HSTAFM 463 A: Modern Persian Gulf

Spring 2021
TTh 12:30pm - 2:20pm / * *
Section Type:
Syllabus Description (from Canvas):

Synchronous or Asynchronous?

HSTAFM 463 Spring 2021 will have one synchronous meeting on Thursdays, 12:30–2:20 pm Seattle time. In lieu of the scheduled Tuesday meeting that you see in the time schedule, there will be two prerecorded asynchronous lectures per week that you will be expected to view and take notes on. For those who cannot make it to synchronous meetings on Thursdays because of their time zone, work/caregiving obligations, or other reasons, there will be a fully asynchronous option for taking the course.


Textbook Purchases

All readings for this class are available electronically: the assigned textbook is available as an e-book through UW Libraries, and all of the other readings will be available as PDFs on the course website. Having said that, if you prefer to do these readings in print, the textbook (David Commins, The Gulf States: A Modern History) is available at the University Book Store; Abdelrahman Munif's novel Cities of Salt can be easily purchased as an inexpensive paperback on any online store (and in many bricks-and-mortar bookstores, too); and the collection of shorter readings will be compiled into a printed course pack that you can purchase online or in person at a copy shop on the Ave (more information on that will be forthcoming soon).



The Persian Gulf, the states that border it, and the people whose lives are linked to and through it are often the subject of scrutiny and speculation by policymakers, journalists, and economists. These views of the Gulf are inevitably limited, however, and demand the critical application of a wide-ranging historical perspective. This course will treat the Gulf—including the Arabian Peninsula, Iraq, and Iran, as well as those countries’ transregional links—as an arena with distinct political, economic and social dynamics.

Taking a broadly chronological approach, this course will first examine the Persian Gulf region in the era of modern empires and British supremacy, culminating in the formation of the Gulf states in their modern forms. The subjects we will cover include the region’s different forms of colonialism, the Gulf’s connections with South Asia and East Africa, and the ways that slavery has been discussed (or ignored) in histories of the region’s economy and social life. In the next unit, we will critically examine oil as a social and political agent in the Gulf, rethinking traditional notions of its role in the region’s history by studying trends such as urbanization and growing class inequality. The following unit will consider the influence of broader ideological and political trends in Gulf states as many of them attained independence or experienced political transitions, including territorial nationalisms, pan-Arab nationalism, different forms of Islamism, and leftist movements. Finally, we will analyze the many crises the region has faced since the late 1970s and the complex role of American intervention within them, culminating with the events of the past two decades. We will also discuss the role and significance of the enormous South Asian, Southeast Asian, African, and non-native Arab diasporas in several Gulf states, as well as communities that do not fit easily into rigid ethnic or citizenship rubrics.


Learning Objectives

By the end of this course, students will:

  1. Comprehend the dominant themes in the modern history of the Persian Gulf region.
  2. Be able to articulate confidently the importance of major events and trends in the modern Persian Gulf.
  3. Exhibit an in-depth understanding of the Gulf’s relationships with nearby and overlapping regions, as well as with imperial and neocolonial powers.
  4. Gain skills in critical historical thinking and expository writing through participation in discussions and completing writing assignments.’
  5. Understand how to apply historical perspectives to texts in other disciplines and practices—including literature, journalism, and ethnography.
Catalog Description:
Introduction to the histories of Arabian Peninsula states, Iraq, Iran, and their linkages since the eighteenth century. Topics to be covered include imperialism and its legacies, political economy of oil, governmental structures and political transitions, identify formation, political ideologies, urbanization, and relations with the broader Middle East and Indian Ocean.
GE Requirements Met:
Diversity (DIV)
Social Sciences (SSc)
Last updated:
April 11, 2024 - 6:16 am