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The Middle East in the 20th Century

Gain insight into the history of one of the most complicated yet consequential regions in our world today.
The Middle East in the 20th Century is rated 4.7 out of 5 by 42.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent History Back when I went to school, we never studied the Middle East in either geography or history. For some reason, the idea then was to pound into you the history of WW1 and WW2. Even though I have kept up with events in the Middle East, this course filled in a lot of gaps and gave valuable insight. I really enjoyed this course, looking forward to hearing a lecture every day. Thanks for offering this course.
Date published: 2024-06-22
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Helpful context for current events. The instructor has extensive experience in the Arab world, and this shows. Especially illuminating were the lectures on Nasser's Egypt, on the Ottoman Empire, on the Iraq-Iran war, and on the Arab Spring (the instructor was in Tahrir Square himself). He tries his best to be even-handed, giving background for "both sides" whether Shia/Sunni or Islam/secular or Jewish/Palestinian, though there are things he knows in greater depth than others. The lecture on terrorism rightly emphasizes both that virtually all Muslims are not terrorists and that a substantial number of modern terrorists have not been Muslim. But in a rare exception to his general even-handedness, this lecture identifies the anti-Roman first-century Sicarii, who were Jewish, as the first terrorists in history, though just in Roman history, there were the Gauls, the Etruscan pirates, the revolt of Appius Herdonius, Hannibal during the Punic wars; this is a rare misstep in an otherwise comprehensive and multifaceted and generally reliable account of the Middle East in the 20th and the first decades of the twentieth century. Contemporary discussions of events in the Middle East would be vastly improved if all participants watched and listened to this course.
Date published: 2024-06-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very informative on a lesser-known topic Knowledge of the Middle East/North Africa was always a bit lacking in my mind, but it consumes so much of our news that I felt I needed to better understand the history of the region. With the Hamas attack on Israel in Fall 2023, I felt more urgency to seek knowledge about the context of the ongoing situation in Palestine, so this lecture is where I turned. As a whole, it was an excellent course, and one that I should probably watch a second time to better absorb all the material presented. In general, I am really not a fan of the new format of The Great Courses teaching which involves a "head-talking-to-the-camera". Some of these lectures have been off-putting (you're forced to stare at someone's face for 30 minutes at a time), and I wish I could chew out Leon on the phone (or whoever's in charge of production at Wondrium) and tell them to stop this nonsense and go back to the regular, standing professor. With that said, this lecture with Eamonn Gearon was more satisfactory than some others using this approach. I think it's the fact that Gearon's killer British accent, and general demeanor as a dapper British gent, made it at least passable. His knowledge and command of the topics seemed as strong as anyone's, and he seemed to be very diplomatic in his approach. He didn't seem to be trying to push any agenda, but instead wanted to impress upon the audience the important themes, and some of their nuances, in a balanced way. But again, this topic of the Middle East and North Africa in the twentieth century seems to be so complex that to me, I would really need to watch it a second time to really absorb what was presented - which was a lot.
Date published: 2024-01-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An excellent history of the Middle East We thoroughly enjoyed this history lesson of the Middle East and Northern Africa covering the 20th - 21st centuries. This brings to light the reasons for the current situation in the Middle East (2023-2024). Eamonn is knowledgeable and passionate about this part of the world. This is like taking a post graduate course on North Africa and the Middle East.
Date published: 2024-01-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Clarity and context First rate. Untangles a devilishly complex subject and makes it clear. Having visited almost every country covered, I knew about 60% of it already. But this program filled in the gaps and pulled it all together. Easy to listen to. Absorbing.
Date published: 2023-12-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding series of lectures I am glad I Wondrium provided me with such an opportunity to listen to a remarkable, well spoken, and intelligent speaker. I learned so much I didn't know and was given a lot to think about.
Date published: 2023-12-10
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Generally good overview Very good treatment of the Middle East in the first half of the 20th Century. The second half gives the Israel-Palestinian issue perhaps more attention than it needs, while I would have appreciated more treatment of Turkey, which is probably the most important Middle Eastern country of all, with a very turbulent history in the past 10 years or so.
Date published: 2023-11-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Lovely course presented in an engaging manner I decided I needed a quick brush up on my history of the Middle East and started and stopped a couple of different Great Courses in that pursuit. I was drawn in to this one by the stellar presentation style and high production quality and it kept me engrossed until the end, watching and taking notes for two lectures each morning with my coffee to start off my day. I'll be watching this professor's other courses. The only issue I had was the sometimes confused pace of events over several episode chunks, with the same events being re-explained. At first I was a little annoyed but then I realized the professor is putting everything in context again and again to reinforce the importance of every part of the region. This also means that the lectures can act as individual episodes in a vacuum due to the breadth contextual explanation so if I feel the need to brush up on Nasser, or 1979, or what have you I won't feel a need to watch the preceding two lectures again to prepare, as I do with many Great Courses. All in all, a fantastic course and worth going through a second time! Thank you professor!
Date published: 2023-09-24
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Overview

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.

About

Eamonn Gearon

Change is our constant, and the past does indeed inform the present.

INSTITUTION

Johns Hopkins University

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.

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Trailer

A Middle East Crossroads in the Year 1900

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.

28 min
Constitutional Revolts in Persia and Turkey

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.

30 min
World War I and the Ottoman Empire’s Fall

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.

32 min
Egyptian Revolution and Turkish Independence

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.

24 min
Monarchies of the 20th-Century Middle East

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.

26 min
The Muslim Brotherhood and Its Founder

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.

28 min
World War II Fault Lines in 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.

32 min
European Anti-Semitism and Israel’s Birth

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.

31 min
How Nasser Transformed Egypt and the World

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.

32 min
The Suez Crisis and Cold War in the Desert

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.

25 min
The Algerian War of Independence

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.

26 min
Middle Eastern Armies and Coup D’états

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.

27 min
The 1967 Arab-Israeli War and Its Aftermath

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.

26 min
The Arab Oil Embargo of 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.

26 min
Lebanon’s Civil War and Rise of Intolerance

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.

27 min
Terrorism, Islam, and Sayyid Qutb

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.

22 min
How 1979 Transformed Iran, Egypt, and Iraq

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.

29 min
The Iran-Iraq War and a Decade of Horrors

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.

27 min
The First Gulf War in Kuwait

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.

29 min
A Path through Oslo to Arab-Israeli Détente

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.

24 min
US Invasion of Iraq and Its Consequences

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.

25 min
Are Democracy and Islam Compatible?

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.

31 min
Taking Stock of Progress in the Middle East

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.

23 min
After the Arab Spring

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.

32 min