BA Art History and History / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Histories of the Islamic World

Course unit fact file
Unit code HIST10172
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 1
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by History
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.



HIST10171 is restricted to History programmes, History joint-honours programmes, R&T programmes, and CAHAE History single-honours programmes (please check your programme regulations for further details).





The course aims to meet the following objectives: 

  • To provide a history of Islam and its influences across and beyond the Middle East. 

  • To introduce students to major developments in politics, society, and culture in the Islamic world and Islamic societies. 

  • To question positive and negative misconceptions about Islam and its civilizations; to make connections between these fallacies and how Islam has been interpreted through time. 

  • To expose students to major themes in non-Western and world history and foster comparison between different regions of the world. 

  • To refine your skills in reading and source analysis, note taking, argumentation, and academic writing. 

  • To develop your ability to think critically and humanely about our past, and, by extension, to apply this ability to problems in the here-and-now. 


Knowledge and understanding

By the end of the module 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 distinguish, through our readings, between primary and secondary sources; and to begin to develop a critical ability to read and deal with historical primary sources. 

Intellectual skills

Students will 

  • 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 involve 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 45%
Source Analysis Essay 45%


Feedback methods

Feedback method

Formative or Summative

Oral feedback in seminar discussions


Written feedback on all coursework and assessments


Additional one-to-one feedback (during consultation hour or by making an appointment)



Recommended reading


Choueiri, Youssef M., ed. A Companion to the History of the Middle East. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2005.

Gelvin, James. The Modern Middle East: A History, 4th ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015.

Robinson, Francis. Islam and Muslim History in South Asia. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.

Laura Veccia Vaglieri, “The Patriarchal and Umayyad Caliphates,” in The Cambridge History of Islam, Vol. 1A, eds., P.M. Holt, Ann K.S. Lambton and Bernard Lewis (Cambridge: University Press, 2005): 57- 103.

Fred McGraw Donner, The Early Islamic Conquests (Princeton, NJ: University Press, 1981).

Irfan Shahid, “Pre-Islamic Arabia,” in The Cambridge History of Islam, eds., P.M. Holt, Ann K.S. Lambton and Bernard Lewis (Cambridge: University Press, 2005): 3-29.

Montgomery Watt, “Muhammad,” in The Cambridge History of Islam, eds., P.M. Holt, Ann K.S. Lambton and Bernard Lewis (Cambridge: University Press, 2005): 30-56.

H.R. Roemer, “The Safavid Period,” in The Cambridge History of Iran, Vol. 6, eds., Peter Jackson and Laurence Lockhart (Cambridge: University Press, 2006): 189-350.


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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