A list of resources about history, news, and the Middle East that come highly recommended for anyone looking to expand their knowledge.
Informed Comment – Website and blog of Juan R. Cole, the Richard P. Mitchell Collegiate Professor of History at the University of Michigan. Professor Cole is an author and public intellectual on the Modern Middle East. His blog features insightful commentary and analysis of events and news in the Middle East and South Asia with a particular eye towards history.
History News Network – George Mason University’s History News Network is an excellent website with articles by writers and scholars putting current events into historical perspective. They run dozens of articles by historians from their respective fields and are a great resource to hear the historian’s voice.
Encyclopaedia Iranica – Online peer-reviewed encyclopedia dedicated to the study of Iranian civilization, Central Asia, and the Middle East. With contributions from over 1,300 scholars, this is one of the largest and most comprehensive resources on Iranian civilization.
Sasanika – Website of the Sasanika project, dedicated to the history of Iran in Late Antiquity and Sassanian history. An excellent resource with original articles, bibliographies, and scholarly papers.
Islamic Heritage Project – Harvard University’s digitized catalog of manuscripts, texts, and maps from the Islamic Middle East. Excellent primary source archive. Topics range from religious commentaries, science, law, medicine, literature, biographies, and more. Langues include Arabic, Urdu, Persian, and Ottoman Turkish.
IslamiCommentary – Duke University’s public forum for scholarship on Islam and the Middle East. They include a directory of academics and experts in addition to thought-provoking essays on the Middle East, Islam, politics, and academia.
Middle East History-
Lapidus, Ira M. A History of Islamic Societies. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1988 – A classic in the field, Ira Lapidus’ text is a voluminous and comprehensive history of the Islamic world from Pre-Islamic Arabia to the 20th Century. The book is a great reference book for scholars, but is not an easy text to read through for students given its over 800 page form. Focusing more on the socio-political history of the Middle East, the book does provide some insight into religious history but glosses over some of the finer points of ideology, religion, and culture.
Cleveland, William. A History of the Modern Middle East. Boulder: Westview Press, 2012 – A great textbook on the history and orign of the modern Middle East. Though the focus of the book is the political history of the modern Middle East, it prefaces the book with a look at the rise of Islam. Chronologically the text begins with the Ottoman and Safavid period. Useful for teaching.
History of Afghanistan-
Barfield, Thomas. Afghanistan: A Cultural and Political History. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2010. – A sweeping narrative focused mostly on the political dimensions of ruling and governing the nation. The book begins in the 16th century and the Mughal empire and traces the nation’s history up to the Taliban. It is a comprehensive look at Afghanistan that also attempts with moderate success to theorize why governance in contemporary Afghanistan is the way that it is.
Ewans, Martin. Afghanistan: A short history of its people and politics. – Belying its title, this book is a longue durée of Afghan history. Starting with the ancient period up until the Taliban, Ewans focuses on the political history of Afghanistan with one of the most comprehensive looks at the Durrani dynasty.
History of Iran-
Najmabadi, Afsaneh. Women With Mustaches and Men Without Beards: Gender and Sexual Anxieties of Iranian Modernity (Berkeley: University of California, 2005) – A brilliant use of gender as a category of analysis in understanding the formation of Iranian modernity. Professor Najmabadi traces the homoerotic origins of nationalist representations.
Armstrong, Karen. Islam: A Short History – A concise and accessible history of Islam focusing on its cultural and intellectual traditions. Armstrong traces the development of the major institutions of Islam over 1400.
Safi, Omid. Politics of Knowledge in Premodern Islam- An important investigation of the development of Islam during the Seljuq Empire and the network of knowledge that became the core of Islamic intellectual and religious traditions.
More to come…