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History of Contemporary Iran


Admission requirements



Histories of contemporary Iran often discuss Iran’s interactions with Russia and the United Kingdom, the Constitutional Revolution, Iranian nationalism and the 1953 coup d’état, the White Revolution, the 1978-79 Iranian Revolution, the 1979 hostage crisis and the Iran-Iraq war (1980-88). Likewise, this course focuses on the established historical narratives of these events, as they were written down by acknowledged scholars in the field. Additionally, we critically review these narratives and learn about alternative viewpoints. Students learn that narratives of history are multiple and contested and that the study of history is an ongoing conversation. Students are invited to take part in this conversation by engaging with documentaries and films relevant to the history of contemporary Iran.

Course objectives

After the completion of this course, participants are able to reproduce the basic facts about Iran’s contemporary history (1890-1990). Moreover, participants are able to analyze contemporary events and processes within their historical context. Students will learn to reflect critically on how narratives about Iran’s present and past have political implications. Finally, students are able to critically engage with narratives of historical events through the study of audiovisual material.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction

Attendance is not obligatory for lectures. The conveners do not need to be informed in case of missed classes. Information and knowledge provided in the lectures greatly contribute to the subsequent courses of the programme. In order to pass the course, students are strongly advised to attend all sessions.

Assessment method

Academic Integrity

Students are expected to be familiar with Leiden University policies on [plagiarism] and academic integrity.
Plagiarism will not be tolerated. It is assumed that students' work is their own work with all sources used properly indicated and documented in the text (with quotations and/or citations). Students may not substantially reuse any work they have previously submitted in this or other courses. Minor overlap with previous work is allowed as long as it is duly noted in citation.
Assignment(s) must be submitted to Brightspace through Turnitin, so they can be checked for plagiarism. Submission via email is not accepted.

Six practical assignments (pass/fail)
Final exam (written, 100%)

Students can only take the final exam if they pass five out of six practical assignments.

The course is an integrated whole and must be completed in the same academic year. No partial marks can be carried over into following years,


There is only one resit opportunity for the final exam.

Exam review

If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will be organized.

Reading list

  • Ervand Abrahamian, A History of Modern Iran, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018).

  • Additional readings t.b.a.


Enrolment through My Studymap is mandatory.

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