First Year - Junior Fresh

In the first year students take 3 modules in each semester (Michaelmas Term and Hilary Term), in the origins of Ancient Near Eastern, medieval and modern Middle Eastern, Jewish and Islamic civilizations. Exploration of these histories, cultures and societies uses literature, inscriptions, and archaeological evidence as well as exploring contemporary .

The World of the Pharaohs: Introduction to Ancient Egypt (MT)

Visually stunning and abundantly documented, Ancient Egypt is perennially fascinating.  But as well as being a land of spells, hieroglyphs and buried gold, it is also one of the world’s earliest states – one which exercised a high degree of control over its citizens, and which politicised literacy.  Attempting to do justice to both the dream-like and the practical facets, this one-term course will give you an all-round introduction to Egyptian culture and history, embracing multiple themes (such as art, society, and religion) and tracing them through time, with attention to how things changed.  Much emphasis will be placed on the close interpretations of primary sources (in translation), training you for work in future years.  Along the way, you will meet a good number of things you might have expected, such as gods, pharaohs and pyramids, but also some you might not – such as Nile flood levels, Palestinian donkey burials, and garbage in 1970s Arizona.  

Introduction to the History of the Ancient Near East (MT)

This module examines the region of Mesopotamia and the Mediterranean between 1500 BCE to 100 CE.
Topics include:
Introduction to Mesopotamia and the Mediterranean world,
The Neo Assyrians and their Empire – 900 to 600 BCE,
The Neo Babylonians and their rule – 600 to 537,
The Achaemenid Persian Empire – 537-333BCE,
The Hellenistic Empires,
The Seleucid and Ptolemaic Empires, and The Romans and Parthians

Introduction to Jewish History and Culture (MT)

This module is designed to facilitate the study of Jewish life, thought and culture from antiquity to the present looking at key centres of Jewish life across the world. In weekly seminars, we trace how historical changes and contexts reshape Jewish life and thought through our engagement with a wide range of sources, including ancient documents, rabbinic texts, philosophical and political writings, fiction, film, and journalistic writings.

Introduction to the Modern Middle East (HT)

This module provides an introductory understanding of the processes that shaped the modern Middle East from the turn of the 20th century to today. It seeks to engage with the history of the region from within as it examines themes like colonialism, nationalism, international relations, social and political movements and intellectual trends. This module will provide a foundation for more advanced discussions of politics and society in the region.

Introduction to Islamic Civilisations (HT)

This module is an introduction to Islam.  We will begin with the study of pre-Islamic Arabia and the life of Prophet Muhammad. We will then look at the five pillars of Islam and Islam’s foundational texts: the Qur’an and the Hadith literature.
Class discussions will also address historical and contemporary topics such as the Story of Creation, the Sunni and Shi’a traditions, as well as debates around Islam and politics and Islam and human rights.   Portions of the module will be supplemented with a trip to the Chester Beatty Library and a Dublin mosque.

Literary Cultures of the Middle East and North Africa (HT)

Writing is something we all take for granted.  But we shouldn’t: it is one of the oldest technologies used by human societies, and also one of the most important.  Originating with the cuneiform script of ancient Iraq over five thousand years ago, and then closely followed in time by Egyptian hieroglyphs, writing stimulated the emergence of literate elites, catalysed the emergence of institutions, and revolutionised how humans learn and think.  It played an important part in the growth of the State, and the modern world would be unthinkable without it.  The role of Middle Eastern cultures in this story has been huge: not only did the idea of writing originate in the region, the very alphabet we use today did too.  (If you turn the letter A 90 degrees to the left, you will see it is a picture of an ox’s head, with two horns; this is because the Phoenician word for ox was ‘aleph’). Moreover, the Middle East gave the world the ‘sacred books’, which have been at the heart of worldwide sociocultural politics for the last two millennia. The story of writing in the Middle East thus offers a window onto what it means to be human. This module examines cultural, religious and political expression in the Middle East and North Africa through the study of a variety of written sources from antiquity to the present. Sources that we study in weekly seminars include ancient tablets, papyri, scrolls, libraries, medieval manuscripts, inscriptions, newspapers, blogs, and graffiti.