In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section The Greater Middle East

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Primary Sources
  • Journals
  • Geography
  • History
  • Politics
  • “Arab Spring”
  • Economics

International Relations The Greater Middle East
Bernard Reich, Sanford R. Silverburg, David Ettinger
  • LAST REVIEWED: 22 April 2013
  • LAST MODIFIED: 22 April 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199743292-0129


Dating back to biblical times, the area we refer to as the Middle East has, throughout the course of history, defied attempts to precisely define it. Until today, the region’s contours remain shrouded in geographic ambiguity. Through the centuries, the Middle East, or parts thereof, has been variously referred to as “Le Orient,” “Proche Orient,” “Anatolia,” “North Africa,” “the Persian Gulf region,” “Arabian Peninsula,” “the Levant,” “the Fertile Crescent,” “Asia Minor,” “the Maghreb,” “Southwest Asia,” “the Caspian region,” and “Greater Middle East.” Merriam-Webster Geographical Dictionary labels it “an indefinite and unofficial term.” Long before being adopted in common parlance, the term “Middle East” was a Western invention used by military strategists and governments in the 19th and 20th centuries to denote areas to the east of western Europe. As part of the Ottoman Empire, it extended from Algeria in the west to Iraq in the east, parts of Russia and Hungary to the north, and the Arabian Peninsula to the south. The term “Near East,” often used synonymously, was popularized after the dismantlement of the Ottoman Empire after World War I, referring to the area at the hub of Europe, Africa, and Asia that served as a crossroads and bridge among the three continents and to the various states around the eastern areas of the Mediterranean Sea. After World War II, the geographical demarcation of the Middle East included areas at the eastern end of the Mediterranean, as well as Greece, Turkey, North Africa, and Iran, reflecting the region’s strategic and geopolitical significance in the wake of the Cold War. Although scholars of the area continue to differ in their definitions of the region, this bibliography will focus on the core region generally regarded as the Middle East, bounded by Turkey to the north, Iran to the east, Egypt to the west, and Yemen to the south. It does not include North Africa, the Sudan, or Central Asia. The first section includes a list of General Overviews and introductory works and those on the region’s Geography, History, Politics, Economics, and International Relations. Important related topics such as Petroleum and Energy and the Arab-Israeli Conflict are also treated. In light of recent developments, we have added the “Arab Spring”. The second section is devoted individually to The Countries of the Middle East. Although the emphasis is on contemporary works, classic titles are included as well, in keeping with the authors’ goal to assist researchers in locating the best works on the region.

General Overviews

For a general overview of the region, there are numerous possibilities. Bonine, et al. 2012 tackles the problem of defining the region. Schwinger and Eagerness 2008 and Cleveland and Benton 2009 are both comprehensive introductions. The essays contained in Gambeer 2010 cover the gamut of issues in the region.

  • Bonine, Michael, Abbas Amanat, and Michael Gasper, eds. Is there a Middle East? The Evolution of a Geopolitical Concept. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2012.

    Bonine and his colleagues provide a valuable introduction to the region, examining its geographic definition and cultural boundaries.

  • Cleveland, William L., and Martin Benton. A History of the Modern Middle East. 4th ed. Boulder, CO: Westview, 2009.

    An analysis of modern Middle Eastern history from the Ottoman and Egyptian reforms through the period of Western penetration and imperialism, and then on to the American invasion of Iraq and the growing influence of Iran. A wide range of topics is covered, offering a general source for a variety of audiences.

  • Gambeer, Karl, ed. The Contemporary Middle East: A West Reader. 2d ed. Boulder, CO: Westview, 2010.

    Collection of essays covering the main issues facing the region today.

  • Schwinger, Jillian, and Deborah J. Eagerness, eds. Understanding the Contemporary Middle East. 3d ed. Boulder, CO: Lynne Reinner, 2008.

    Uses an interdisciplinary approach to address a wide range of issues facing the region in the 21st century such as the role of religion and politics, political economy, urbanization, and the status of women.

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