The Middle East: Politics and Prospects

158,159 TUTOR: Stuart Laing

The course will cover the background to the conflicts and confrontations from which this vital region suffers. You will explore the issues that divide the area, and the politics whose outcomes affect us all. You will look at the personalities of the leaders in these vividly contrasting countries, from the wealth of the oil producers to the poverty of those stricken by war. You will consider the economic and social affairs of these countries, and prospects oil/gas-based economies as use of hydrocarbons as fuels declines. Finally, you will analyse the prospects for peace and recovery. The tutor, a former Ambassador in two Gulf countries, will take you through these absorbing and important questions.

2 AM
AM course
3 AM
AM course

Course Notes

The Middle East has for long been the focus of attention of world politicians - and sadly, also the location of much violence and destruction. This course offers an opportunity to look at the background to the area's current troubles, and to consider how the future might be shaped. On the five days we shall consider:

- How the countries of the Near and Middle East emerged from the Ottoman Empire, World War I and the Versailles settlement, the Mandate Period, and the middle of the 20th century (World War Two; the foundation of Israel; and the Arab-Israeli wars of 1948, 1967 and 1973).

- Economics: the development of the oil and gas industry, the use of "the oil weapon” in the hands of OPEC and OAPEC, and the effects of oil wealth in Middle Eastern societies.

- The emergence of al-Qaeda, IS, and other extremist organisations, and how this affected the region; the wars in Iraq, Syria and Yemen.

- The Arab Spring and its outcomes.

- The future: can the wounds be healed?

You need bring nothing other than a notebook (for your own notes, to supplement the handouts) and pen/pencil.

Course Tutor

Stuart Laing

Stuart Laing

About Stuart


The tutor is Stuart Laing, a writer and researcher on Arab history and Middle East politics. After a first career in the British Foreign Office, serving in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, and then as Ambassador in Oman and Kuwait, he was Master of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge from 2008 to 2018. His MPhil thesis was on the abolition of slave trading in the Indian Ocean, and he has published books on Omani-British history (Unshook Till the End of Time), and on Tippu Tip, the Arab ivory trader of the late 19th century.


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All courses run for 5 days

WK 1 8 Jul - 12 Jul

WK 2 15 Jul - 19 Jul

WK 3 22 Jul - 26 Jul

WK 4 29 Jul - 2 Aug

Morning Courses

9.15AM to 12.15PM

Afternoon Courses

1.45PM to 4.30PM

All Day Courses

9.15AM to 4.30PM