• History of the Middle East and Islamic World

    Resources for educators to understand the origins and evolution of Islamic civilization and its place in global history

Pictured above: The famous hypostyle prayer hall and double arches of the Mosque–Cathedral of Córdoba in Spain

The fourteen-hundred year history of Islamic civilization and the incredible variety of human experience it encompasses can leave educators intimidated and unsure of how to approach it. The situation is further complicated by today's media lanscape, where misinformation about Islam and Muslims is everywhere. In this context, it is imperative for educators to have easy access to reliable and well-vetted educational resources on Islam's past as well as its present. If one of our shared goals is to expand students' horizons and cultivate their insights into the history of human societies on a global scale, teaching materials that efficiently and effectively introduce educators to the rich and complex history of Islamic civilization are an indispensible tool for the global history classroom.

Curricula, Teaching Modules, and Lesson Plans

  • Our Shared Past in the Mediterranean - The Ali Vural Ak Center for Global Islamic Studies (AVACGIS), with a grant in the “Our Shared Past” initiative from the British Council and the Social Science Research Council, assembled a team of distinguished Mediterranean historians and experienced world history curriculum developers to create resources for teaching about the role of the Mediterranean as a commercial and cultural ecosystem in past eras, as well as lesson materials on the present and prospects for the future. 
  • Rethinking the Region: New Approaches to 9-12 U.S. Curriculum on the Middle East and North Africa - The goals of this research and curriculum were to analyze the common categories used to describe and teach the "Modern Middle East and North Africa (MENA)" in existing U.S. World History textbooks, and to offer robust alternatives for Grade 9-12 teachers by integrating new scholarship on the region. This resource is a fully developed curriculum for high school teachers and students.
  • Teaching the Middle East: A Resource for Educators - This resource was written by many of the best scholars in the field of Middle Eastern studies and created in partnership with the National Endowment for the Humanities and three University of Chicago units, the Oriental Institute, the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, and the eCUIP Digital Library Project. The goal of "Teaching the Middle East: A Resource for Educators" is to provide teachers of Middle Eastern history and culture with a rich, reliable, and easily accessible resource that draws upon sound humanities scholarship to help build student understanding of Middle Eastern history and culture. Scholars from the University of Chicago developed this teacher resource to provide an overview of Middle Eastern cultures -- ancient, medieval, and modern -- and their contributions to the world.
  • Indian Ocean in World History - This online resource enables users to explore primary source historical evidence about interactions among people in the lands around the Indian Ocean throughout history. From earliest pre-historic times to the present, people have traveled around and on the Indian Ocean, traded, explored, and made use of its rich resources. In buried sites, shipwrecks, monuments, museum objects, documents and books, there is a huge and growing record of these interactions and exchanges. This site aims to provide students, teachers, and general audiences with a sampling of these primary sources.
  • World History For Us All - World History for Us All is a national collaboration of K-12 teachers, collegiate instructors, and educational technology specialists. It is a project of the National Center for History in the Schools, a division of the Public History Iniative, Department of History, UCLA. World History for Us All is a continuing project. Elements under development will appear on the site as they become available.


  • Islamic Civilization: An Introduction for Teachers of Global History - Composed by John Woods, University of Chicago professor and expert on the middle periods of Islamic history, this article identifies the elements of a common cultural and civilizational heritage shared across the Islamic world and Western Europe.
  • Jihad: Idea and History - This article by Patricia Crone, a prominent historian of early Islam, explains to a general audience the concept of jihad and the evolution of its meaning across pre-modern and modern Islamic civilization.
  • What Do We Really Know About Muhammad? - In this essay, Patricia Crone, a prominent historian of early Islam, assesses for a general audience what scholars know about the Prophet Muhammad as an historical figure.