If Middle Eastern societies did not secularize during the years 1400-1800, does that mean that the relationship between politics and religion didn't change at all? In fact, important changes did occur and this course will investigate their impact on the region's history by surveying institutions, social movements, political writings and imperial policies of the Ottoman Empire and Iran. (Gen Ed. HS, DG)
In many textbooks, the history of the Middle East is the mirror opposite of European history. We are told that the Middle East was a rich and cosmopolitan region of the world in the Middle Ages, but that its failure to properly modernize led first to weakness and colonization and more recently to extremism and violence. While Europe soared ahead in the years between 1400 and 1800, the Middle East appeared to languish. Explaining why the Middle East failed to "keep up" with Europe has preoccupied a number of scholars. In contrast to the above, this course will question whether a narrative of European success and Middle Eastern failure is the most fruitful way to understand the transformations of the early modern period (1400-1800). While our focal point in the course will be the Middle East, we will use a comparative historical approach to investigate how the challenges of this era were navigated across the globe. We will examine topics such as the rise of the capitalism, the spread of new technologies and organizational models, and the evolution of the modern state. How did the peoples of the Middle East shape - as well as cope with - such massive changes? How did their adaptations compare with those of contemporaries in Asia, Africa and America as well as Europe? Using a framework of shared transformation, we will try to form a more nuanced view of what was gained and lost in the early modern Middle East. What aspects of the Middle Eastern experience were familiar in other parts of the world? What can our understanding of the past tell us about the possibilities for the Middle East's future? (Gen. Ed. HS, DG)