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Contemporary Middle Eastern history: 1820-2020

This course charts the evolution of Middle Eastern societies impacted by the expansion of European imperialism into the region starting from the early 19th century to the present.

This course provides an overview of the contemporary history of the Middle East and North Africa, from the decline of the Ottoman Empire in the 19th century, the subsequent rise of a new global order under Euro-American direction after World War I, the Cold War and then the Arab Spring of 2011.

It adopts both a chronological and a thematic perspective, in order to outline the most relevant dynamics that the regions included in the expansion of European imperialism at the expense of stability in the Ottoman Empire, with a particular focus on political and legal structures, socio-economic transformations and relations with Euro-American powers such as Russia, the Habsburgs, Germans, Britain, France, Italy, and the United States.

The purpose is to enable the students to outline regional dynamics within the Middle East over the course of the last two centuries that witnessed the rise of modern forms of state rule, a global mechanism to organize interstate relations and a corresponding global economy informed by industrialization and the rise of petroleum-based economies.

In this respect, the course adopts a global perspective that links the Middle East and North Africa to other regions during a period of capitalist imperialism and corresponding efforts to resist it. Corresponding to this process, this course will also help students understand the emergence of the major elements of social and political transformation that led to Arab nationalism and political Islam while other arenas of social mobilization, from labor activism, parliamentarism, socialist/communist party development, and women’s rights groups shaped the contemporary Middle East.

A number of key texts analyzing these processes will be assigned, drawing especially from major trends in Anthropology, Political Theory, and Historiography to enable students to develop a critical overview of their field of studies, its historical formation, and its current limitations as they include or ignore this region’s contemporary history.

This is an online distance course. Instruction is in English.

  • Course structure


    The course consists of one module that comprises 7.5 credits.

    Teaching format

    The teaching consists of lectures and seminars. Attendance at all classes is mandatory. The teaching is in English according to the indication for each occasion for the course.

    Course planning and resources

    Course details, planning and resources for Autumn 2023 can be found in Athena closer to the start of the semester.

    Please note that only registered students have access to downloadable documents in Athena.


    The course is examined through a digital assessment with multiple choice questions.

    The language of examination, Swedish or English, will be the language stated for the respective course instance.

    For more detailed information please refer to the course description.


    Isa Blumi

  • Schedule

    The schedule will be available no later than one month before the start of the course. We do not recommend print-outs as changes can occur. At the start of the course, your department will advise where you can find your schedule during the course.
  • Course literature

    Note that the course literature can be changed up to two months before the start of the course.
  • Course reports

  • Contact

    Do you have questions about the courses in Middle Eastern Languages and Cultures?

    Student Councelor:

    Director of Studies:
    Martin Säfström
    Phone: 08-16 29 43