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Britain in the Middle East, 1798-1977

Module titleBritain in the Middle East, 1798-1977
Module codeARA3162
Academic year2020/1
Module staff

Dr Ahmed Dailami (Lecturer)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

In this module you will examine the record of British imperial involvement in the Middle East, beginning with the signing of the Anglo-Omani treaty of 1798 and ending with Britain's military withdrawal from Oman 179 years later in 1977. In between these dates, British involvement in the Middle East ranged from economic, cultural, and political influence to direct colonial rule, and from assisting local rulers and peoples to fighting wars against them (and sometimes losing). The local responses to this involvement likewise ranged from willing collaboration to armed resistance. This module examines this involvement and these experiences, aiming to provide you with a detailed understanding of Britain's record and legacy in the Middle East through seven case studies (Eastern Arabia, Southern Arabia, Egypt, Sudan, Iraq, Palestine, and Transjordan) and the employment of theories of imperialism

No previous knowledge of Middle Eastern history is required. You must be willing to spend ten hours a week on this module: two in class, four on the readings, and four on writing a review of the readings.  You will be required to come to each class with your reviews in hand, primed for discussion and debate. 

Module aims - intentions of the module

This module aims to provide you with a nuanced understanding of how and why empire and imperialism works on the ground, the roles played by the various actors, the motivations and perceptions of the people involved, and the theories that historians have developed to explain empire and imperialism as a political, economic, social, and cultural phenomenon. It aims to engage you in a detailed analysis of the subject, a critique of the assigned readings, and an ongoing debate of the different interpretations of the readings and the case studies in class.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of British involvement in the Middle East through eight country case studies.
  • 2. Demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of imperialism and the methodologies and theories used to study it..

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 3. Understand how history is written and that history is only the attempt to represent and explain the past, it is not the past itself.
  • 4. Read primary and secondary sources critically.
  • 5. Employ theory in the interpretation of historical events.
  • 6. Evaluate history and historical documents both orally and in writing.
  • 7. Discuss and debate different historical explanations of past events and to respect different points of view about the past.
  • 8. Understand and evaluate historical events, change, and continuity through multi-disciplinary approaches

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 9. Think critically about issues and events. organisation of data, time and project management skills
  • 10. Formulate a coherent argument orally and in writing.
  • 11. Work independently and in a group
  • 12. Ability to give an effective oral presentation in public
  • 13. Write analytical essays that synthesize secondary material and interpret primary sources.

Syllabus plan

Syllabus plan

  • Introduction and overview
  • Theories of imperialism 1
  • Theories of imperialism 2
  • Theories of imperialism 3
  • Eastern Arabia, 1798-1977
  • Southern Arabia (Aden), 1837-1967
  • Egypt, 1882-1956
  • Sudan (the Anglo-Egyptian Condominium), 1899-1955
  • Iraq, 1914-58
  • Palestine, 1917-48
  • Transjordan, 1921-46

Learning and teaching

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
Scheduled Learning and Teaching activity 22Class discussion of themes and issues in the assigned readings and the interpretation of historical documents.
Guided Independent study40Reading the assigned readings
Guided Independent study40Writing reviews of the assigned readings
Guided Independent study48Researching and writing the essay


Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Presentations and discussionsEvery week (90 minutes1-12Oral feedback
Interpretation and critique of historical documentsEvery week (15 minutes)1-12Oral feedback

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
Essay201,000 words1-11Written feedback
Ten book reviews80400 words each1-11 and 13Written and verbal feedback


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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
EssayEssay (1000 words)1-11August/September reassessment period
Ten book reviewsTen book reviews (400 words each)1-11 and 13August/September reassessment period


Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Yoav Alon, The Making of Modern Jordan: Tribes, Colonialism and the Modern State (2007)
Glen Balfour-Paul, The End of Empire in the Middle East: Britain's Relinquishment of Power in Her Last Three Arab Dependencies (1991)
Michael Cohen & Martin Kolinsky (eds.), Demise of the British Empire in the Middle East: Britain's Response to Nationalist Movements, 1943-55 (1998)
Francis Deng & M. Daly, Bonds of Silk: The Human Factor in the British Administration of the Sudan (1989)
Michael Doyle, Empires (1986)
D. K. Fieldhouse, Western Imperialism in the Middle East, 1914-1958 (2006)
R. J. Gavin, Aden Under British Rule, 1839-1967 (1975)
Gudrun Kramer, A History of Palestine (2008)
Zach Levey & Elie Podeh (eds.), Britain and the Middle East (2007)
Elizabeth Monroe, Britain's Moment in the Middle East, 1914-1971 (1981)
James Onley, The Arabian Frontier of the British Raj: Merchants, Rulers, and the British in the Nineteenth-Century Gulf (2007)
James Onley, "Britain and the Gulf Shaikhdoms, 1820-1971: The Politics of Protection", CIRS Occasional Papers No. 4, Georgetown University (2009)
Roger Owen & Bob Sutcliffe (eds.), Studies in the Theory of Imperialism (1972)
Heather Sharkey, Living with Colonialism: Nationalism and Culture in the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan (2003)
Sarah Searight (ed.), Britain and Iran: 1790-1980: Collected Essays of Sir Denis Wright (2003)
Daniel Silverfarb, Britain's Informal Empire in the Middle East: A Case Study of Iraq, 1929-1941 (1986)
Peter Sluglett, Britain in Iraq (1976; rev. edn., 2007)
Bernard Wasserstein, The British in Palestine: The Mandatory Government and the Arab-Jewish Conflict, 1917-1929 (1978; rev. edn. 1991).
William Welch, No Country for a Gentleman: British Rule in Egypt, 1883-1907 (1988)
Mary Wilson, King Abdullah, Britain and the Making of Jordan (1987)
Denis Wright, The English amongst the Persians (1977; rev. edn. 2001)

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources


Module has an active ELE page

Key words search

Britain, Middle East, history, empire, imperialism, history, Persian Gulf, Arabian Peninsula, Aden, Egypt, Sudan, Iraq, Palestine, Jordan

Credit value15
Module ECTS


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