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americans in the middle east

Students in DC



Course Dates:

May 19 - May 30, 2014

Course times:

10:00 to 12:00 and 1:30 - 3:30

please note:

This intensive two-week course meets off grounds in Washington DC

hist 3775: americans in the middle east


Recent leaks about the National Security Agency  have alerted citizens to Americans' covert activities in the Middle East.  Yet these are just the tip of the iceberg.  For 200 years American educators, missionaries, spies, entrepreneurs, diplomats and soldiers have molded a rich (and not always negative) relationship with the peoples of the Middle East and their governments.  We meet in Washington DC for two weeks to conduct real archival research on Americans in the Middle East at the Library of Congress and the National Archives.  Students get a behind-the-scenes look at how records are kept and how secrets are revealed.  On one level, we investigate the road to the 9/11 attacks, which first prompted many citizens to ask "Why do they hate us?"  On another level,  we investigate how international relations are determined not solely by the Pentagon or State Department, but by an array of civilian interests as well.   In contrast to literary approaches that have catalogued a history of how Americans imagined the Middle East, we will focus on concrete, personal encounters, and how these were shaped by historical context. Readings begin with a history of 19th-century American pilgrimages to the Holy Land and end with an account of Americans' involvement in the Iraq War.  To get a sense of how this history bears on relations today, we will also meet with Americans who shape policy at the State Department, in Congress, and in the world of think tanks inside the Beltway.

This is an intensive 10-day course.  Students are required to read a total of 1,000 pages (some of which can be read ahead of time).   Class time runs from 9am to 3pm daily, with a lunch break.  We begin each morning with a discussion of readings, then proceed to lectures by the instructor or guest speakers, and visits to archives and libraries.  The final four days of the course will be spent entirely on archival research and writing of a 15-page paper or research report. Grades will be based on: class discussion, 30%; in-class exercises and essays, 30%; final paper, 40%.  Past student papers have focused on diverse topics, including the efforts of Clara Barton and the Red Cross to minister to Armenians in 1890s Anatolia,the role of a professor at the American University of Beirut in Eleanor Roosevelt's project for the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights, the spy career of an American oil executive in 1940s Iran and Arabia, the history of the U.S. Agency for International Development in the Middle East.

UVA Today Article of the course taught in January Term. D.C.-based January Term Course Examines Role of U.S. in Middle East

Application Required

Thank you for your interest in this course. Please answer the questions below and email to me with the subject line HIST 3775 Enrollment Questionnaire. I will read your answers and finalize enrollment on May 1, 2014. Students will not enroll through SIS self-service, but will be enrolled administratively by the Summer and Special Academic Programs staff on May 15, 2014.

A course fee of approximately $840 will be charged to your student account at the time of enrollment. This fee covers housing, transportation costs while in Washington DC, and some group meals. Transportation to and from Washington DC is not included in this fee.

If you have any questions about the course, please email me at:

Elizabeth F. Thompson

  1. Name?

  2. Major and year?

  3. Have you taken any courses at UVa on the Middle East? If so, please list them.

  4. Have you written a long seminar paper (20 pages or more) before? On what topic

  5. What motivated you to take this course (please write a paragraph).

  6. Housing is in a hotel in DC near the Woodrow Wilson Center. To keep costs down we will have two students per room. Are you comfortable with this arrangement?

Tuition and Fees:

Virginia Resident

Tuition $334 per Credit
Summer Fee  
*Course Fee
Virginia Resident Total

Non Virginia Resident

Tuition $1,176.00 per Credit
Summer Fee  
*Course Fee
Non-Virginia Total Costs

*Approximate fee

Northen Virginia residents who wish to commute from home may do so.


Elizabeth Thompson
Associate Professor of History