module specification

GI5063 - Politics of the Middle East (2017/18)

Module specification Module approved to run in 2017/18
Module title Politics of the Middle East
Module level Intermediate (05)
Credit rating for module 15
School School of Social Sciences
Total study hours 150
45 hours Scheduled learning & teaching activities
105 hours Guided independent study
Assessment components
Type Weighting Qualifying mark Description
Coursework 100%   Essay of 2,500 words
Running in 2017/18
Period Campus Day Time Module Leader
Spring semester North Tuesday Morning

Module summary

In the first decade of the 21st century, the affairs of the Middle East continue to engage a great deal of international attention. Focusing primarily on the Arab Middle East, Israel and the Gulf region, the module concentrates on the internal dynamics of this strategic region, and the external forces affecting it. Students will be expected to analyse how the states of the region relate to each other, and comprehend how political change has been shaped by the interaction between nationalist, religious and political forces.

The module will explore in detail the evolution of societies and polities in the contemporary Middle East. Taking both a theoretical and empirical approach it offers an opportunity to examine some of the different ways in which politics operates in this part of the world.

Please note: This module supersedes GI2041C

Module aims

The broad aim of this module is to develop an understanding of politics in the Middle East, in the context of contemporary international relations, and in particular to:

  • describe and explain the processes by which the states and societies of the contemporary Middle East were formed;
  • explore the main ideological currents that have influenced the political development of the Middle East, particularly those inspired by religion and nationalism;
  • examine the interstate and international relations of the region, focusing on the sources of conflicts and the difficult relationship between the West and the Middle East.


The module focuses on the internal political, social and economic dynamics of the Middle East and the external forces affecting it. It considers the roles played by the Ottoman Empire, European imperialism and the United States in the making of the modern Middle East. In exploring the evolution of societies and polities in the contemporary Middle East, it deals with the significance of concepts of religious faith, community, tribe, clan, nation, class and the state. The module devotes particular attention to key themes such as Zionism, Arab nationalism, the global strategic importance of Middle Eastern oil, political liberalisation and democracy, and the varied expressions of Islam in politics. 

Learning and teaching

Teaching consists of a weekly one hour lecture followed by a one hour tutorial. Lectures will involve a combination of taught lectures, videos and the use of first hand documents and websites. During the module seminars will combine a variety of methods including discussion based on pre-set questions, role plays, and presenting a briefing paper. Blended Learning will be a key component of the module. Lecture notes and first hand documents for use in class will be posted on line, as will web links for academic and governmental websites, as well as video links.  Some recorded material by the module tutor may also be made available on line and by e-mail.

Materials for use in class will be posted at least one week in advance on line to allow students to reflect on the subject and prepare. Questions for class discussion will be available from the beginning of the module via the Module Booklet, which will include a list of resources students can use to answer the questions and study the subject in greater depth. An activity week will also be included.

Learning outcomes

Upon completion of this module students will be better equipped to:

  • Understand the background to political developments in the contemporary Middle  East;
  • Analyse the political, religious, social and economic forces that have shaped the region in the 20th century;
  • Comprehend the significance of the Middle East in international affairs and explain why it is a focus of conflict.

The transferable skills you should have developed include:

  • The ability to communicate effectively in speech and writing (for example, writing an essay using commonly accepted standards of definition, analysis, grammatical prose, and documentation);
  • Research skills, including the ability to synthesise and analyse arguments and exercise critical judgement;
  • The capacity to work independently, demonstrating initiative, self-organisation and time-management, as well as co-operating with other students to achieve common goals.

Assessment strategy

A formative piece of work in the form of a weekly seminar logbook to be kept by each student, which will include details of presentation(s) made in class. This will enable the student to reflect on the debate and develop a critical awareness of the issues dealt with in each week. This will then allow students to consider and put in place learning strategies for the remainder of the module. Key employability skills focused on will include: research involving information retrieval from a variety of resources; analysing and advocating solutions to problems; developing a reasoned argument; exercising critical judgement; and collaborating with others towards a common goal. 

The summative essay of 2,500 words will provide students with the opportunity to submit a major piece of work of their choosing on a key element of the module. This will enable students to develop further many of the employability skills introduced during the formative assessment, in addition to writing, reflecting on what they have learnt and making use of constructive feedback.


Key texts include:
Cleveland, W.L.(2009), A History of the Modern Middle East, 4thed., Boulder, Colorado: Westview.
Goldschmidt, A.& L. Davidson, L. (2006),A Concise History of the Middle East, 8th ed., Boulder,
  Colorado: Westview.
Hourani, al (ed),(2004),The Modern Middle East: A Reader, 2nd ed., London: IB Tauris.
Lapidus, I.M. (2002),A History of Islamic Societies, 2nd ed., Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Mansfield, P.(2003) A History of the Middle East, 2nd ed., London: Penguin
Owen, R. (2004), State, Power and Politics in the Making of the Modern Middle East, 3rd ed., Abingdon:

In addition to Middle East Report (MERIP) in Calcutta House (online at, also available online are the monthly The Middle East (London) and Middle East Policy (Washington, D.C.).

An especially useful Internet resource for the use of students is ciao (Columbia International Affairs Online) which includes working papers, journal articles, books and other material from over 150 institutions ( ). There are also many Middle East specific sites, such as Al-Ahram (Cairo), /; The Jerusalem Post (  ); and the satellite TV channel, Al Jazeera ( ). A documentary archive on the Middle East is provided by the Avalon Project at Yale ( ).