Science, Technology, and Medicine in the Modern Middle East ESH4080

  • Academic Session: 2023-24
  • School: School of Social and Political Sciences
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 4 (SCQF level 10)
  • Typically Offered: Semester 2
  • Available to Visiting Students: Yes

Short Description

This course will explore the role of science, technology, and medicine in the transformation of the modern Middle East and North Africa, c. 18th-20th centuries. It will examine the economic, social, cultural, and religious impacts of scientific developments and focus, in particular, on the role European colonialism played in shaping scientific practice and discourse in the region. Repercussions for existing categories of knowledge, healing, and traditions of learning will also be explored.


Lecture: one hour per week. Seminar: one hour per week. One group archival workshop and one individual tutorial to be scheduled during the semester. Please note this course does not run every session. For further information please check the ESH Moodle.

Requirements of Entry

Enrolment in an MA (SocSci); MA (Arts) Honours Programme; BSc (MedSci) Honours in Medical Humanities

Excluded Courses





■ One critical summary of two items of scholarly literature chosen from a selection provided (1250 words +/- 10% exclusive of footnotes and bibliography) = 30%

■ One source analysis chosen from a selection provided (1250 words +/- 10% exclusive of footnotes and bibliography) = 30%

■ One course diary (1500 words +/- 10% exclusive of footnotes and bibliography) = 40% 

Are reassessment opportunities available for all summative assessments? Not applicable for Honours courses

Reassessments are normally available for all courses, except those which contribute to the Honours classification. For non-Honours courses, students are offered reassessment in all or any of the components of assessment if the satisfactory (threshold) grade for the overall course is not achieved at the first attempt. This is normally grade D3 for undergraduate students and grade C3 for postgraduate students. Exceptionally it may not be possible to offer reassessment of some coursework items, in which case the mark achieved at the first attempt will be counted towards the final course grade. Any such exceptions for this course are described below. 

Course Aims

The aim of this course is to introduce students to the social and economic history of the modern Middle East and North Africa through the lens of science, technology and medicine. In doing so, the course aims to encourage critical engagement with salient debates in scholarly literature and with primary research material and to facilitate discussion and dissemination of ideas in lecture and seminar discussion and coursework.


The course will take a thematic approach that ranges across imperial and regional boundaries, including topics such as cross-cultural exchange and continuity of indigenous traditions; military, bureaucratic, and educational reform efforts by the Ottoman state; the emergence of scientific tools of state-building such as vaccination and urban planning; gender, faith, and sickness and healing; the spread of communication networks; and the political ecologies of oil and water in the region.

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of this course students will be able to:

■ Explain how science, technology, and medicine shaped the social and economic transformation of the modern Middle East by deploying concrete examples orally and in writing

■ Apply critical rubrics to interpret primary sources, including sources located in archival and museum settings, and to summarise arguments in scholarly literature

■ Assess the repercussions of scientific developments for existing categories of knowledge, traditions of learning, and socio-political structures in the modern Middle East

■ You will also learn about the positionality (overlapping identities and privileges, or lack thereof) of researchers with respect to their research and sources, and about the diversity of historians' everyday work.

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits

Students must submit at least 75% by weight of the components (including examinations) of the course's summative assessment.