Faculty Profile

David Commins

Professor of History, Benjamin Rush Chair in the Liberal Arts and Sciences (1987)

Contact Information


Denny Hall Room 205


His teaching interests are in modern Middle Eastern history with an emphasis on Islamic thought and political movements. His most recent book is Islam in Saudi Arabia. His other books are The Gulf States: A Modern History, The Wahhabi Mission and Saudi Arabia, Historical Dictionary of Syria, and Islamic Reform.


  • B.A., University of California at Berkeley, 1976
  • Ph.D., University of Michigan, 1985

2015-2016 Academic Year

Fall 2015

FYSM 100 First-Year Seminar
The First-Year Seminar (FYS) introduces students to Dickinson as a "community of inquiry" by developing habits of mind essential to liberal learning. Through the study of a compelling issue or broad topic chosen by their faculty member, students will: - Critically analyze information and ideas - Examine issues from multiple perspectives - Discuss, debate and defend ideas, including one's own views, with clarity and reason - Develop discernment, facility and ethical responsibility in using information, and - Create clear academic writing The small group seminar format of this course promotes discussion and interaction among students and their professor. In addition, the professor serves as students' initial academic advisor. This course does not duplicate in content any other course in the curriculum and may not be used to fulfill any other graduation requirement.

MEST 121 Middle East to 1750
Cross-listed with HIST 121-01.

HIST 121 Middle East to 1750
Cross-listed with MEST 121-01.

HIST 371 The Arab-Israeli Conflict
A study of conflict through four phases: the early stages of the Zionist movement and its impact in Ottoman Palestine to 1917; Zionist immigration and settlement and Arab reaction during the Mandate period; the creation of Israel and its wars with the Arab states to 1973; and the rise of a Palestinian Arab nationalist movement and the challenges it poses to Arab states and Israel. This course is cross-listed as MEST 231. This course fulfills the Comparative Civilizations graduation requirement.

HIST 500 Independent Study

Spring 2016

HIST 122 Middle East since 1750
Cross-listed with MEST 122-01.

MEST 122 Middle East since 1750
Cross-listed with HIST 122-01.

HIST 204 Intro Historical Methodology
Local archives and libraries serve as laboratories for this project-oriented seminar that introduces beginning majors to the nature of history as a discipline, historical research techniques, varied forms of historical evidence and the ways in which historians interpret them, and the conventions of historical writing. Prerequisite: one previous course in history.

MEST 259 Islam
Cross-listed with HIST 259-01 and RELG 259-01.

HIST 259 Islam
Cross-listed with MEST 259-01 and RELG 259-01.

RELG 259 Islam
Cross-listed with HIST 259-01 and MEST 259-01.