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Fantasy & Friction: US-Middle East Relations from 1945 - HIS00094H

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  • Department: History
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Shaul Mitelpunkt
  • Credit value: 40 credits
  • Credit level: H
  • Academic year of delivery: 2021-22

Module summary

Whether through Cold War maneuvers or continuing support of Israel, interests in oil producing countries or religious devotion to holy sites, Americans have played a critical role shaping the lives of people across the Middle East. In some ways this was a two-way street: Middle Eastern places, people, and symbols, captured American imagination, and particular lobby groups have long influenced American politics. In this course we will examine cutting edge work that examines both cultural and political facets of transnational relations. Going well beyond traditional diplomatic history we will delve deep into a vraiety of contexts necessary for the study of US-Mideast relations, locating transnational history in a range of trans-continental, regional, and local, scopes. Departing from artificial distinctions between the study of cultural history and political history, we will ask how did the sphere of fantasy, representation, and perception, and the shphere of diplomatic, economic, and military friction, shape one another. We will study together a wealth of primary sources translated from Hebrew and Arabic, as well as English, including various media from film through cartoons, and novels through diplomatic telegrams, as we interrogate the history of US-Middle East relations.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Autumn Term 2021-22 to Spring Term 2021-22

Module aims

The aims of this module are:

  • To introduce students to in depth study of a specific historical topic using primary and secondary material;
  • To enable students to explore the topic through discussion and writing; and
  • To enable students to evaluate and analyse primary sources.

Module learning outcomes

Students who complete this module successfully will:

  • Grasp key themes, issues and debates relevant to the topic being studied;
  • Have acquired knowledge and understanding about that topic;
  • Be able to comment on and analyse original sources;
  • Be able to relate the primary and secondary material to one another; and
  • Have acquired skills and confidence in close reading and discussion of texts and debates.

Module content

Teaching Programme:

Students will attend a 1-hour briefing in week 1 of the autumn term, and a 3-hour seminar in weeks 2-5 and 7-9 of the autumn term and weeks 2-5 and 7-10 of the spring term. Both the autumn and spring terms include a reading week for final year students and so there will be no teaching in week 6. Students prepare for and participate in fifteen three-hour seminars. One-to-one meetings will also be held to discuss the assessed essay.

Seminar topics are subject to variation, but are likely to include the following:

1.        Origins I: Travellers and Missionaries

2.        Origins II: Anti-colonialism in the Interwar Period

3.        1945: The Middle East in Post-WWII American Plans

4.        Early American Answers to the Israel/Palestine Question

5.        Pan-Arabism and U.S.-backed Coups

6.        Modernization and Orientalism

7.        The 1967 War and Israel Adulation

8.        The 1973 War and the Emergence of Arab Voices

9.        The Camp David Accords and the Traditions of Mideast Diplomacy

10.      Embattled: The Iran Hostage Crisis and the First Lebanon War

11.      ‘Judeo-Christianity’ and the Neo-con lens

12.      Kicking the Syndromes? Operation Desert Storm

13.      History Refusing to End: The 9/11 Attacks

14.      Breaking Iraq 

15.      A Long Caravan: Continuities in US-Mideast Relations


Task Length % of module mark
N/A 50
Online Exam
Online Exam
8 hours 50

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

For formative assessment, students will be given the opportunity to do practice gobbets and then required to write a 2,000-word procedural essay relating to the themes and issues of the module in either the autumn or spring term.

For summative assessment, students complete a 4,000-word essay which utilises an analysis of primary source materials to explore a theme or topic relating to the module, due in week 5 of the summer term.

They then take a three-hour closed examination for summative assessment in the summer term assessment period comprising: one essay question relating to themes and issues, but showing an awareness of the pertinent sources that underpin these AND one ‘gobbet’ question (where students attempt two gobbets from a slate of eight).

The essay and exam are weighted equally at 50% each.


Task Length % of module mark
N/A 50
Online Exam
Online Exam
8 hours 50

Module feedback

Following their formative assessment task, students will receive written feedback that will include comments and a mark within 10 working days of submission.

Work will be returned to students in their seminars and may be supplemented by the tutor giving some oral feedback to the whole group. All students are encouraged, if they wish, to discuss the feedback on their procedural work during their tutor’s student hours. For more information, see the Statement on Feedback.

For the summative assessment task, students will receive their provisional mark and written feedback within 20 working days of the submission deadline unless submitted in week 5 of the summer term, in which case these are available within 25 working days. The tutor will then be available during student hours for follow-up guidance if required. For more information, see the Statement of Assessment.

Indicative reading

For term time reading, please refer to the module VLE site. Before the course starts, we encourage you to look at the following items of preliminary reading:

McAlister, Melani. Epic Encounters: Culture, Media, and U.S. Interests in the Middle East since 1945. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001.

Yaqub, Salim. Imperfect Strangers: Americans, Arabs, and U.S.-Middle East Relations in the 1970s. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2016.

Citino, Nathan J. Envisioning the Arab Future: Modernization in US-Arab Relations, 1945-1967. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2017.

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.