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Middle Eastern History

Expand your knowledge of Middle Eastern history, beginning with some of the world’s earliest civilizations, the development of three of the world’s primary monotheistic religions, the establishment of Islamic empires, and the internal conflicts that have been the hallmark of the region since the break-up of the Ottoman Empire after World War I.

One of the earliest world civilizations is the Sumerian civilization, which began in Mesopotamia (the land between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers) around 3000 BCE. The Sumerians are credited with many innovations, including the invention of the wheel, large-scale irrigation, and the development of cuneiform. Other famous empires from ancient times include those of the Babylonians, the Hittites, and the Assyrians, each of which arose as the previous empire was conquered.

In the sixth century BCE, the Persian Empire began a period of expansion to become the largest empire in the world, stretching from northwestern India to Thrace. In the first century BCE, however, the region of the Middle East would come under the influence of two foreign empires: the Macedonian Empire, followed by the Roman Empire. During the Roman period, followers of the Jewish prophet Jesus Christ established the religion that would be known as Christianity in the area of present-day Israel, which was also the birthplace of the more ancient religion of Judaism. The new religion quickly spread through the region as persecution disseminated its adherents.


In the seventh century CE, a new monotheistic religion arose in the Middle East: Islam. This faith would have the greatest impact on the region, as Islam’s founding prophet, Muhammad, spread the religion through conquest of the Arabian Peninsula. Shortly after Muhammad’s death in 632 CE, controversy over succession to his position as caliph, or the spiritual and political leader of Muslims, resulted in a split of the religion into two distinct sects: the Sunnis and the Shi`as.

Through the eighth century, the Islamic empire spread north and west, overtaking the Persian Empire, invading the Byzantine Empire, sweeping across North Africa, and even making incursions into Europe—most notably in Spain. The eighth-century became known as the Islamic Golden Age, when caliphs supported a culture of learning that produced many notable Islamic scholars. The empire’s location along key trades routes, including the Silk Road that linked East and South Asia to the Mediterranean and beyond, enriched Islamic merchants.

The Islamic Golden Age effectively ended with the invasion of the Mongols from Asia, who captured the capital of the Abbasid caliphate, Baghdad, and killed the caliph in 1258. But a new Islamic power was to emerge in the frontier area between the Byzantine Empire and the Mongol Empire in present-day Turkey: the Ottoman Empire. Founded by Turkish leader Osman I (1254–c. 1326), this budding empire declared its independence from the Mongol Empire in 1299 and expanded to eventually topple the Byzantine Empire in 1453 with the capture of the Byzantine capital of Constantinople. By the late sixteenth century, the Ottoman Empire stretched from Eastern Europe, across North Africa, and well into Asia, becoming a world superpower.

Starting in the eighteenth century, the Ottoman Empire was weakened by conflicts with European powers to the point that, by the nineteenth century, it was known as the “Sick Man of Europe.” As part of the losing side of World War I (1914–1918), the Ottoman Empire had its territories divided by Great Britain and France, who established a mandate system to govern the Middle East.

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Middle Eastern History Resources

Gale provides scholarly resources, including databasesprimary source archives, and eBooks, to advance researchers' studies.


Gale databases offer researchers access to credible resources, including Middle East studies journals and other international journals, covering many history topics, from newspapers, articles, and more, aligned with lesson plans for teaching and guides for additional research to support Middle East studies and Islamic studies.

Primary Source Archives

Gale Primary Sources contains full-text archives and digitized literature that provide researchers with firsthand articles from Middle East collections and Middle East primary sources to drive research at your university.

Gale eBooks

Gale offers a variety of eBooks covering a wide range of Middle East studies topics, including Arabic history, Arab studies, Islamic studies, and more. Users can add Gale eBooks to a customized collection and cross-search to pinpoint relevant content. Workflow tools help users easily share, save, and download articles.

  • Ancient Egypt: Facts and Fictions, 1st Edition

    Ancient Egypt: Facts and Fictions, 1st Edition

    ABC-CLIO  |  2019  |  ISBN-13: 9781440854941

    With its pyramids, mummies, and sphinxes, ancient Egypt has fascinated us for centuries. It has been the setting of many films and novels, figuring prominently in popular culture. Much of what the average reader believes about this civilization, however, is mistaken. Through a unique collection of primary source documents, this book critically examines several topics related to ancient Egypt about which misconceptions abound. Primary sources, many in new translations by the author, are drawn from ancient Egyptian, classical Greek and Roman, Muslim, early Christian, and modern European documents. They shed light on popular misconceptions about the divinity of the pharaoh, the role of animals in ancient Egyptian religion, the purpose of the pyramids, the use of slave labor, the Egyptian hieroglyphic writing system, the role of Cleopatra in the defeat of Marc Antony and the fall of the Roman Republic, and the influence of Egyptian religion on the development of early Christianity.

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  • Cause & Effect: Modern Wars: The Persian Gulf War, 1st Edition

    Cause & Effect: Modern Wars: The Persian Gulf War, 1st Edition

    ReferencePoint Press  |  2018  |  ISBN-13: 9781682821671

    The invasion of oil-rich Kuwait by its neighbor Iraq in the summer of 1990 posed a strategic and political problem for the United States, as well as American allies in the Middle East. Through thoughtful narrative supported by fully documented quotes, this title begins with A Brief History of the Persian Gulf War, and then examines these questions: How Did Oil Politics Fuel the Gulf War? How Did the Cold War's End Influence the Persian Gulf Conflict? What was the Result of Basing US and Coalition Troops in Saudi Arabia? What Followed from Allowing Saddam Hussein's Regime to Survive?

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  • Exploring World Cultures: Turkey, 1st Edition

    Exploring World Cultures: Turkey, 1st Edition

    Cavendish Square Publishing  |  2019  |  ISBN-13: 9781502638212

    Spanning the border between Europe and Asia, Turkey is a nation with many cultural influences. These ancient influences are explored in depth, along with descriptions of what the culture of Turkey looks like today. This book presents a close look at everything from Turkey's geography and environment to its food and art.

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  • Iran Rising: The Survival and Future of the Islamic Republic, 1st Edition

    Iran Rising: The Survival and Future of the Islamic Republic, 1st Edition

    Princeton University Press  |  2019  |  ISBN-13: 9780691184197

    Forty years after the 1978–79 Iranian revolution, this book offers a definitive political picture of the Islamic Republic. When Iranians overthrew their monarchy, rejecting a pro-Western shah in favor of an Islamic regime, many predicted that turmoil would paralyze the country for decades. Yet forty years later, Iran has emerged as a critical player in the Middle East and the world, as demonstrated in part by the 2015 international nuclear agreement. This book, by a renowned Iran specialist, describes how the country has managed to survive despite ongoing domestic struggles, Western sanctions, and countless other serious challenges. Iran’s accomplishments have cost its people, who are desperately pressuring ruling clerics for economic and social reforms, which in turn could influence foreign policy. Amid heightened global anxiety over alliances, terrorism, and nuclear threats, the book offers essential reading for understanding a country that, more than ever, is a force to watch.

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  • Making the Arab World: Nasser, Qutb, and the Clash That Shaped the Middle East, 1st Edition

    Making the Arab World: Nasser, Qutb, and the Clash That Shaped the Middle East, 1st Edition

    Princeton University Press  |  2018  |  ISBN-13: 9781400890071

    This title discusses how the conflict between political Islamists and secular-leaning nationalists has shaped the history of the modern Middle East. In 2013, just two years after the popular overthrow of Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian military ousted the country’s first democratically elected president—Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood—and subsequently led a brutal repression of the Islamist group. These bloody events echoed an older rift in Egypt and the Middle East: the splitting of nationalists and Islamists during the rule of Egyptian president and Arab nationalist leader Gamal Abdel Nasser. The author tells how the clash between pan-Arab nationalism and pan-Islamism has shaped the history of the region from the 1920s to the present. Based on a decade of research, including in-depth interviews with many leading figures in the story, the book is essential for understanding the roots of the turmoil engulfing the Middle East, from civil wars to the rise of Al-Qaeda and ISIS.

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