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Middle East Studies: a guide to resources in English: Home

Selected English-language sources useful for the study of the Middle East and Islam

About this Site

This research guide aggregates English language resources useful for the study of the Middle East and Islam. The guide serves as an introduction to resources available through Cornell University Library system, as well as electronic resources available freely online.

What is the Middle East?


Historians, political scientists, and others have defined world regions in terms such as race & ethnicity, culture, language & linguistics, religion, historical unity, climatic similarity, and / or geographic compactness. One of the first questions encountered by anyone who wants to study the region is what the "Middle East" is, specifically what countries it involves. There is, however, a lack of consensus on one single definition of a region that after all stretches over three different continents; and people even refer to it variously by such terms as "Near East," "Mideast" or "Middle East." In modern times, the designation "Middle East," was applied by Westerners who viewed the area as midway between Europe and East Asia, which they call the Far East. There is at least agreement over the view that the Middle East is more than a mere geographical concept and that there are compelling historical, cultural, religious, political, social, and economic reasons for considering it as an entity apart.

It is not, for example, the land of the Arabs (millions of Turkic, Indo-European, and other non-Semitic peoples live in the region). It is not even, as many presuppose, the land of Islam (in terms of population and territorial size, the largest Islamic countries are outside of the traditional boundaries of the Middle East. Indonesia, India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan all have larger Muslim populations than any country in what we call the Middle East). Most of Iberia was under Islamic control for the better part of 700 years, and most of the Balkans for almost as long, but neither Spain, Portugal nor Romania has historically been considered to be a Middle Eastern country. Hence:

The Core

Bahrein; Egypt; Iran; Iraq; Israel; Jordan; Kuwait; Lebanon; Oman; Palestine; Qatar; Saudi Arabia; Syria; Turkey ; United Arab Emirates (federation comprised of seven sheikdoms: Ajman, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras al-Khaimah, Sharjah, and Umm al-Qawain); Yemen

The Periphery

The Caucusus: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia; .Central Asia: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan,Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Cyprus, .Horn of Africa: Djibouti, Eritrea, Somalia, Zanzibar (now part of Tanzania), .Maghreb: Algeria, Libya, Morocco & the Western Sahara, Tunisia, .Sahel & Sudan: Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Sudan, South Asia: Afghanistan, Pakistan.

For the purposes of Cornell Library's Middle East and Islamic Studies, the geographic areas covered include: Mauritania, Morocco and the Western Sahara, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, the Sudan, Turkey, Cyprus, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Palestine (e.g. the West Bank & Gaza), Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, Yemen, Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan.



The Department of Near Eastern Studies serves as the central hub of teaching and research on the Near East/Middle East for Cornell University.

Blog by The Middle East & Islamic Studies Librarian, highlights topics relevant to the study of the Middle East and Islam, and shares information regarding Cornell University Library’s programs and services.

The Middle East & Islamic Studies Librarian

Ali Houissa
174 Kroch Library
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY, 14853
Voice: (607) 254-1614 (607) 255-5752
Fax: 255-6110
Website / Blog Page
Subjects:Area Studies