The diverse peoples of Southwest Asia and North Africa have a rich and remarkable history: they produced the earliest centers of agriculture-based civilizations and urban life, gave birth to the world's three monotheistic religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam), and served as the middlemen of the world economic system during the medieval and early modern periods. During the modern era, this region remained a center for attention but for different reasons: seminal colonial encounters beginning with Napoleon's invasion of Egypt, the discovery of oil and its impact on the world economy as well as the archetypal Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the Lebanese civil war. More recently, the Middle East became the key theater for US military operations following the profoundly important Islamic Revolution in Iran (1979). Indeed, the nature and future of US global dominance has been shaped by the Gulf War of 1991 and the invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003. This course outlines all of these key historical developments from the rise of Islam in the seventh century to the present. The first third of the course considers the significance of Islamic civilizations from a world historical perspective. The second third traces the construction of the modern state system from the late Ottoman era through the period of British and French colonial rule. The rest of the course introduces the key individuals, events and underlying forces which have shaped the politics, economics and cultures of the newly independent states of the Middle East. Biographies of ";ordinary"; people, novels, and films are used to foreground the voices of the inhabitants and to illustrate their attempts to shape the processes that affect their everyday lives.