Turning Points in Middle Eastern History

Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing, informative, outstanding teacher!! This was one of the best if not the best course I have purchased. This is all a credit to Professor Gearon. He organized the content and each lecture so that the viewer understands and gains insight to the material. I truly understand and furthermore recall important and memorable facts thanks to his outstanding lecturing style. He has a true talent to teach! Middle Eastern history has always been elusive in Western education and I now have learned to appreciate the rich, diverse history that I never learned in school. Again, credit to Eamonn Gearon for his magnificient presentation. I also highly recommend his other course The History and Achievements of the Islamic Golden Age.
Date published: 2020-08-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Overview Of Region Since the Dawn of Islam Academic and Practical, my wife and I would like to hear more from Professor Gearon.
Date published: 2020-07-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent lecturer: Eamonn Gearon Well informed, comprehensive, well articulated, thorough, presented in an easily understood format. I read the guidebook chapters prior to watching and listening to the lectures. I highly recommend this course to those to whom accurate information is essential. His is a series of lectures of whom I can recommend without reservation.
Date published: 2020-05-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from We couldn’t be more pleased with this course. The teacher is both pleasing to listen to and watch and extremely knowledgeable.
Date published: 2020-05-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Stimulating lectures I have just received the course and have viewed three lectures. The lecturer has been very good and intellectually stimulating. So far it has exceeded my expectations. I chose the course because I have had little exposure to Middle Eastern History and Culture. I looked forward to viewing the remaining lectures and based on the quality so far, I anticipate a rewarding learning experience. I am so glad I chose the Turning Points in Middle Eastern History.
Date published: 2020-05-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Cool course! The professor is very knowledgeable and has tones of experience in this subject. Such a fascinating course to have.
Date published: 2020-03-12
Rated 3 out of 5 by from I have not had time to finish this course. Contact me again in a week or two.
Date published: 2020-01-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Exceptional I have a high standard for courses from TGC because they have such a solid track record of producing quality products. But every now and then they outdo even their excellent reputation. This course was one of those times and was exceptional in just about every way. It is easily in the 1% of courses that reach the highest of standards. The professor’s narration is top notch primarily for two reasons: o He excels at setting the context of a particular turning point: for example, he’ll explain the powers of the day during a specific turning point---which ones were rising and which ones were declining as well as the background of the central figures; This helps place a dynasty or event in historical context o He is concerned with thoroughness and completion (two traits not always present in other professors): His great all-encompassing narration is accompanied by fact statements that fill in the complete picture: for example, he’ll reference how many total sultans reigned in a specific dynasty (or how many caliphates existed in Islam’s history), and what number in the sequence a specific subject of a lecture is (ex. Sulleiman was the 10th ruler of the Ottoman line) or he will be sure to explain which dynasty followed another one; This sounds like simple stuff but it is lacking in other courses and this type of all-encompassing view of history really made it easier to understand the whole picture and not get lost in the details This course covers the Middle East from aprx. 622 AD to 1924 including: o The origins of Islam under Muhammad o The Rashidun Caliphate (centered in Medina and then Iraq) o The Umayyad Caliphate (centered in Damascus, Syria) o The Abbasid Caliphate (based on Baghdad, Iraq) o The Fatimids Caliphate (based in Cairo, Egypt) o The Umayyads caliphate in exile (based in Cordoba, Spain) o The Seljuk Turks (based in Iran) o Ayyubid dynasty of Saladin (based in Egypt) o Mamluks (based in Cairo, Egypt) o Mongols (based in modern day Mongolia) o The Ottoman Empire (based in Constantinople, Turkey) o The Safavid dynasty (forerunners of modern Iran) o Saud-Wahhab people (forerunners of modern Saudi Arabia) o Muhammad Ali’s empire (based out of Egypt) I enjoyed all of the lectures but the best of the best were the following: o 5 (history of the early Caliphates of Islam and the Shia/Sunni split) o 15 (history of various kingdoms of medieval Sicily: Byzantine, Fatimid Caliphate, and Normans) o 31 (19th century French invasion of Algeria) o 35 (Middle East during World War I) I know a course deserves five stars when I sense two things: I don't want the course to end/wish the professor would continue on even beyond the time period covered and it is difficult to find any flaws. In this case I would be ecstatic for the professor to produce a course on modern Middle Eastern history (1924 on). It would be an excellent way to close a current gap in TGC's catalog (Sorry, the U.S. and Middle East course was not one of the better ones). Flaws are hard to come by but you could make an argument that this course is a little mistitled. Instead of seeing it as a collection of turning points you could see it as more of a history of the Middle East. A number of lectures were more about a specific person or rise of a specific dynasty vs. an actual event (or the signature event of their reign). However, this can also be seen as a strength since Professor Gearon didn’t just focus on a specific event but provided much more satisfying broad historical narration, content, and context of the region. I can't recommend this course enough. There is history in it that just isn't present in other courses offered by The Great Courses. I learned a lot and would be surprised if anyone did not. My understanding of the Middle East's past is a million times stronger. I am anxiously waiting for Professor's Gearon's next course!
Date published: 2019-08-19
  • y_2020, m_9, d_26, h_15
  • bvseo_bulk, prod_bvrr, vn_bulk_3.0.12
  • cp_1, bvpage1
  • co_hasreviews, tv_4, tr_109
  • loc_en_CA, sid_8340, prod, sort_[SortEntry(order=SUBMISSION_TIME, direction=DESCENDING)]
  • clientName_teachco
  • bvseo_sdk, p_sdk, 3.2.1
  • CLOUD, getReviews, 3.46ms
Turning Points in Middle Eastern History
Course Trailer
Muslim Empires: Land, Language, Religion
1: Muslim Empires: Land, Language, Religion

Consider the geographical region we call the Greater Middle East, and explore the range of nations and cultures that define it. Preview some of the remarkable historical turning points you'll witness, encompassing conquests, political alliances, invasions, and the rise of Islam, as well as social, intellectual, and economic flowering of numerous kinds....

33 min
Muhammad and the Dawn of Islam - 622
2: Muhammad and the Dawn of Islam - 622

Historically, the rise of Islam was a turning point among turning points. Trace key phases in the life of Muhammad, from the founding of the faith through his years of opposition and his ultimate establishment of Islam as a religious and political entity. Assess the global impact of these events, and analyze their reverberations today....

30 min
Arab Invasion of North Africa - 639
3: Arab Invasion of North Africa - 639

The seventh-century Arab invasion of North Africa brought profound and permanent change to the entire region. Follow the Arab armies of the newly created Islamic empire in their conquest of the territories of Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, and Morocco, and take account of the lasting Arabization and Islamization that resulted....

31 min
Umayyad Caliphate in Damascus - 661
4: Umayyad Caliphate in Damascus - 661

The establishment of the Umayyad caliphate's capital in Damascus was the most important political turning point in early Muslim history. Trace the Umayyads' achievements, and investigate their reasons for locating the empire's capital away from the Arabian peninsula, reflecting the shift from a religiously inspired Islamic empire to a politically oriented imperial power....

31 min
Battle of Karbala - 680
5: Battle of Karbala - 680

The Battle of Karbala represents the defining moment in the split between the two main branches of Islam. Learn about how the faith came to violent internal conflict so early in its history, assess the nature of the underlying dispute over succession, and witness the political and religious fallout from the battle itself....

28 min
Arab Invasion of Andalusia - 711
6: Arab Invasion of Andalusia - 711

Study the events surrounding the incursion of Berber-Arab armies into the Iberian peninsula in 711, leading to Muslim domination of the region that would last 800 years. Witness the fateful Battle of Guadalete and the Arabs' advance north, and consider both the immediate legacy of the invasion and its overall impact on European history....

30 min
Battle of Talas - 751
7: Battle of Talas - 751

The Battle of Talas in Central Asia was the only occasion when Arab and Chinese armies would oppose one another. Explore the factors leading to the encounter, the lengthy battle that led to victory for the Abbasid Arabs, and the resulting spread of papermaking to the Middle East, an event with global impact....

29 min
The Founding of Baghdad - 762
8: The Founding of Baghdad - 762

As the political center of the Muslim world, Baghdad would have a role and importance unlike any other urban center on earth. Chart the building of Baghdad as an imperial capital; explore its monumental, Persian-inspired architectural design; and discover the human factors that made it one of the greatest centers of learning in human history....

31 min
Islamic Golden Age Begins - 813
9: Islamic Golden Age Begins - 813

Under the Abbasid Caliph al-Ma'mun, Baghdad thrived as both a center of trade and manufacturing and a world city of scholarship. Consider al-Ma'mun's lavish patronage of learning, his promotion of translation and scholarly missions, and his extraordinary influence in three areas: literature, the sciences, and Islamic theology....

32 min
Qairouan University - 859
10: Qairouan University - 859

The world's first university was founded by a visionary Muslim woman in the city of Fes, Morocco. Learn how this groundbreaking institution made advanced education available to all. Assess its influence in the Middle East, discover its unrivaled impact on European learning, and examine the life and work of one of its most celebrated alumni....

31 min
The Fatimids of Cairo - 969
11: The Fatimids of Cairo - 969

Follow the rise of the Fatimids-history's only Shia caliphate-in political and religious opposition to the Baghdad-based Abbasids. Witness the founding of Cairo as the new Fatimid capital, and examine the enlightened leadership of the 4th and 5th Fatimid caliphs, under whom Cairo became the most important city in the Islamic world....

31 min
Umayyad Exile in Cordoba - 784 - 1031
12: Umayyad Exile in Cordoba - 784 - 1031

Discover the golden age of Cordoba as a global center of education and culture. Learn how the displaced Umayyad caliphate established a kingdom in exile in Cordoba, whose rulers oversaw remarkable advancements in lifestyle and manners, magnificent architecture and urban development, and the cultivation of the best available Muslim, Christian, and Jewish scholarship....

31 min
Al-Ghazali and Orthodoxy - 1090
13: Al-Ghazali and Orthodoxy - 1090

The theologian and philosopher Abu Hamid Muhammad al-Ghazali has been called the most influential Muslim after Muhammad. Witness al-Ghazali's rise to become a renowned Islamic legal scholar, and reflect on the profound impact of his diverse writings. Investigate his passionate challenge to Neo-Platonism in Islamic theology, and assess the continuing legacy of his work....

31 min
Crusaders Capture Jerusalem - 1099
14: Crusaders Capture Jerusalem - 1099

Study the complex motives and competing interests that launched the Christian crusade to take Jerusalem from its Muslim occupiers. Follow the events of the Pope's dramatic call to arms and the bloody assault against the Holy City, and take account of its aftermath as well as its long-term effects on history....

31 min
Muslims in the Court of Roger II - 1130
15: Muslims in the Court of Roger II - 1130

Encounter the remarkable Kingdom of Sicily under the enlightened and tolerant rule of the Norman king Roger II. Grasp how Norman invaders established a kingdom in southern Italy, and learn about the unique features of life there, including extraordinary legal, economic, and architectural achievements. Consider Roger's legacy and why it remains relevant today....

31 min
Saladin: Chivalry and Conquest - 1187
16: Saladin: Chivalry and Conquest - 1187

The Muslim general Saladin stands as a unique figure in Middle Eastern history. Plunge into the pivotal Battle of Hattin, where Saladin's forces decimated the Crusader armies, shifting the balance of power in the Holy Land. Contemplate the combination of brilliant strategy and chivalrous treatment of his enemies that characterized this most remarkable of leaders....

31 min
The Egyptian Mamluks - 1250
17: The Egyptian Mamluks - 1250

The Mamluks were an unprecedented phenomenon-a community of slaves who became rulers. Investigate the origins of the Mamluks, and uncover how this elite warrior class took power in Egypt. Learn about the Mamluks' empire, their meritocratic system, and how they defeated a vast army that had never been beaten in battle: the Mongols....

30 min
Mongols Sack Baghdad - 1258
18: Mongols Sack Baghdad - 1258

This lecture narrates the calamity that befell the world's largest, most prosperous, and most celebrated city. First trace the rise of the Mongols, a fierce and most destructive ancient empire. Then follow their conquest of the Abbasids of Baghdad, culminating in the horrific siege that effectively ended the Islamic Golden Age....

30 min
Ottoman Empire Rises - 1299
19: Ottoman Empire Rises - 1299

The dazzling empire of the Ottomans was the longest-lasting empire in Middle Eastern history. Learn about the dream of Osman, the Ottomans' founder, which impelled him to establish what became a transcontinental superpower. Grasp what allowed the Ottomans to thrive and to spread across Anatolia, North Africa, and Eastern Europe....

31 min
Mansa Musa, Richest Man - 1324
20: Mansa Musa, Richest Man - 1324

History's richest human being was reputedly the African emperor Mansa Musa. Trace the events of Musa's legendary hajj to Mecca, where his lavish spending destabilized the economy of Egypt. Learn about his subsequent creation of a university and library that remain among the most important repositories of ancient wisdom in the world....

30 min
Ibn Khaldun's Masterpiece - 1377
21: Ibn Khaldun's Masterpiece - 1377

Discover the life and times of the brilliant Ibn Khaldun, who produced the Muquaddimah, one of the most original works of scholarship ever written. Follow his astonishing career as a scholar, historian, and judge, and investigate his magnum opus, a philosophy of history that delineates patterns that govern the transformation of human societies....

31 min
Ottomans Seize Constantinople - 1453
22: Ottomans Seize Constantinople - 1453

Grasp why the storied city of Constantinople had great strategic importance to the burgeoning Ottoman Empire. Witness the fiercely contested siege of the city, revealing the Ottoman offensive by both land and sea. Take account of how the city's fall arguably marked the end of both the Roman Empire and the Middle Ages....

30 min
Fall of Granada - 1492
23: Fall of Granada - 1492

The fall of Granada marked the end of 800 years of Muslim rule on the Iberian Peninsula. Study the fitful Granada war that unfolded over ten years, leading to a final eight-month siege under the Catholic monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella. Follow the events of the state-sanctioned persecution of Jews and Muslims that followed....

30 min
Safavid Dynasty of Persia - 1501
24: Safavid Dynasty of Persia - 1501

Examine the birth of the 250-year Safavid Empire, established by the religious leader, warrior, and poet Ismail. Observe how Ismail forcibly converted his entire kingdom to the Shiite Islamic faith, introduced a new military system, and put in place the Persian bureaucratic framework that underlies the modern nation of Iran....

30 min
Selim the Grim - 1512
25: Selim the Grim - 1512

Investigate the achievements of this most fearsome and pivotal of Ottoman rulers. Learn how Selim vanquished the threatening Safavid Empire after violently wresting power from his father. Track his dramatic expansionist policy, tripling the Ottoman territories in less than a decade, and his defeat of the Egyptian Mamluks, becoming the first Ottoman Caliph....

30 min
Suleiman the Magnificent - 1520
26: Suleiman the Magnificent - 1520

Take the measure of the sultan Suleiman's extraordinary vision, through which he expanded and consolidated the Ottoman Empire, engendered a bureaucratic system and a unified legislative code, and commissioned monumental architecture. Learn also of his great love for his favorite wife, Roxelana, perhaps the most influential female political figure in Ottoman history....

31 min
Second Siege of Vienna - 1683
27: Second Siege of Vienna - 1683

The 1683 Ottoman siege of Vienna is often cited as a critical turning point in European history. Investigate the events leading to the siege and battle, witness the dramatic defense of the city under the Polish king Jan Sobieski, and examine both the legacy of the clash and historical misconceptions surrounding it....

30 min
The Saud-Wahhab Pact - 1744
28: The Saud-Wahhab Pact - 1744

Here, learn how a little-known 18th-century alliance in the Middle East came to have profound reverberations in our contemporary world. Study the pact between a desert ruler and a religious reformer that initiated a structure of political and religious power that continues to dominate the modern kingdom of Saudi Arabia....

31 min
Napoleon Invades Egypt - 1798
29: Napoleon Invades Egypt - 1798

Examine the motives of France and of Napoleon for the massive invasion of Egypt in 1798, and witness the two primary military engagements that ensued. Take account of the impacts of the French occupation, and of the phenomenal work of scholarship under Napoleon that gave birth to the field of Egyptology....

29 min
Murder at the Citadel - 1811
30: Murder at the Citadel - 1811

The Egyptian viceroy Muhammad Ali is widely referred to as the Father of Modern Egypt. Learn about his bloody ascension to power, ending 600 years of intermittent Mamluk rule. Trace Ali's 43-year reign, during which he introduced a modern, European-style army, modern education, a professional civil service, and thriving industrial development....

29 min
French Invasion of Algeria - 1830
31: French Invasion of Algeria - 1830

Explore the economic and political factors that sparked the brutal French invasion of Ottoman Algeria. Follow the events of the ensuing occupation, and examine the war of resistance led by the religious leader Abd al-Qadir. Observe how the invasion marked a major shift in European relations with the Middle East....

31 min
East India Company in Yemen - 1839
32: East India Company in Yemen - 1839

Investigate the phenomenon of the British East India Company, a militarized trading organization of astonishing power and reach. Learn about the Company's seizure of the strategic Yemeni port of Aden, which became a trading center of global importance, heralding Britain's century-spanning imperial presence in the Middle East....

31 min
Egypt, Europe, and the Suez Canal - 1869
33: Egypt, Europe, and the Suez Canal - 1869

The Suez Canal, which halved the sailing distance from Europe to India, changed the course of Middle Eastern and world history. Examine the events behind the building of the canal, and reveal the amazing feat of its construction. Assess the economics of the endeavor, a story of foreign debt that would cost Egypt its independence....

30 min
Discovering Middle East Oil - 1908
34: Discovering Middle East Oil - 1908

No other single factor has impacted the economy, politics, and social life of the Middle East as profoundly as oil. Trace the 20th-century discovery of petroleum across the region by foreign oil companies, and observe the ensuing geopolitical conflicts with local governments. Consider what became known as the Middle East's "oil curse."...

30 min
World War I in the Desert - 1914
35: World War I in the Desert - 1914

Examine the role of the Ottoman Empire in World War I, and uncover why it entered the war on the side of Germany and Austro-Hungary. Consider the scope of the conflict in the Middle East, the Arab Revolt (arguably the most significant Middle Eastern campaign of the war), and the emergence of Arab nationalism....

31 min
The Last Caliphate Falls - 1924
36: The Last Caliphate Falls - 1924

Investigate the epochal turning point of the breakup of the Ottoman Empire and the abolition of the Islamic caliphate-Islam's supreme religious authority-after 1300 years. Witness the remapping of the Middle East by the imperial powers of Britain and France, the impact of these changes on the region, and the emergent states of the modern Middle East....

35 min
Eamonn Gearon

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


University of London


Johns Hopkins University

About Eamonn Gearon

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.

Also By This Professor