Middle East

The Middle East field in the Department of History at UCSB attracts graduate students working on periods ranging from the early Islamic period to the twentieth century. Our faculty specializes in a wide variety of periods and places, including medieval and early modern Egypt, Soviet Central Asia, US relations with Middle East in the Cold War era, political economy in Palestine, consumption and development in the twentieth century, gender and sexuality, and poverty in modern Egypt.

We encourage students to engage with other disciplines and research foci within and outside the Department of History, such as Medieval Studies, Cold War Studies, Religious Studies, Global Studies, and Gender and Sexuality Studies. In addition to those who wish to focus on the Middle East, we offer minor fields to students whose research and teaching would benefit from a knowledge of Middle Eastern history. Students interested in the Middle East should consider affiliating with UCSB’s Center for Middle East Studies.

History Faculty specializing in the Middle East include:

  • Debra Blumenthal studies the medieval Mediterranean, with a special interest in relations between Muslims, Christians, and Jews in al-Andalus.
  • Adrienne Edgar, who studies nationalism in Soviet Central Asia.
  • Adam Sabra, who has worked on poverty and charity in medieval Cairo, and is now working on elite families in Ottoman Egypt.
  • Sherene Seikaly is a historian of capitalism, consumption, and development in twentieth century Palestine and Egypt.
  • Salim Yaqub, who has written about US policy towards the Arab world during the Cold War, and is currently studying the influence of the Middle East on American domestic politics.


Nancy Gallagher has written on the history of medicine in Tunisia and Egypt, as well as on the role of the Quakers in the search for a peaceful resolution to the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Stephen Humphreys is the author of Islamic History: A Framework for Inquiry, among many other publications. His most recent research focuses on the Christians of Syria and Mesopotamia in the first four centuries of Islamic rule.

The full list of UCSB faculty with an interest in the Middle East can be found on the Center for Middle East Studies’ website.

Prospective graduate students should contact the faculty member whose research interests most closely resemble their own prior to applying.

It is absolutely crucial that graduate students wishing to focus on the Middle East acquire fluency in at least one Middle Eastern research language, if not more. Extensive language instruction in Arabic is available from the Department of Religious Studies, along with more limited options in Persian, Turkish, and other languages, subject to availability. Graduate students are also expected to acquire reading knowledge of the relevant European languages of scholarship.

Given the substantial increase in interest in the Middle East and Islamic world in recent years, we have enjoyed considerable success in placing graduates in tenure track teaching positions.
In addition to funding available from the Department of History, CMES offers funding for travel to students from various disciplines in Middle Eastern studies, including history.
CMES also sponsors many Middle East related lectures during the year. Graduate students in various disciplines organize a yearly Graduate Student Conference in Islamic Studies.

The following faculty are in this field

The following courses are in this field

  • History 145A The Islamic World, I: The Formation of Islamic Civilization, 600 to 1000
  • History 145B The Islamic World, II: Expansion and Consolidation, 1000 to 1700
  • History 200ME Historical Literature: Middle East
  • History 201ME Advanced Historical Literature – Middle East
  • History 245 Special Topics in Islamic History
  • History 245A Seminar in Islamic History
  • History 245B Seminar in Islamic History
  • History 246 Special Topics in Modern Middle Eastern History
  • History 246A Postcolonial and Postmodern Discourses on Africa and the Middle East: Points of Contention
  • History 246B Postcolonial and Postmodern Discourses on Africa and the Middle East: Points of Contention

Page last modified: June 25, 2021