As most of you know, Udemy is a platform where anyone can create a course and list it for sale to the public. Some are FREE, while others have various price points of $99, $199, $299 and up. Fortunately, it seems like Udemy is always having a sale, so if there’s a course you’re interested in, it might behoove you to wait a few days until there’s a discount. Of course, if you really want it, you can also just go and get it at that moment.
History of the Middle East, 600A.D. to Today, with Michael Rank ($19, for 13+ hours of lectures), is an interesting and timely course. (Also, timeless, since conflict in the middle east has been going on fairly consistently for hundreds of years.)
The course covers the period of 600 A.D. which is right around the time of Muhammad, to the rise of Islam and its quick spread throughout the region, the reasons for that, the war between Mecca and Medina and on. It’s also interesting to understand the importance of the Qur’an, which Muslims revere more than Christians worship the bible. It brings us up to the past 100 years, from World War I, through to the creation of Israel, and up to the present day. There’s also a brief bit on the future of the Middle East.
This is a reasonably long course, 25 lectures of 10-20 minutes each, which shouldn’t be surprising when covering 1500 years of history. But Michael Rank really delivers value with each lecture. The video is done as a slideshow, which the author using a voiceover. Both the audio-only version, and the individual slides, are available as a separate download.
There’s nothing really bad to say about this course. It’s aimed squarely at people who have an interest in history, and particularly an interest in the middle east. It’s detailed, and generally unbiased. It’s not a political commentary on the ongoing conflicts, but does shed a lot of light on the reasons behind the conflict.
For instance, many of the countries in the middle east have borders that were drawn arbitrarily, with no consideration to the people living there, or the natural terrain. So a country such as Iraq was drawn by Winston Churchill which contains three different religious groups (Sunnis, Shias and Kurds) has caused many decades of conflict and unrest within Iraq, and this required a dictator to force peace through brutal means. It’s very interesting how decisions made after the fall of the Ottoman Empire collapsed has had so many terrible consequences.
A funny story expressed in the course (which may not be true) is that the border of Jordan is so jagged because Winston Churchill had a few drinks for lunch, and wasn’t able to draw a straight line in the afternoon.
Anyways, if this seems interesting to you, check out the History of the Middle East on Udemy.