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Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies


The following list is to help you explore Middle Eastern Studies before you arrive and contextualise what you will be studying. We suggest you read one book from the General section, to give you an overview, and then pursue whatever interests you. You also need to look carefully at the Language section.

Key Texts

  • Adam Silverstein, Islamic History: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press)
  • William L. Cleveland, Martin Bunton, A History of the Modern Middle East, Sixth edition (Westview Press 2016).
  • Roger Allen, An Introduction to Arabic Literature (Cambridge University Press, 2000)


You may find the following books interesting:

  • D. Brown, A New Introduction to Islam, Second Edition, Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell (2009).
  • F. Robinson (ed.), The Islamic World, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (1996).
  • T. Sonn, Islam: A brief History, second edition, Chichester: Wiley (2010).


You are expected to learn the Arabic script before you start your course. This means being comfortable with recognising the letters both in isolation and in any position in a word, and to have a rough idea of their sound and how to write them, although we will teach you handwriting and pronunciation as part of the course. You can download a worksheet which covers what we expect students to know before they start the course, and download the Script module here.

You may also/alternatively use a book, such as:

  • J. Wrightwick and M. Gaafar, Mastering Arabic, third edition, Palgrave Macmillan (2007), or Mastering Arabic Script by the same authors.

If you want to start getting a feel for the language Mastering Arabic would be a good book to start looking through, or any other introduction to Modern Standard Arabic or colloquial/spoken Egyptian Arabic.


  • R. Allen, An Introduction to Arabic Literature, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (2000).
  • A. J. Arberry, The Koran Interpreted, Oxford (1964).


  • S. Caton, Yemen Chronicle: An Anthropology of War and Meditation, Hill and Wang (2005). 


  • A. K. Bennison, The Great Caliphs: the Golden Age of the ‘Abbasid Empire, London (2009).
  • Jonathan Berkey, The Formation of Islam: Religion and Society in the Near East, 600-1800, Cambridge (2003).
  • William L. Cleveland, A History of the Modern Middle East, third edition, Boulder, Colorado (2004).
  • A. Hourani, A History of the Arab Peoples, Cambridge MA (1991).
  • H. Kennedy, The Great Arab Conquests, How the Spread of Islam Changed the World We Live in, De Capo Press (2007).
  • M. R. Menocal, Ornament of the World, New York (2002).
  • Charles D. Smith, Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict, Boston, Bedford/St. Martins, Palgrave, Macmillan; 6th Rev Ed (13 April 2007).