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Instructor Class Description

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Arbella H Bet-Shlimon
HIST 388
Seattle Campus

Colloquium: Introduction to History

Introduction to the discipline of history for new or prospective majors. Emphasizes the basic skills of reading, analysis, and communication (both verbal and written) that are central to the historian's craft. Each seminar discusses a different subject or problem.

Class description

History 388 is an introduction to the practice of history for historians and non-historians alike. In this class, "Identity and Politics in the Modern Middle East," you will be introduced to the process of historical analysis through the close reading of Middle Eastern primary source materials from the nineteenth century to the present. Specifically, we seek to answer three questions. First, how do people in the modern Middle East think about themselves and others with regard to nation, faith, ethnicity and/or sect? Second, what does identity have to do with political trends—including resistance to imperialism, the development of nationalism, the growing role of religion in politics, and the proliferation of intercommunal conflicts? Third, how can a historian’s critical, analytical perspective inform our understanding of ideas produced by the people of the Middle East in the past and the present?

In this course, we will explore common themes in the political and social history of the modern Middle East, such as Islamism, Zionism, anticolonialism, pan-Arab nationalism, Middle Eastern encounters with the West, resistance to authoritarianism, and oil modernity. We will read sources such as essays, speeches, manifestos, correspondences, literary works, and memoirs. Most of these works have been translated into English from other languages. We will also engage with visual sources—posters and films—and secondary-source histories. This course is not a basic introduction to the history of the modern Middle East; nevertheless, there are no prerequisites and no prior knowledge of the Middle East is required. In this class, our main objectives are to learn how to think like a historian and how to apply that methodology both academically and practically. By the end of the quarter, you will also have a broad familiarity with some of the important people, writings, trends and themes in the history of the modern Middle East that can apply to future studies of the region, or related regions—or even simply to your everyday understanding of the region.

Student learning goals

General method of instruction

Recommended preparation

Class assignments and grading


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Arbella H Bet-Shlimon
Date: 09/25/2013