explaining history. I totally recommend this class.
  • Alan Salsac
  • Francisco Javier Jiménez
  • Taich
  • Eric Gehlhaar
  • Daisy Bisoffi

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