The course uses the 'theme' of British soldiers in Palestine to introduce students to the ideas and discussions surrounding human nature and organized violence: Why do human beings go to war? Why do human beings form governments? Do governments make the world more or less dangerous? This course also explores the ethical issues surrounding human violence and human political action, especially within the context of the Near East. Our particular tools for investigating these issues will be historical and literary biography, as well as archived audio and video materials. In addition to the required reading listed below, each student creates a unique reading list in consultation with the instructor; most of the books on the student's unique reading list will either be histories that look at British Palestine, or else books that examine human violence as a discreet phenomena or ethical problem.
The main requirements of the course are met by students reading a book each week and by submitting a weekly critique of the reading. Each of the weekly critiques is circulated to all the other members of the class who make annotations on style as well as substance. Thus, the class also serves as a lesson in professional writing practices.
The required readings begin with two short books to introduce particular themes and familiarize students with the region: English's Modern War and Bunton's The Palestinian-Israeli Conflict. We then use biography and autobiography to focus on two of the most mythologized soldiers in the history of the British Empire: T.E. Lawrence and Orde Wingate. Lawrence advocated for Arab nationalism in the First World War, while Wingate marshaled Zionism in the Second. The readings thereafter become more diverse, and the students have some influence on the process.
Following the approach of Professor William Roger Louis, the course seeks to enhance (1) intellectual curiosity; (2) conceptual clarity; (3) intellectual flexibility; (4) accuracy and attention to detail; (5) critical engagement; (6) capacity for hard work; (7) enthusiasm for history, literature, and politics; and (8) historical imagination and understanding, that is, the possession of appropriate historical knowledge and the capacity to deploy it. Students of psychology, violence, rhetoric, imperialism, political science, British history, and Middle Eastern studies will find the course useful.
For those interested, here is a copy of the syllabus: