Middle Eastern Studies


Leiden is home to several famous and highly important collections in the field of Middle Eastern Studies, including both manuscripts and archaeological collections. Founded in 1575 and the oldest university in the Netherlands, Leiden University has always devoted particular attention to the Middle East. Renowned scholars such as J.J. Scaliger, whose expertise in the area of Middle Eastern languages was unequalled in Europe, worked here and trained generations of scholars.

Today, the MA in Middle Eastern Studies exposes you to research covering the history, literature, languages and politics of the Arab, Persian, and Turkish world, with a particular focus on the field of Islamic law, anthropology, philology and the modern Middle East.

Master details

  • Graad Master of Arts in Middle Eastern Studies
  • Onderwijsvorm Full-time
  • Duur 1 year
  • Start September, February
  • Taal English
  • Vestigingsplaats Leiden
  • Croho/isatcode 60842

Prof. Erik-Jan Zürcher

Erik-Jan Zürcher

“It is only possible to gain a better under-standing of present-day developments in the Middle East if you understand the historical background.”

“Leiden University enjoys a rich research tradition, and has a great many publications about Turkey to her name. The Turkish Languages and Cultures department is also well-known, particularly as text
books written in Leiden are used throughout the world.

This master’s programme focuses on the one hand on the origin of the modern Turkish nation state, and, on the other, on Turkey and the Ottoman Empire and their relationship to Europe. I myself am fascinated by the Middle East and by modern history, in particular the period around World War I. This makes Turkey a rewarding subject for study.

Until the First World War, the greater part of the Middle East belonged to the Ottoman Empire. Around 1918, the great empires came to an end: not only the Ottoman Empire, but also the German
Empire, the Hapsburg Empire and the Romanov Dynasty in Russia. The centuries-old multicultural Ottoman Empire was transformed into the modern mono-cultural republic of Turkey.

As a result of the start of accession talks between Turkey and the EU, the number of students with an interest in political science has been growing of late, but teaching in the MA specialisation Turkish Studies focuses primarily on the language, history and cultural heritage of Turkey. I firmly believe that it is only possible to gain a better understanding of present-day developments in the Middle East if
you understand the historical background.

Turkey is two things at the same time: a young state which has been created by a political elite, but also an ancient state, heir to the Ottoman Empire, which
existed for six hundred years. This has left its mark on the country.”

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