The Middle East: From the Roman Empire to the Mongol Invasions

Spring Semester 2005

Folio from a Qur'an on vellum, 9th or early 10th century. Dublin, Chester Beatty Library.

Alan Fisher                                                                                                                
office hrs:  by appointment                                                    
E-mail: fishera@msu.edu                           

In this course I will focus on the history of the Middle East [defined here to include North Africa and Egypt, the Arabian Peninsula, Mespotamia and the Levant, Iran, and Anatolia] from the period of the Roman conquest of the region to the arrival of the Mongols. This is a large area and a long period of time. Thus, I will not "cover" all subjects or information, but will rather concentrate on some themes that, together, allow one to understand in an introductory way the historical origins of what became the "Middle East."

As with all elements of your education, in this course what you learn will be largely the result of your own efforts to learn -- through critical reading, discussion, and writing. While attendance is not mandatory [that is, I do not asign grades on the basis of attendance], your regular presence in class is one form of evidence of your commitment to learning. In-class time will be devoted to some "lectures" by the instructor, an occasional video presentation [for areas like the Middle East which few of you will have visited, a picture is worth the proverbial 1000 words], and discussion.

So that discussion can be more than one-way presentation of information [from instructors to student], it is essential that you complete the assigned reading for a given week before the classes of that week take place. I have provided the means for you to complete this reading and to respond to it individually prior to the class discussions of those readings; and I do expect that you do this in a timely fashion each week.

You are encouraged to browse through the various elements of the syllabus below, using the additional readings and other WWW sites  if you need them, and to keep track carefully of the class schedule calendar throughout the semester.