Monday, March 31, 2008

SCOTT POWELL HISTORY: LECTURE ONE

I will write posts on Scott Powell's history course, Islamist Entanglement, on a regular basis, at least one post every two weeks. I have to catch up a bit because Scott Powell has already presented the third lecture. The course started on February 20. Please click on the above link and check out a special offer for European customers.

Here is the course description from PowellHistory.com:

The Islamist Entanglement is the third installment of the A First History for Adults™ program, designed to help adults learn history. It is a 10 lecture course on the history of the interface between Western and Islamic civilization, which focuses on the modern history of that relationship, starting c.1700. The course begins with a discussion of the "Eastern Question," as it was called in European diplomatic circles, and charts the impact of Europe's empires on central Asia through to WWII. It then shifts in emphasis to the conduct of American foreign relations with the region in the context of the Cold War, and follows through to the present. Over the course of the ten lectures, the history of seven major Middle Eastern countries will be examined in turn: Turkey, Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, and Israel, with a 1.5 hour lecture dedicated to each. As the course proceeds, the differences and similarities between the various Islamic states will be examined, with the final aim of situating the current Middle Eastern crisis in its proper historical context.


In this first post I want only to touch briefly on the content in the first lecture, and instead point out how well structured the course is. I know already from the first lecture that I will learn much from this course.

You get plenty of resources as course material. In the outline, Scott Powell gives an introduction to the course and the power of historical knowledge, and then asking the Eastern question and Britain's answer and ultimate retreat from the Middle East. [Editor's comment: America will take Britain position later on and do similar mistakes... Do you know why America didn't help Great Britain in the Suez crisis of 1956?]

In addition to the outline, you get maps, visual outline with time periods (blank and with answers), internet resources, and recommended reading material.

The visual outline has the following time periods:

  • The background story: the Muslim threat to Europe (662 - 1529).
  • Early Western ascendancy (1415 - 1798). Read Scott Powell's post, Middle East Milestones: The Treaty of Karlowitz (1699).
  • The Middle East as a means to British ends (1798 - 1920).
  • Britain's retreat (1922 - 1979).

One great way of retaining the course is an active participation in the homework sessions by email (mailing list). The core in lecture one is the five milestones. From Scott Powell's email of February 26:

Could somebody please state, in essential terms, how 1798 and 1956 are milestones in Britain's involvement in the Middle East? Be as brief as possible, i.e. force yourself to essentialize. ([1hfa3-1] Homework: Britain and the Five Milestones, 02/26/08.)


The five milestones are:

  • 1683 - Failed Siege of Vienna by the Muslim Ottoman Turks. Western Ascendancy.
  • 1798 - Napoleon's Victory over the Muslim Mamelukes at the Battle of the Pyramids. Western Supremacy.
  • 1839 - Initiation of the "Tanzimat" Westernizing Reforms by the Ottoman Leadership. Modernization / Westernization.
  • 1956 - Nationalization of the Suez Canal by Egyptian Leader Gamal Adbel Nasser. Transition from Nationalism to Islamism.
  • 1979 - Overthrow of the pro-American Shah of Iran and Establishment of Islamist Government through the Iranian Revolution. [Editor's comment: The progression of the Islamization has been going on for almost 30 years. With this in mind, it is not strange what you see happening in today's world with issuing of fatwas, growing jihad movement with terrorist attacks, etc.)

During the recorded lecture, one course participant said that the Middle East is in the middle between Great Britain's movements in Europe and the Commonwealth's interest in India. [Editor's note: Could it be that the new superpower, America, is using the Middle East as a buffer against communism?]