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History of the Modern Middle East

Dr Assef Ashraf

This course ran on PKP 2019 - we will be updating the course list for PKP 2020 shortly!

This course serves as an introduction to the history of the modern Middle East with an emphasis on developing an understanding of how the region we call the Middle East came to take its current shape. In 1800, two empires dominated the region: the Ottoman and Qajar Empires. Today, there are seventeen nation-states in the Middle East. How and why did this happen?

Through the class lectures and discussions, we will explore the encounter with European modernity and subsequent European imperialism, modernisation efforts, responses to colonialism, the rise of new ideologies such as nationalism, and the role of religion in politics and political discourse. The course will focus on the Arab provinces of the Ottoman Empire, Iran, Turkey, and the Middle East in the 20th and 21st centuries.

Previous Knowledge

No prior knowledge of the Middle East is required to participate in this course.

Transferable Knowledge and Skills

This course will help students develop the following skills:

  • Critical reading and writing skills
  • Oral presentation and speaking skills
  • Ability to read primary sources and place them in proper context


Dr Assef Ashraf

Dr Assef Ashraf is a Lecturer in the Faculty of Asian and Middle East Studies and a Fellow at Pembroke College, Cambridge. He received his PhD from the Department of History at Yale University in 2016 and has taught a variety of courses on the histories of Iran, the Middle East, and the Islamic world.