History 185

Civilization of the Middle East

 Fall 2011

Monday and Wednesday 9:30-10:45am

SH 186

Dr. Howes


Office Hours: Wednesday 3:30-5:30 pm and by appointment

Office: SierraTower 621

Mailbox: History Department Office, SierraTower 610

Email: rachel.howes@csun.edu


Webpage: www.csun.edu/~rthowes


Introduction: This class is meant to serve as an introduction to the history of the Middle East from 600 to the present, as well as to the way in which historians think and work. We will deal with the formation of different major aspects of Islamic civilization and religion and their interactions with other civilizations and religions. Students will come away with an understanding of the political, religious and cultural issues surrounding the rise of and development of Islam, its interaction with cultures already existing in the Middle East, and its reaction to other cultures that it comes into contact with throughout its history. They will also have a basic understanding of some of the issues that historians who study the Middle East deal with and the methods and sources that they employ.


This course will help students to develop towards the following six Student Learning Outcomes out of the eight in History:

1)      To analyze and explain problems of historical interpretation

3)      To learn to read and interpret historical sources critically and analytically

4)      To express orally and exchange historical ideas

6)      To write a research essay using a scholarly format that includes footnotes and bibliography;

7)       To demonstrate a complex understanding of the history of the United States, Europe, and one other region or culture over a period of time;

8)      To understand historical subjects that transcend regional boundaries.




Workload: I have based my reading, paper, and exam assignments on the expectation that you will do 2 hours of work outside of class for every hour in class. Thus, you should expect to devote 6 hours of time to this class per week in addition to the three hours you are in class. I have assumed that you will read and take notes on that reading at the rate of 20 pages per hour. I have assumed that you will take 3 hours to write a 2-3 page essay, and that you will study 6 hours for the midterm and final exam. These are fairly average rates for most students. If you personally take more or less time to do these things, the workload will be more or less.

            You may find that some weeks there is less work assigned than in others.  In this case, you should plan to move on to the next week’s work.  Either way, you should plan on doing six hours worth of work each week.


Readings: There will be assigned readings each week. Most of those readings are from the following texts, all of which are available in the Matador Bookstore and on Reserve in the Oviatt library. I strongly suggest that you check online bookstores as these are sometimes less expensive. There will be a few additional readings which will be available on websites, on moodle, or as handouts in class.



Vernon O. Egger. A History of the Muslim World to 1405: The Making of a Civilization. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Prentice Hall, 2004. ISBN:0130983896

William H. McNeill and Marilyn Robinson Waldman. The Islamic World. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1973. 0226561550

James A. Gelvin.
The Modern Middle East: A History. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011. ISBN: 9780199766055.  This is a brand new edition.  Feel free to purchase the 2008 edition.  There are some differences, but the basics are the same.

Riverbend. Baghdad Burning. New York: The Feminist Press at CUNY, 2005.  This book contains the first year (2003-2004) of a blog
http://riverbendblog.blogspot.com, with  introductions to each period of the blog and historical background.  You may read it on the blog website if you prefer, but make sure that you start with August 17, 2003 and end with Wednesday September 15, 2004.  If you read the book online, you might want to take the time to read the introductions and the background in the reserve room at the library. 


Taking Notes: You should take notes on what you read and on the in-class lectures and discussions. There are many effective ways to take reading notes, but I do not recommend highlighting. My favorite is to write a one paragraph summary of each section that I read. Another technique is to use the study questions on the website as the basis for your notes. Answer each question as completely as possible using specific examples. Whichever format you use, you should also write down important ideas and terms as you come across them. Also write down any questions that you have as you read and bring these into the class discussion.

You should take notes on what you learn in class also, since it will appear on the exams. It is not advisable to write down every word that is said. Instead, take down main ideas and concepts. If I show an image in class it is likely important, so you should write down a description. If I use a powerpoint, you will need to focus on what I say rather than what is on the screen. I use the powerpoint for terms and dates, rather than for key concepts. It is also advisable to take notes on discussions, since these will play an important role in class. In general, it is far easier to study if you have good class notes.


Class attendance: Class will consist of a mix of lectures and discussion. I expect you to come to every class meeting prepared and to have something to say in discussion. I will not take roll after the first few weeks- you are on the honor system- but those who do not regularly attend class are likely to miss quizzes, as well as not receiving important information. (Not to mention that those who attend class almost invariably get better grades!)


GRADING: Your grade will be based on the following schema and will be given according to the +/- system (ie. A, A-, B+, B, etc):


Discussion Lead: 10%

Quizzes: 15%

Papers: 30%

Midterm Exam: 19%

Final Exam: 24%

Test Booklets: 2%


Discussion Lead: Four or five people in each discussion session will lead the discussion. These people will work together to engage the class in discussion. The presenters will engage the class in discussion rather than simply presenting their conclusions. This is a hard task, so if you make an honest attempt then you will be given full credit; there is no grade given.

The people who are presenting will meet with me two days (or more) before their session. (So, if you are leading Wednesday’s session you will meet with me by the Monday before.)

Each person must do this at least once throughout the semester. The sign up sheet will be passed around in the first week, and then it will be posted on the class website. You are expected to give your presentation the day you sign up. If you miss it, you will receive no credit for this assignment!


Quizzes: There will be at least ten quizzes throughout the semester. They will be unannounced and given only on days when we have readings. They will cover the reading material due on that day. They will be short essays and based on the study questions for that day. I will drop the two lowest scores. You may use notes on these quizzes, but not books. There is no way to make up quizzes after the fact, so be sure to come to class!


Papers: Paper assignments will focus on the primary source readings and will be 2-3 pages. I will post them on the class website at least two weeks in advance. There will be an opportunity to write a paper most weeks. You will be expected to turn in at least three of these. Each paper must be turned in at the given deadline.  At least one must be done before Monday October 3rd.  At least two papers must be done before Monday November 7th , and all three must be done by Monday, December 5th. However, you are encouraged to finish all three as soon as you can. I STRONGLY advise that you write the first three papers! This will give you less work at the end of the semester. If you do not turn enough papers in by the deadlines, your total paper grade will be docked a full grade.

You may write as many of these papers as you like- I will take the three highest grades. You may also rewrite each paper that you turn in once. If you choose to rewrite, the rewrite is due the week after you get your paper back.

No Email Submissions Will Be Accepted!

            No Late Papers Will Be Accepted Without Prior Arrangement with Me! (If you miss a paper, I will simply tell you to write the next one!)

            Please come ask me for help with these papers!  I have office hours for just such things.  I am also happy to read rough drafts that are sent to me by email three days before the deadline.  I can help with grammar, style, and spelling, as well as the concept and organization of the paper.   DO NOT BE EMBARRASSED TO ASK FOR HELP!  How else will you learn?


Exams: Both the midterm and the final will be primarily essay, but they will have a map component and a dates component. I will hand out study sheets in advance. The midterm is Wednesday, October 26th, and the final is Wednesday, December 14th from 8-10am .


Test booklets: If you turn in two unmarked test booklets to me by Monday, October 24th, you will receive the 2% credit.



In grading both exams and papers, it is my feeling that a grade of a D means that you have done the minimum. C means that you have done the assignment averagely well. A grade of B means that you have done a better-than-average job, and an A represents really excellent work.

This means that in order to get a C on a paper you should have answered the question asked in a well-written essay with a thesis statement, introduction and conclusion. The papers should be based on primary sources and have some examples from the relevant pieces.

An exam essay should also be well organized and have a thesis statement. The exam essay should provide evidence in the form of specific examples. All examples should be detailed and their importance to your main thesis should be explained.

If any of these elements are missing you will get less than a C.

CHEATING AND PLAGIARISM ARE IN NO WAY ACCEPTABLE! If you have any questions at all on this score, please ask me- I will happily help you. Alternately, you can look at the University policy on this at http://www.csun.edu/studentaffairs/studentconduct/academic_dishonesty.pdf



CELLPHONES, BLACKBERRIES, PAGERS, LAPTOPS AND OTHER ELECTRONIC DOODADS: All of these should be turned off and stowed away during class. They are distractions to you, to me, and to your colleagues. If for some reason you absolutely have to have a laptop for taking notes, let me know and I will accommodate you. A PERSON WHO HAS AN ELECTRONIC DEVICE VISIBLE DURING AN EXAM WILL RECEIVE AN AUTOMATIC F AND BE REPORTED TO THE UNIVERSITY FOR CHEATING!


ELECTRONIC RESOURCES FOR THE COURSE: Study guides, paper topics, readings, and the syllabus can be found on Moodle.  I will also post the syllabus on my website at www.csun.edu/~rthowes.edu.  There will also be some readings on other websites that you can link to through the course website.


A LAST WORD: I am here to help you learn, and you should make use of me. Come to my office hours, stop by and ask a question if you see my door open. Ask copious questions in class. If you have a crisis, let me know. I can usually help you deal with your class work, but I cannot help if I do not know. I much prefer to see students in my office in September, October or November than to fail them in December! There may be stupid questions, but there are very few, and it is much better to ask them and be embarrassed than to go on being ignorant of the answer!


I Look Forward to a Great Semester!


Schedule of Classes, Readings, and Assignments




Week 1 -Introduction

Monday August 29th –Lecture: Introduction to the Study of the Middle East


Wednesday August 31st-Lecture:  The Context of Muhammad

Readings: The Syllabus

            Egger, xi-xvi, 1-32


Week 2-The Context of Islam

Monday September 5th Labor Day- No Class


Wednesday September 7th-Discussion: The Middle East before Islam

Readings: The Islamic World, 3-67


The Sack of Jerusalem http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/strategos1.html


Justinian. On the Regulation of Church Ritual http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/justinian-nov137.html


“The Records of Artakhshir,” in Charles F. Horne, Sacred Books and Early Literature of the East: Ancient Persia, pp. 225-229 (On Moodle)



Week 3: The Early Islamic Community

Monday September 12th- Lecture: The Early Islamic Conquests and the Development of the Caliphates

Readings: Egger, 33-84

Paper #1 Due



Wednesday September 14th –Discussion: Issues Concerning the Conquest and the Early Community

Readings: The Islamic World, 67-81


Arab Accounts of the Conquest of Egypt http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/642Egypt-conq2.html


The Pact of Umar http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/pact-umar.html




Week 4-The Formation of an Islamic Society, Part I

Monday September 19th- Lecture: The Abbasid Caliphate and Society

Readings: Egger, 85-138

Paper #2 Due




Wednesday September 21st- Discussion: Abbasid Politics and Literature

Readings: The Islamic World, 85-134, 142-150, 171-180



Week 5-The Formation of an Islamic Society, Part II

Monday September 26th –Lecture: Political Turmoil and the Flourishing of an Islamic Society

Readings: Egger, 139-171

Paper #3 Due



Wednesday September 28th Discussion: Islamic Philosophy, Theology, and Law

Readings: The Islamic World, 134-142, 151-171,



Week 6- The End of Abbasid Unity

Monday October 3rd Lecture: The Rise of the Fatimids and Buyds

Readings: Egger, 172-228

Paper #4 Due: At Least One Paper Must Be Done by This Point!



Wednesday October 5th- Discussion: New Political and Religious Forms

Readings: The Islamic World, 206-247


Qadi al-Nu’man, The Pillars of Islam, “The Book of Faith” (On Moodle)


Al-Mawardi. Selections from The Ordinances of government (On Moodle)



Week 7-Crises in the Middle East

Monday October 10th- Lecture: Seljuks, Crusaders, and Mongols

Readings: Egger, 229-289

Paper #5 Due                                   



Wednesday October 12th- Discussion: Crusaders and Mongols

Readings: The Islamic World, 183-206, 248-272



Week 8-The Post Mongol World

 Monday October 17th –Lecture: Mongols, Mamluks and Early Ottomans

Readings: Egger, 290-317

Paper #6 Due



Wednesday October 19thDiscussion: Ibn Batutta

Readings: The Islamic World, 273-308



Week 9- Midterm

Monday October 24th –Midterm Review

Paper #7 Due



Wednesday October 26th –Midterm



Week 10- Gunpowder Empires

Monday October 31st – Lecture: Two Early Modern Empires

Readings: Gelvin, 9-57

(2004 edition of Gelvin, 9-59)



Wednesday November 2nd – Discussion: Ottomans and Safavids

Readings: Gelvin, 58-66

(2004 edition of Gelvin, 60-67 there are two extra documents in the new edition)

            The Islamic World, 311-352, 373-391



Week 11-The Encounter with Europe

Monday November 7th – Lecture: The Ottoman Adjustment to Modernity

Readings: Gelvin, 69-109, 133-157

(2004 edition of Gelvin, 69-110, 123-146)

Paper #8 Due: At Least Two Papers Must Be Done by This Point!



Wednesday November 9th- Discussion: Defensive Development, Imperialism, and Influence

Readings: Gelvin, 110-132, 158-177

(2008 edition of Gelvin, 111-122, 147-169 There are 10 extra pages of pictures)

The Islamic World, 423-431






Week 12- The Formation of the Present Middle East

Monday November 14th Lecture: World War One in the Middle East

Readings: Gelvin, 180-226

(2008 edition of Gelvin, 171-215)

Paper #9 Due



Wednesday November 16th- Discussion: The Middle East after World War One

Readings: Gelvin, 227-231

(2008 edition of Gelvin, 215-221)

            The Islamic World, 407-422, 431-449



Week 13- Modernity and its Discontents: Trends since World War I


Monday November 21st – Egypt, Israel/ Palestine, and Iran: The path of three Countries in the Twentieth Century

            Readings: Gelvin, 233-282

(2008 Edition of Gelvin, 223-270)

Paper #10 Due



Wednesday November 23rd –Discussion: The State, Islamism, and Revolution

Readings: Gelvin, 283-336

(2008 edition of Gelvin, 271-324)



Week 14-Modern Iraq: A Case Study in Modern Middle Eastern History

Monday November 28th –Lecture: Iraq from 1920-2011

Readings: Baghdad Burning, 1-152

Paper #11 Due



Wednesday November 30th – Discussion: Baghdad Burning

Readings: Baghdad Burning, 153-304


Week 15- Wither Now?

Monday December 5th- The “Arab Spring” and its meaning

Paper #12 Due: At Least Three Papers Must be Done by This Point!!



Wednesday December 7th – Final Review


Final Exam: Wednesday, December 14 8am-10am in this room.