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Cold War, Hot War: the Politics of the Middle East

  • Module code: PO6014
  • Year: 2018/9
  • Level: Year 6
  • Credits: 30.00
  • Pre-requisites: Succesful completion of Level 5 Politics or equivalent
  • Co-requisites: None


Cold War, Hot War provides an empirical and historical overview of the Middle East region with an examination of relevant theoretical and conceptual issues.

 The module begins with a critical historical account of the end of the Ottoman Empire and the construction of the modern Middle East. It then proceeds to use a number of key themes, such as, imperialism, authoritarianism, nationalism, pan-Arabism, and gender, to examine the driving political issues as well as the main fault line and schisms in the region. The second term of the module will focus primarily on two case studies that will build on the key themes discussed in the first term. The two case studies are the Syrian civil war and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Through these case studies students will gain a wider appreciation of the key themes  dynamics and interaction. 


  • To Identify and analyse the main trends in academic and policy debates regarding the Middle East region;
  • To examine critically key themes and their impact on the region's development, politics, and conflicts;
  • To examine critically the role of the superpowers and regional states, their interaction and its regional effect;
  • To equip students with a solid basic knowledge and advanced skills to critically evaluate a range of sources relevant to the Middle East and to communicate their ideas both orally and in writing.

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of the module, students will be able to:

  • Display analytical insight into the region.
  • Demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of key themes in the Middle East, as well as familiarity with the existing literature and the main scholars and debates in the field.
  • Engage in critical research concerning key debates on the politics and the history of the Middle East.
  • Demonstrate both orally and in writing a sophisticated understanding of the issues and controversies in the region.

Curriculum content

  • A critical introduction into the history of the Middle East.
  • The birth of regional states: dictatorships, authoritarianisms, republics and democracies.
  • Nationalism and pan-Arabism.
  • The Paradox of Plenty: the Curse of the Black Gold.
  • Politics of Identity: Gender and Ethnicity.
  • Political Islam. 

Teaching and learning strategy

The module will be delivered through a three hour workshop. The block teaching will be used for a variety of teaching methods. Lectures will provide  an outline of each topic and the workshop format will allow students to explore this topic in discussion with the teacher and fellow students. In addition audio visual material relevant to the issues discussed will be utilised. Students will be expected to spend at least 6-7 hours per week in independent study, in preparation of assignments and seminars. 

Breakdown of Teaching and Learning Hours

Definitive KIS Category Indicative Description Hours
Scheduled learning and teaching 3 hours workshop to include seminars and lectures and interactive study 66 hours
Guided independent study Seminar preparation and assessments 234
Total (number of credits x 10) 300

Assessment strategy

Students will go through two assessment cycles. Each cycle will have a range of ungraded formative exercises that build towards the summative assessment at the end. This will provide regular and detailed feedback to students so that they can develop an awareness of their rate and level of progress and of their strengths and weaknesses. Thus, for the first teaching block, the focus of the seminar discussions and debates on the key regional themes will lead to the formative group presentations. The presentations (20%), as well as the class-based feedback would provide students with a solid basis for the first summative assessment: the 1500 word position paper (30%) based on a key theme. The second teaching block will focus in more depth on two case studies. The seminar discussions and critical analysis of sources would form the basis for the second summative assessment: the 2500 word essay (50%). The position paper, group presentation and essay (summative elements) assess students' understanding of the different components and parties in the region as well as the interaction between the international and internal forces and events in a complex and turbulent region. It would contribute to a comprehensive understanding of the Middle East beyond the headlines.

Mapping of Learning Outcomes to Assessment Strategy (Indicative)

Learning Outcome Assessment Strategy
Display an insight into themes in the region and their impact on conflicts, peace and war developments in the Middle East. Formatively: seminar discussions, group presentations; Summatively: report;
Demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of two case studies in the Middle East, as well as familiarity with the existing literature and the main scholars and debates in the field. Formatively: group presentations, seminar discussions; Summatively: report and essay;
Engage in critical research concerning controversial debates on the politics and the history of the Middle East. Formatively: Group presentation, seminar discussions; Summatively: report and essay;
Show an ability to evidence both orally and in writing at a sophisticated understanding of the issues controversies in the region. Formatively: seminar discussions; group presentations; Summatively: report and essay.

Breakdown of Major Categories of Assessment

Assessment Type Assessment Name Assessment Weighting
CWK 1500 word position paper 30
CWK Group presentation 20
CWK 2500 word essay 50
Total (to equal 100%) 100%

Achieving a pass

It IS NOT a requirement that any major assessment category is passed separately in order to achieve an overall pass for the module

Bibliography core texts

Dawisha, A. (2003) Arab Nationalism in the Twentieth Century: From Triumph to Despair. Princeton University Press.

Halliday, F. (2005) The Middle East in International Relations. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press.

Owen, R. (2013) State, Power and Policymaking in the Making of the Modern Middle East. (3rd edition). London: Routledge.

Bibliography recommended reading

Golan, G. (1990) Soviet Policies in the Middle East: from World War Two to Gorbachev. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Lewis, B. (1995) The Middle East: A Brief History of the Last 2,000 Years. New York: Scribner.

Yapp, M. (1999) The Near East Since the First World War. (2nd edition). London: Longman.

Sayigh, Y. and Shlaim, A. (Eds) (1997) The Cold War and the Middle East. Oxford: Clarendon.

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