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HSTAFM 162 A: History Of The Islamic Middle East, 600-1800

Meeting Time: 
TTh 1:30pm - 3:20pm
SMI 205
Daniel Sheffield

Syllabus Description:


History of the Islamic Middle East, 600-1800

HSTAFM 162, Winter 2016

University of Washington


Instructor: Professor Daniel J. Sheffield


Meeting Time: TTh 1:30–3:20 (SMI 205)

Office Hours: W 1:00–3:00 (SMI 103G)


Teaching Assistant: Gözde Burcu Ege


Office Hours: By appointment (SMI 104C)



Course Description

This course explores the history of the Islamic Middle East from 600–1800 CE, roughly from the time of Muḥammad and the Arab conquests to Napoleon’s invasion of Egypt and the onset of European colonialism in the Muslim world. In addition to lectures and secondary background readings, students read and discuss samples of key primary texts, with a view to exploring Islamic civilization through the direct voices of the people who witnessed its birth and participated in its creation. After completing the course, students will gain a better understanding of the often fragmentary nature of the sources used to reconstruct early Islamic history, and will be able to discuss in detail the major debates which surround the emergence and formation of Islamicate culture between the Late Antique and Early Modern periods. Questions of historical memory and revisionist history will also be discussed.


Learning Objectives

By the end of the course, students will be able to:

  1. demonstrate the use of principles of historical thinking to understand human societies;
  2. demonstrate a broad yet nuanced understanding of the Islamic world 
and its role in Western cultural narratives; 

  3. display a critical awareness of the methodological assumptions, theoretical lenses and 
historical narratives that inform contemporary discourses on the history of the Middle East;

  4. demonstrate basic skills in the comprehension and analysis of primary sources and their 
relevance in the context of historical knowledge; 

  5. demonstrate the ability to develop interpretive historical narratives drawing on primary 
and/or secondary sources; 

  6. develop the digital skills to create and maintain a series of blog posts pertaining to the study of history and Islam;
  7. write convincing, analytical and thesis-driven papers based on the close reading of an 
adequate bibliography of primary and secondary sources. 


Course requirements

The course consists of two 110-minute meetings per week. Please read the assigned material during the week that it is assigned and come to class prepared to engage with and discuss the readings. Students are expected to attend class regularly and punctually. 

During Thursday lectures, the second hour of class will be devoted to discussion of primary sources. Students will be split into two smaller discussion groups. Students are expected to attend each class having read the required readings and prepared material for a thoughtful discussion of them. You must bring the texts and/or your notes to class for discussion. Lack of participation in discussion and/or failure to read the weekly readings will directly and indirectly impact your final grade. 

The class will consist of a midterm and a cumulative final examination. There will also be a short map quiz (15 min.) administered at the beginning of class on January 26th.


Blog Portfolios

Over the course of the term, each student is required to create a blog hosted on their Canvas ePortfolio site. The entries in the blog will be developed over the course of the term. Over the course of the term, students will post three blog items of at least 400 words discussing topics of their choosing from the following six categories: City, Object, Event, Building, Person, Work of literature. Video blogs and podcasts are also acceptable in consultation with the Teaching Assistant. Each blog entry should focus on creating a historical narrative relating to the chosen topic rather than being comprehensive (this is not Wikipedia). Students should include images and hyperlinks to sources wherever appropriate.



  • 5%:      Map Quiz (January 26)

  • 10%:    Participation in Class Discussion

  • 15%:    Midterm Examination (February 9)

  • 20%:    Islam in World History Blog Portfolio (3 entries, must be complete by March 13 at 11:59 PM)

  • 20%:    Two Short Essays (4 pages each, due February 2 and March 1 at 12:00 NOON)

  • 30%:    Final Examination (March 18)



Required Textbooks

  1. Jonathan Berkey, The Formation of Islam. Cambridge University Press, 2003.
  2. Ira Lapidus, Islamic Societies to the Nineteenth Century: A Global History. Cambridge University Press, 2002.

                        All other course readings will be available online on the course website.



Please keep your messages brief, respectful, and to the point. Mention the course number HSTAFM 162 in the subject of your email. We will respond to your email within 48 hours of receiving it. If the subject matter of the email is particularly urgent, please begin the subject line with [URGENT] and we will do our best to respond as soon as possible.


Access and Accommodations

Your experience in this class is important to us. If you have already established accommodations with Disability Resources for Students (DRS), please communicate your approved accommodations to us at your earliest convenience so we can discuss your needs in this course.

If you have not yet established services through DRS, but have a temporary health condition or permanent disability that requires accommodations (conditions include but not limited to; mental health, attention-related, learning, vision, hearing, physical or health impacts), you are welcome to contact DRS at 206-543-8924 or or DRS offers resources and coordinates reasonable accommodations for students with disabilities and/or temporary health conditions.  Reasonable accommodations are established through an interactive process between you, your instructor(s) and DRS. It is the policy and practice of the University of Washington to create inclusive and accessible learning environments consistent with federal and state law.


Grading Policies:

All work must be submitted in a timely fashion. Late submissions will be penalized by a degree of a grade per day (i.e., an A- paper becomes a B+ paper when submitted one day late, a B paper two days late, a B- paper three days late, etc.). 

Students who disagree with a grade received should first schedule a meeting with the Teaching Assistant to discuss the reasons for why the grade was assigned. In certain cases, students may request an assignment to be regraded, but they should keep in mind that it is possible that the regrading may result in a lower grade being assigned.


Assignment Submission

All assignments are to be submitted online on Canvas. Essays are to be double-spaced in 12 point, Times New Roman font with margins not exceeding one inch. In case of technical difficulties, please contact us.


Schedule of Classes

Part One: 600–1300 

Week One: Introduction

January 5: What is Islamic about Islamic History? (SLIDES)

January 7: Arabia between the Byzantine and the Persian Empires (SLIDES, TERMS)

Readings: Berkey 1–38, Lapidus 7–25.


Week Two: The Emergence and Expansion of Islam

January 12: The Life of Muḥammad and the Beginnings of Islam (SLIDES, TERMS)

January 14: The Conquests (SLIDES, TERMS)

Readings: Berkey 39–69, Lapidus 39–54.

Primary Sources: The Qurʼān Sūrahs 19 (Maryam) and 30 (al-Rūm) from S.H. Nasr et al., eds., The Study Qurʼān.


Week Three: Succession to the Prophet I: The Institution of the Caliphate

January 19: The Caliphate to 900 CE

January 21: Intellectual and Social Life of the Caliphate (SLIDES, TERMS)

Readings: Berkey 76–101, Lapidus 55–90

Primary Sources: Letters of the Umayyad Caliphs, trans. P. Crone and M. Hinds.

Excerpts from Al-Jāḥiz, Epistle on Singing Girls, trans. by A. F. L. Beeston.


Week Four: Succession to the Prophet II: The Shīʻa and Sectarianism

January 26: The Emergence of the Shīʻa (MAP QUIZ) (TERMS, SLIDES)

January 28: Ismāʻilism from the Fāṭimids to the Assassins (TERMS .DOC, TERMS .PDF, SLIDES)

Readings: Berkey 111–141, Najam Haider Excerpts from An Introduction to Shīʻism.

Primary Source: Excerpts from The Book of Travels of Nāṣir-i Khusraw, trans. W. M. Thackston.


Week Five: Abbasid Cosmopolitanism

February 2: Life in the Cities of Medieval Islam (TERMS .DOC, TERMS .PDF, SLIDES(FIRST SHORT ESSAY DUE AT NOON)

February 4: The Sacralization of the Caliph and the Rise of the Saints (TERMS .DOC, TERMS .PDF, SLIDES)

Readings: Berkey 102–110, Lapidus 91–139.

Primary Sources: Excerpts from Ibn al-Sāʻī, Consorts of the Caliphs, trans. S. Toorawa.

Excerpts from Ibn Faḍlan, Journey to the Volga, trans. J. Montgomery.


Midterm (February 9): Study Guide .DOCX, Study Guide .PDF



Part Two: 1300-1800

Week Six: Turks, Mongols, and the Nomadic Legacy

February 11: The Mongols, Timurids, and the Foundations of Muslim Kingship (SLIDESTERMS .DOC, TERMS .PDF)

Readings: Lapidus 225–263.


syllabus3.jpgWeek Seven: The Ottoman Imperium

February 16: The Ottomans and the Inheritance of Byzantium (SLIDESTERMS .DOC, TERMS .PDF)

February 18: The Muslim Empires in the World Economy (SLIDES)

Readings: Lapidus 431–479.

Primary Sources: Excerpts from The Book of Travels of Evliya Çelebi, trans. R. Dankoff.


Week Eight: Millenarianism and Shīʻism in the Persianate World

February 23: The Millennial Sovereign in the Early Modern World (SLIDESTERMS .DOC, TERMS .PDF)

February 25: The Institution of Twelver Shīʻism in the Safavid Empire (SLIDES)

Readings: Azfar Moin, Excerpts from The Millennial Sovereign, Lapidus 490–506.

Primary Sources

Excerpts from The History of Shah Abbas the Great, trans. R. Savory.


Week Nine: Islam, Europe, and the Beginning of Colonialism

March 1: Mediterranean and Indian Ocean Trade (SLIDESTERMS .DOC, TERMS .PDF


March 3: Napoleon’s Invasion of Egypt (SLIDES, TERMS.DOC, TERMS.PDF)

Readings: Donald Quataert, Excerpts from The Ottoman Empire 1700–1922; Juan Cole, Excerpts from Napoleon’s Egypt.

Primary Sources: Excerpts from The Letters of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu.

Excerpts from al-Jabartī, Chronicle of the First Seven Months of the French Occupation of Egypt, trans. S. Moreh.


Week Ten: Islam in World History

March 8: Islam in the world or an Islamic world-system? (SLIDES)

March 10: Muslim Modernities.

Readings: Marshall S. Hodgson, “The Role of Islam in World History.”

Primary Sources:

Excerpts on the Rise and Fall of Dynasties from Ibn Khaldūn, The Muqaddimah, trans. Franz Rosenthal.


Final Examination March 18, 2:30 PM–4:20 PM, SMI 205
(Study Guide .DOCX, .PDF)


GE Requirements: 
Individuals and Societies (I&S)
Last updated: 
March 25, 2018 - 9:05pm