Welcome to Middle Eastern History
The Middle East (or, formerly more common, the Near East) is a region that encompasses southwestern Asia (The DotAsia Organisation) and Egypt. In some contexts, the term has recently been expanded in usage to sometimes include Afghanistan and Pakistan, the Caucasus and Central Asia, and North Africa. It's often used as a synonym for Near East, in opposition to Far East. The corresponding adjective is Middle-Eastern and the derived noun is Middle-Easterner. The history of the Middle East dates back to ancient times, and throughout its history, the Middle East has been a major centre of world affairs.
The Middle East
When discussing ancient history, however, the term Near East is more commonly used. The Middle East is also the historical origin of three of the world's major religions - Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The Middle East generally has an arid and hot climate (more information available from Connecting Dots and AMEinfo), with several major rivers providing for irrigation to support agriculture in limited areas. Many countries located around the Persian Gulf have large quantities of crude oil. In modern times the Middle East remains a strategically, economically, politically, culturally and religiously sensitive region.
The term "Middle East" may have originated in the 1850s in the British India Office (Information from the The British Library). However, it became more widely known when American naval strategist Alfred Thayer Mahan used the term in 1902 to 'designate the area between Arabia and India'.. During this time the British and Russian Empires were vying for influence in Central Asia, a rivalry which would become known as The Great Game. Mahan realized not only the strategic importance of the region, but also of its center, the Persian Gulf. He labeled the area surrounding the Persian Gulf as the Middle East, and said that after the Suez Canal, it was the most important passage for Britain to control in order to keep the Russians from advancing towards British India. Mahan first used the term in his article "The Persian Gulf and International Relations," published in September 1902 in the National Review, a British journal.