Instructor: Dr. Michael Petrou

Introduction: In 1526, Ottoman Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent sent a letter to Francis I, king of France, who had requested his help regarding his conflict with Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. Suleiman began the letter an introduction:

“I who am the Sultan of Sultans, the sovereign of sovereigns, the dispenser of crowns to the monarchs on the face of the earth, the shadow of the God on Earth, the Sultan and sovereign lord of the Mediterranean Sea and of the Black Sea, of Rumelia and of Anatolia, of Karamania, of the land of Romans, of Dhulkadria, of Diyarbakir, of Kurdistan, of Azerbaijan, of Persia, of Damascus, of Aleppo, of Cairo, of Mecca, of Medina, of Jerusalem, of all Arabia, of Yemen and of many other lands which my noble fore-fathers and my glorious ancestors (may God light up their tombs!) conquered by the force of their arms and which my August Majesty has made subject to my flamboyant sword and my victorious blade, I, Sultan Suleiman Khan, son of Sultan Selim Khan, son of Sultan Bayezid Khan …”

 The letter was addressed, simply, to: “Francesco, king of the province of France.”

Suleiman’s rhetoric reflected the power difference between the two men and their kingdoms. The Ottoman Empire in 1526 was a global power. By the early twentieth century France and Britain were dividing what was left of it between them. What happened in the interim, and since, is a far more complicated story than one of simple decline. It is one of sweeping change and transformation in a region that has been at the centre of world events for millennia.

Students in this class will explore some of this history, from Suleiman’s time to the present. The focus, however, will be on more recent history — beginning in the late eighteenth century. Course content is not meant to be exhaustive, but a diverse selection of topics and regions will be covered. Themes will include colonialism; nationalism; reformism, democratization; sectarianism; rebellion; religion and culture.

Class Format: We meet twice a week for one hour and twenty minutes. Classes will be a mixture of lectures, discussion, and the examination and presentation of primary sources. Active participation is necessary to do well in this course.

Aims and Goals: By the end of the course, students should:

  1. have a deeper understanding of the history of the modern Middle East;
  2. have become more adept at analyzing, criticizing, and learning from primary sources;
  3. have become more adept at discussing secondary sources;
  4. have improved historical writing skills;
  5. have thought about lessons Middle East history may hold today.

Assessment: Students will be graded on: class participation (25 per cent); a written primary source analysis (25 per cent); and a research paper (50 per cent). There is no exam.

Text: William L. Cleveland and Martin Bunton, A History of the Modern Middle East 6th ed. (Boulder: Westview Press, 2016).

I will post additional readings to cuLearn.

Contact information: Please email me with any questions at:

Precludes additional credit for HIST 3905A (offered in Winter 2019).