BA Art History and History

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Histories of the Islamic World

Course unit fact file
Unit code HIST21192
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Available as a free choice unit? No


Islam has deeply shaped the contours of our world for nearly 1500 years. Not only is it one of the largest faiths in human history, but its political, social, cultural, and intellectual ramifications have been vast. The Islamic world has historically reached far beyond the Middle East, its cradle, stretching from the Atlantic Ocean to Central Asia and from the steppes of Russia to the tropical forests of Indonesia and West Africa. This module examines Islam’s role in creating states, fostering trade, and circulating ideas throughout this region; it provides a key foundation for understanding how these transformations shaped our modern, globalised world.


Restricted to History programmes, History joint honours programmes and Classics and Ancient History programmes (please check your programme structure for further details).


  • To provide a history of Islam and its influences across and beyond the Middle East, and to introduce students to major developments in politics, society, and culture in the Islamicworld and Islamic societies.
  • To challenge older views of Islam and Islamic history, based on positive and negative misconceptions, through engagement with revisionist scholarship. 
  • To expose students to major themes in non-Western and world history and foster comparison between different regions of the world. 
  • To expose students to primary sources in the field and to the connection between primary source evidence and how Islamic history has been, and is, written. 
  • To refine your skills in reading and source analysis, note taking, argumentation, and academic writing.

Knowledge and understanding

By the end of the course, students will be able:

  • To grasp major themes in the Islamic world from its origins to the beginning of the modern period and be familiar with processes of historical change across the region.
  • To discern key patterns in non-Western history, to be comfortable with comparative analysis between different regions of the world, and to be sensitive to problems of historical comparison.
  • To recognise and understand major theoretical issues in non-Western history
  • To grasp scholarly debates on Islamic history and to assess and challenge older historiographical narratives.
  • To demonstrate a critical ability to read and deal with historical primary sources through source analyses.

Intellectual skills

By the end of the course, students will be able:

  • apply a range of theoretical approaches to a range of empirical case studies,
  • demonstrate their ability to bring the qualities of one to bear on the other, and
  • regularly practise how to extract arguments from academic writing.

Practical skills

Students will learn how to 

  • prioritise tasks, 
  • identify arguments in scholarly writing, 
  • write critically, and
  • engage in comparative analysis. 

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Critical reading ability 
  • Clear, precise writing ability
  • Ability to engage in critical discussions 

Employability skills

Especially at this moment of history, an understanding of the Islamic world is a key skill for many employment sectors. Finance and international trade increasingly involves contact with Islamic countries; Britain's large populations of Muslims makes Islamic history important for public-facing employment inside the U.K. This module develops the normal skills of a first-year history module of critical reading, writing, presentation, and analysis.

Assessment methods

Map quiz 10%
Weekly quizzes 40%
Essay 50%


Feedback methods

Feedback method

Formative or Summative

Oral feedback on group discussions and presentations


Written feedback on source analysis and essay


Written feedback on exam



Recommended reading

AHMED, Shahab. What is Islam? The Importance of Being Islamic (Princeton, 2015).

BOSWORTH, C.E. The New Islamic Dynasties: a Chronological and Geographical Manual (Edinburgh, 1996).

COOK, Michael, and Chase Robinson, eds. The New Cambridge History of Islam (Cambridge, 2009-10), 6 vols.

COOK, Michael. Commanding Right and Forbidding Wrong in Islamic Thought (Cambridge, 2000).

CRONE, Patricia. Medieval Islamic Political Thought (Edinburgh, 2004).

DALY, M.W., and Carl Petry, eds. The Cambridge History of Egypt (Cambridge, 1996). 2 vols.

ESPOSITO, John, ed. The Oxford History of Islam (Oxford, 1999).

FISHER, W.B., Richard Frye, et al, eds. The Cambridge History of Iran (Cambridge, 1968-75). 7 vols.

FLEET, Kate, Suraiya Faroqhi, et al, eds. The Cambridge History of Turkey (Cambridge, 2006-13). 4 vols. 

FLEET, Kate, Gudrun Krämer, et al, eds. The Encyclopaedia of Islam (Leiden, 2007-). Third edition. [Available online via library catalogue]

GIBB, H.A.R., ed. The Encyclopaedia of Islam (Leiden, 1954-2005). Second edition. 12 vols.

HODGSON, Marshall. The Venture of Islam: Conscience and History in a World Civilization (Chicago, 1977). 2 vols.

HUMPHREYS, R. Stephen. Islamic History: A Framework for Inquiry (Princeton, 1991).

LAPIDUS, Ira. Islamic Societies to the Nineteenth Century: a Global History (Cambridge, 2012).

SALVATORE, Armando, and Babak Rahimi, eds. The Wiley-Blackwell History of Islam (Hoboken, NJ, 2018). 

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 22
Seminars 11
Independent study hours
Independent study 167

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Ethan Menchinger Unit coordinator
Steven Pierce Unit coordinator

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