Become highly informed on the past and present of the Middle East in minutes a day with this introductory history course.
Know as much about Middle East history as a history major
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Understand the intricacies of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
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To most Westerners the Middle East and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict appear utterly bewildering. Palestinians want to bomb Israelis that force them at gunpoint to live in restricted parts of the country. Arab leaders are furious about this situation and want Israelis “wiped off the map” and their land given back to Palestinians, even though the real estate of the Holy Land looks something like rural Utah. And nearly all the world’s leaders see fit to chime in on this dispute over the two tiny lands.
To untangle the modern Middle East conflict and the 2,000 years behind it, this course is divided into 25 concise lectures. Each one is devoted to a major theme in Middle East history, such as the beginning of Islam, the Crusades, Genghis Khan, and the beginning of Israel in 1948. Each lecture is 10-20 minutes, giving you a fast overview of the issues to understand how they connect Middle East current events.
"The instructor clearly demonstrates the relevance of the topic to ongoing conflicts and issues in our world today. If you want to better understand the world or just like learning something new, do yourself a favor and buy this course!" -- Raj Lulla
Key idea:The Middle East has been important throughout world history due to its location at the crossroads of Europe, Asia, and Africa. This is the reason that so many empires in ancient history competed for its real estate. After this lesson, you will understand how ownership of key land has been at the center of Middle Eastern conflict from the beginning of civilization to the present day.
The ancient Middle East and Arabia were a turbulent multi-religious, multi-ethnic society that withstood outside rule because of its harsh climate and mobile people. After this lesson, you will understand the key ways that climate and geography can affect and shape a society.
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Muhammed was able to effectively lead a large, diverse populist movement because of, not in spite of, his humble background as an orphaned trader. After this lesson, you will understand how Muhammed's early life affected his career as a prophet and leader.
Muhammed is heavily revered in Islam for his life as a prophet, religious leader, teacher, moral example, and mediator of conflict. After this lesson, you will understand how the trials of Muhammed's early life enabled him to lead and unite Arabia, then a leaderless and decentralized part of the world.
Muslims revere the Qur'an more than Christians do the Bible or Jews the Torah; they nearly esteem it to the level that Christians do Jesus. After this lesson, you will understand the place of respect and authority that the Qur'an holds in Islam and the reason that Muslims have rioted in response to desecrations of this book throughout the last decade.
The conflict between Islam's two major sects - Sunni and Shia - has lasted for over 1,300 years and started with a war over control of the Caliphate. After this lesson, you will understand the diversity of belief in Islam and be able to make sense of the violent conflicts between Muslims in places like Iraq and Lebanon.
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In the Middle Ages the Middle East was the world's center for scholarship, culture, and science as Europe had barely emerged from the Dark Ages. After this lesson, you will understand how scientific golden ages come about, and why one such period occurred in the Middle East while it did not in Europe.
The Catholic Church mounted multiple military campaigns against Middle Eastern Islamic states to recapture Jerusalem (1195-1291). The crusaders ultimately failed in their objective, but they did leave the legacy of a deeper connection between the Middle East and Europe. After this lesson, you will understand how inter-religious wars are triggered and why the Crusades remain so vivid in European and Middle Eastern memory to this day.
Muslim treatment of Christian and Jewish subjects has been a mixed bag in history. Although Muslims didn't give anything like free expression of religion, in the Middle Ages a Christian or Jew had a better life under Muslim rule than vice versa. After this lesson, you will understand how to make sense of the rights of religious minorities today by understanding their situation in the past.
Genghis Khan rose from an obscure corner of the globe to create the world's largest empire, stretching from China to Eastern Europe. He is still revered in much of the Middle East and Central Asia as a great conqueror. After this lesson, you will understand how Genghis Khan shaped our modern world and how he has come to hold such a tremendous place of prestige in the Middle East, despite the fact that he was not a Muslim.
The Turkish Ottoman Empire controlled all the Middle East and a third of Europe for 400 years, connecting East and West. After this lesson, you will understand East-West interactions in the recent past and the political events that created the modern Middle East.
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The Middle East was reformed into its modern condition by British and French officials after its political collapse in World War I. After this lesson, you will understand how the modern Middle East was created and why many Middle Easterners distrust Western nations to this day.
Most Jews lived outside modern day Israel for thousands of years until they started to return there in the 1800s due to the influential ideas of Theodor Herzl, the founder of Zionism. After this lesson, you will understand what connects ancient and modern Israel, and to be aware of the unifying ideology of Israel today.
The population of Palestine shifted from Arab Muslim to Jewish following waves of Jewish immigrants, most of whom fled persecution in Europe, the Middle East, and Russia. After this lesson, you will understand how the demographics of the Middle East have shifted so dramatically, and why Jews have flocked to a place surrounded by unfriendly neighbors.
Israel became a state due to British support for a Jewish homeland. The British tried to mediate peace between Jews and Muslims in Palestine but failed. After this lesson, you will understand the history of Israel's relationship with the West and why many Middle Easterners think Western support for Israel comes at their expense.
Israel's rocky transition from British protectorate to independence created a hostile relationship with its neighbors and turbulent circumstances for Palestinians. After this lesson, you will understand the formation of the State of Israel and the origin and nature of its land feud with Palestine.
Although surrounded by hostile neighbors, Israel has been able to defend itself due to a superior military and a society trained for war. After this lesson, you will understand how Israel defends itself militarily and why this defense strategy complicates relationships between Israel and its neighbors.
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"Islamism" - the concept of Islam as the organizing point of all society - rose during the 20th century in the face of Western colonialism, Arab nationalism, and Saudi funding. After this lesson, you will understand the origins of political Islam and why it is such a unifying force across nations for hundreds of millions of people as well as what effect it has on Western nations.
The discovery of oil in the Arab Peninsula transformed the region, made leaders obscenely rich, and created a symbiotic relationship between Middle East producers and Western consumers. Petrol dollars have also supported terrorism and extreme ideology. After this lesson, you will understand that you are intimately involved in this relationship every time you fill up at the pump.
The fundamental conflict between Israelis and Palestinians comes down to one question: who owns the land? Both sides claim a right to the region by ancient heritage, and both view the other side as trespassers. After this lesson, you will understand why many Israelis and Palestinians are committed to claiming the land as theirs, even to the point of death.
Iran became a full-fledged theocracy in 1979 when it overthrew its dictatorial leader and replaced him with Islamic cleric Ayatollah Khomeini. Four decades later, Iran's present instability is causing some analysts to wonder if another revolution is around the corner. After this lesson, you will understand how revolutions in the Middle East spread and what role Western nations have played in these radical shifts of power.
Outside parties have negotiated peace between Israel and Palestine multiple times since 1948. While marginal progress has been made, each round of peace talks has eventually collapsed and violence between the two groups resumed. After this lesson, you will understand why peace treaties have failed between Israel and Palestine time and time again.
The rise of terrorism in the 20th century means that conflict has moved away from showdowns between established armies to violent acts against civilians perpetrated by fringe figures and rogue ideologues. After this lesson, you will understand the origins of modern terrorism and the conditions that allow its spread.
Aided by social media such as Twitter and Facebook, protests and revolts swept the Middle East in 2011 due to long-term resentment against corruption, high unemployment, poverty, and human rights violations. After this lesson, you will understand how Internet-age uprisings start, and how unstable repressive regimes in the Middle East have become susceptible to decentralized networks of dissatisfied youths.
With major social and demographic changes ahead, the Middle East is at a crossroads. Some states may evolve into free societies, while others are likely to stay mired in underdevelopment. After this lesson, you will understand that the destiny of Western countries is now intertwined more than ever with that of the Middle East. In certain ways its future is our future.
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Michael Rank is a PhD in Middle East history. He studied at Central European University in Budapest, Hungary and holds an MA in Ottoman History from Bilgi University in Istanbul, Turkey. His research project is on Christian-Muslim intellectual and religious history in late Ottoman Istanbul. Michael has taught courses in Hungary, Turkey, and the United States on Middle East History, International Affairs, Intercultural Studies, and American History. Prior to joining academia, he worked as a journalist in Istanbul where he reported on religion and human rights in the Middle East.
Michael is the author of 12 books, including "From Muhammed to Burj Khalifa: A Crash Course in 2,000 Years of MIddle East History,"; "The Crusades and the Soldiers of the Cross"; and "The Most Powerful Women in the MIddle Ages: Queens, Saints, and Viking Slayers, From Empress Theodora to Elizabeth of Tudor."
He lives in Istanbul with his wife and two daughters.