In The Middle East in the 20th Century, you will gain a marvelous introduction to the history of the region. Taught by author and Arabist Eamonn Gearon, these 24 enlightening lessons bring clarity to a convoluted, multifaceted story. From the end of the Ottoman Empire to the creation of Israel to the Arab Spring, this course is an absolute must for anyone who wants to understand our world today.
The Middle East in the 20th Century
Eamonn Gearon is a Professorial Lecturer at Johns Hopkins University, School of Advanced International Studies, in Washington DC. He received his M.A. in Near and Middle Eastern Studies and Arabic from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) at the University of London, and has also taught at the American University in Cairo.
Mr. Gearon is the cofounder and managing director of The Siwa Group, a specialist consultancy firm, where he trains U.S. Department of State officials, Department of Defense workers, and other U.S. government employees whose work takes them to, or is concerned with, North Africa and the Middle East.
Mr. Gearon spent years living in, traveling, and exploring the Sahara. These days, he enjoys his role as a public speaker, whose presentations combine elements of Middle Eastern history and contemporary affairs. He is a distinguished speaker on Cunard's flagship Queen Mary 2 and other vessels.
Mr. Gearon has published extensively on Middle Eastern history, culture, and contemporary politics. A regular reviewer for The Times Literary Supplement and other prestigious publications, he is also the author of The Sahara: A Cultural History. He has contributed to numerous other titles, including the Encyclopedia of African History (edited by Kevin Shillington), Meetings with Remarkable Muslims: A Collection of Travel Writing (edited by Barnaby Rogerson and Rose Baring), and Sahara Overland: A Route and Planning Guide.
01: A Middle East Crossroads in the Year 1900
This course opens in the waning days of the Ottoman Empire, when the forces of nationalism and political reform were simmering in the Middle East and North Africa. See how Western imperialism, the politics of oil, and the push for a Jewish state all set the stage for the 20th century.
02: Constitutional Revolts in Persia and Turkey
Some of the earliest pushes for constitutional reform in the Middle East occurred in Persia (modern Iran) and Turkey. Look at how protests in Persia led to a new government. Then meet the Young Turks who wanted a united Turkey to supersede the Ottoman Empire. Consider how these revolutions fell short.
03: World War I and the Ottoman Empire’s Fall
The First World War was a tremendous turning point for the Middle East. During the war, Great Britain made incompatible promises about Arab and Turkish nationalism, as well as the construction of a Jewish state. See how these contradictory forces collided in the years after the war.
04: Egyptian Revolution and Turkish Independence
Continue your study of the fallout from World War I, here with a look at the Turkish War of Independence in 1919, as well as anti-British uprisings from Egypt to Iraq. By 1923, the Middle East and North Africa had a new map. Witness the retreat of the British from the politics of Egypt, Syria, and elsewhere.
05: Monarchies of the 20th-Century Middle East
Examine the monarchies in the Middle East and North Africa in the period between the World Wars. After reviewing the kinds of Mideast monarchies in this era, you will delve into the particular example of Saudi Arabia and reflect on how the politics of oil shaped the region.
06: The Muslim Brotherhood and Its Founder
One of the most influential figures in 20th century Middle East history is the Muslim imam Hassan al-Banna, founder of the Muslim Brotherhood. Examine the process of secularization taking place between the wars and review al-Banna’s efforts to create a pan-Islamist force throughout the Middle East.
07: World War II Fault Lines in the Middle East
Take a high-level look at World War II and its impact on the Middle East and North Africa. Eamonn takes you inside several notable battles, including the Battles of El Alamein and Operation Torch. He reflects on the impact of the war on local populations and their political objectives.
08: European Anti-Semitism and Israel’s Birth
The roots of Zionism stretch back decades, arguably to the year 70 CE, but antisemitism in Europe throughout the 19th century led activists such as Theodore Herzl to push for an independent Jewish state. Trace the development of Israel, including the 1917 Balfour Declaration, the migration between the wars, and the creation of Israel in 1948.
09: How Nasser Transformed Egypt and the World
Gamal Abdul Nasser is such a towering figure of 20th century history that the period from 1952 to 1970 could be thought of as “the Age of Nasser.” Meet this political revolutionary, learn about his political philosophy of Arab nationalism, and review his presence on the world stage.
10: The Suez Crisis and Cold War in the Desert
The Cold War between the US and Soviet superpowers played out in myriad ways in the Middle East, and Egypt offers a great case study. Here, see how Nasser played both sides against each other, and then turn to other conflicts, including the Suez Crisis of 1956, the Lebanon Crisis of 1958, and the 1973 Arab-Israeli War.
11: The Algerian War of Independence
Shift your attention to the North African nation of Algeria and witness the war for independence against France, from 1954 to 1962. The Algerian War provides a prism through which to view the French colonial experience in the region, along with the region’s experience of the French.
12: Middle Eastern Armies and Coup D’états
Between 1949 and 1970, no fewer than 20 successful coup d’états took place across the Middle East and North Africa. After defining what this military intervention looks like, Eamonn considers examples in Iran, Syria, and elsewhere to understand how these coups affected life and politics.
13: The 1967 Arab-Israeli War and Its Aftermath
Conflicts between Israel and neighboring Arab states is a major theme of the region’s history for the past 70 years. In this lesson, you will look at the causes, results, and long-term consequences of the Six Day War of June 1967 and the Fourth Arab-Israeli War of October 1973.
14: The Arab Oil Embargo of 1973
Delve into the politics and economics of oil and its impact on the Middle East. After reviewing the founding and purpose of OPEC, Eamonn walks you through several “oil shocks” in the Middle East. See how oil drove political activity and provided a lever of power for oil-producing countries.
15: Lebanon’s Civil War and Rise of Intolerance
In the 1960s, the Lebanese capital of Beirut was known as “the Paris of the Middle East” and a destination for international jet-setters. Explore the history of this nation, which gained independence in 1943, and see how it was torn apart by war from 1975 to 1990. Survey the roots, actions, and consequences of this civil war.
16: Terrorism, Islam, and Sayyid Qutb
Terrorism is a relatively recent political tactic, and it has been employed by groups within the Middle East from the Palestine Liberation Organization to al-Qaeda. Here, reflect on the roots of terrorism in the region, the trouble with the term “Islamic terrorism,” and some notable instances of terrorism in the second half of the 20th century.
17: How 1979 Transformed Iran, Egypt, and Iraq
Find out why 1979 is one of the most groundbreaking and revolutionary years of the 20th century. In this lesson, you will assess four pivotal events in the region during the shape-shifting year: the Iranian Revolution, the Egypt-Israel peace treaty, Iraq’s Ba’ath Party purge, and the siege of Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mosque of Mecca.
18: The Iran-Iraq War and a Decade of Horrors
In the wake of 1979, Iran had become a Shia Muslim theocracy, upsetting the strategic balance of power in the Middle East and North Africa. Meanwhile, Saddam Hussein came to power in Iraq as a Sunni minority leader over a secular Arab Nationalist State. Witness the decade of conflict between these two nations.
19: The First Gulf War in Kuwait
Why did Saddam Hussein invade Kuwait fewer than two years after the conclusion of a disastrous war between Iraq and Iran? To answer this question, dive into the invasion and occupation of Kuwait, survey the aftermath of this war, and consider its long-term consequences for Iraq, the West, and the Middle East at large.
20: A Path through Oslo to Arab-Israeli Détente
The 1993 Oslo Accords were a groundbreaking moment in relations between Israel and representatives of the Palestine Liberation Organization—a stunning breakthrough after years of stalemate. Trace the background leading up to this landmark moment, meet the key players, and review the historical significance of the agreement.
21: US Invasion of Iraq and Its Consequences
After the Oslo Accords, the Middle East and North Africa were largely quiet until the 9/11 attacks in the United States. See why the United States used an attack from al-Qaeda as pretext to invade Iraq, and then follow the course of the US war in Iraq through the military exit of 2011.
22: Are Democracy and Islam Compatible?
Why aren’t there more democratic countries in the Middle East? Is there a road that leads from autocracy to democracy? To answer these vexing questions, go back to the end of World War I and survey the shifting types of government throughout the Middle East and North Africa, from the League of Nations to the Arab Spring.
23: Taking Stock of Progress in the Middle East
While much of this course has focused on the political and military history of the region, the story of society throughout the 20th century is equally important to understanding the world today. Examine the occupations, lifestyles, health, wealth, education, and other indicators of daily life in the region.
24: After the Arab Spring
Eamonn closes the course with a turning point that bookends the revolutionary century since the fall of the Ottoman Empire. Learn about the causes and consequences of the Arab Spring across the Middle East and North Africa. Although we don’t yet know what comes next, what is clear is that change is inevitable, and the past informs the present.