British Imperialism in the Middle East, 1882-1956 (HIC2300)

StaffProfessor Catriona Pennell - Convenor
Daniel Rouven Steinbach - Lecturer
Credit Value30
ECTS Value15
NQF Level5
Duration of Module Term 1: 11 weeks; Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module aims

This module aims to introduce the main themes, concepts, and debates in the history of British imperialism in the Middle East. It will be relevant to both students of the modern Middle East and European imperialism in the twentieth century. It also contains interdisciplinary elements (especially politics) and will seek to relate historical issues to present day issues in Middle East politics and Anglo-Arab relations.


Over the course of the module, students will cover a wide range of topics, all seeking to explore Britain’s relationship with the Ottoman Empire and the role it played in the creation of the modern Middle East. A range of historiographical perspectives are incorporated, including those of non-European historians. Students will become familiar with additional debates in colonial and post-colonial history and concepts such as ‘orientalism’ ‘informal empire’ and ‘decolonization’. A strong primary source base will form the centre of seminar discussions. Students will be exposed to a range of primary source material including memoirs, diaries, official colonial documents, and newspapers. Students will be able to explore potential independent project and dissertation topics as a result of these discussions. Important skills, such as group work, oral and written communication, and the ability to analyse source material for the purposes of reasoned argument, will all be developed over the course of the module.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Demonstrate a broad historical knowledge and understanding of the origins, events, and legacy of British activity in the Middle East between 1882 and 1956;
  • 2. With limited guidance, express independent ideas and assessments on Britain’s role in the creation of the modern Middle East and its contribution to Great Power rivalry in the region;
  • 3. Understand colonial and post-colonial approaches to the study of history;
  • 4. Develop an interdisciplinary understanding of the relationship between history and politics in the study of the Middle East

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 5. Analyse and reflect critically upon historical texts relating to a specific historical period or theme;
  • 6. Collate data from a range of sources, both primary and secondary;
  • 7. With limited guidance, understand and deploy historical terminology in a comprehensible manner;
  • 8. With limited guidance, handle different approaches to history in areas of controversy;
  • 9. Trace long-term as well as short-term historical developments

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 10. Show evidence of ability to read and use texts and source materials critically and empathetically;
  • 11. Present material for group discussion and have respect for others’ reasoned views;
  • 12. With limited guidance, gather material to produce, to a deadline, a coherent and cogent argument.

Syllabus plan

Topics may include: Introductory overview; the Eastern Question; the Invasion and Occupation of Egypt, 1882; the Ottoman Empire Under Threat, 1908-1914; the Balkan Wars, 1912-13; Ottoman Battle-Zones of the First World War; the Palestine Question, 1915-1917; the Armenian Genocide, 1915; The Aftermath of the First World War in the Middle East; Turkey’s Road to Independence; Informal Empire and the Sherifian Solution; Britain and the Palestine Mandate; Authoritarian Reform in Turkey and Iran; the Emergence of Arab Nationalism; the Middle East and the Second World War; the Post-War Middle East, 1945-54; the Creation of the State of Israel, 1947-49; the Cold War in the Middle East; the Egyptian Coup and the Suez Crisis, 1952-56; Britain, the Suez Crisis and the Transfer of Power in the Middle East.

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Lectures20These take the form of tutor-led discussion and outline of topic. You are expected to undertake a set minimum of preparation before the class
Seminars11Student-led seminar discussion based upon set readings and primary sources prepared in advance
Screening6Each screening will be accompanied by a reading that will form the basis of a student-led discussion
Exam workshop1A session will be held late in Term 2/early in Term 3 to support students in their preparation for the summative exam.
Guided independent study256Reading for lectures and seminars. It is expected that you will spend three hours preparing for each lecture by reading. In addition, it is expected that you will spend three hours preparing for each seminar by reading and annotating primary sources. Students will also need to read the set reading in advance of the four screenings. Materials to be supplied on ELE. This time should also be used by students to prepare their formative primary source analysis, their summative book review and to revise for their end of year exam.

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Primary source analysisTo be delivered orally in the seminar. 10-15 minutes; equivalent to 1,000 words.1-12Verbal feedback and comments via email after the seminar.

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Book Review402,000 word1-10 and 12Written and verbal comments
Exam602 questions in 1.5 hours. Equivalent of 2,000 words1-10 and 12Written and verbal comments

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Book Review2,000 work book Review1-10 and 12referral/deferral period
ExamExam2 questions in 1.5 hours. Equivalent to 2,000 words.1-10 and 12referral/deferral period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Basic reading:


Cleveland, William L., A History of the Modern Middle East (4th edition, 2009)

Fieldhouse, D.K., Western Imperialism in the Middle East, 1914-1958 (2006)

Fraser, T.G. et al The Makers of the Modern Middle East (2011)

Hourani, Albert, A History of the Arab Peoples (1991)

Monroe, Elizabeth, Britain's Moment in the Middle East, 1914-1971 (1963, 1981).

Porter, Bernard, The Lion's Share: A Short History of British Imperialism, 1850-1995 (1996).

Rogan, Eugene, The Arabs: A History (2009)

Shlaim, Avi, War and Peace in the Middle East: A Concise History (1995)

Sayigh, Yezid and Shlaim, Avi, The Cold War in the Middle East (1997)

Williams, Ann, Britain and France in the Middle East and North Africa, 1914-1967 (1968)

Yapp, M.E., The Making of the Modern Near East, 1792-1923 (1987)

Yapp, M.E., The Near East since the First World War (1996).


Module has an active ELE page?


Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

ELE – College to provide hyperlink to appropriate pages

Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date


Key words search

History, Middle East, British Empire, Imperialism, Politics, War