What is the course about?
This course will provide students with an introduction to British archaeology in the Middle East during the early 20th century. We will explore the role of archaeologists in military conflict and especially intelligence gathering during First World War, in constructing the Mandates and consequently the nation states of the modern Middle East. In a time of spectacular discoveries archaeology made great strides as a profession while capturing the popular imagination like never before. From fashion to film, literature and interior design, students will traverse the lasting influence the distant past has had on modernity.
Please note: the second session of this course will involve a 1.5 hour trip to the British Museum after lunch. Please arrive at City Lit as normal for the start of the class.
What will we cover?
- The Ancient Near East: an overview
- The role of archaeologists in military conflict and intelligence gathering
- The creation of the Mandates and antiquities legislation
- The professionalization of archaeology in the interwar period
- Spectacular discoveries: The Royal Graves of Ur, Tutankhamun and the Indus Valley Civilization
- Archaeology and museum collecting.
What will I achieve?
By the end of this course you should be able to...
At the end of the course students will have an overview of the development of archaeology in the Middle East in the early 20th century. They will have gained an insight into the close connection between archaeology, international politics, travel and intelligence gathering. They will be able to identify key moments and themes in the history of Western interaction in the Middle East and the geographical and political importance of the region in the 20th century.
What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?
This is an ‘introductory’ course and does not assume any previous study or reading although you will need a good grasp of English to keep up with the course. You will gain more from the course, in terms of enjoyment and learning, if you are able and willing to do some supplementary reading. As with most of our history and current affairs courses, an open mind and a willingness to listen to and think about views with which you do not always agree are more important than specific levels of skills.
How will I be taught, and will there be any work outside the class?
A mixture of lecture and class discussion and a museum visit to the Ancient Near East Galleries at the British Museum. A comprehensive bibliography will be given at the beginning of the course. Further (brief) reading materials will be given at the end of the session. Please note that supplementary reading is not a course requirement, but you will get more out of the course if you do some extra reading.
Are there any other costs? Is there anything I need to bring?
A list of recommended reading material and recommended websites will be provided, but this is optional. Please bring pen and paper.
General recommended reading:
Bernhardsson, Magnus Thorkell. Reclaiming a Plundered Past: Archaeology and Nation Building in Modern Iraq. University of Texas Press, 2005.
Blom, Philipp. Fracture: Life & Culture in the West, 1918-1938. Atlantic Books, 2015.
Fagan, Brian M. Return to Babylon : Travelers, Archaeologists, and Monuments in Mesopotamia, Rev. ed. University Press of Colorado, 2007.
Meskell, Lynn, (ed.) Archaeology under Fire: Nationalism, Politics and Heritage in the Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East. Routledge, 1998.
Van De Mieroop, Marc. A History of the Ancient Near East, Ca. 3000-323 BC. 3rd ed. Blackwell, 2016.
When I've finished, what course can I do next?
Please check out our range of Politics and History courses on our website.