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History of modern Iran


Admission requirements



This seminar examines the contemporary history of Iran familiarizing students with the political, social, economic, cultural, and religious developments taking place from the mid-18th century onwards. It will explore a number of both historiographical and theoretical questions related to the study of Iran. Key topics include: the Qajar Dynasty and Iran’s encounter with European imperialisms, the establishment of the Pahlavi dynasty, the coup d’état against Prime Minister Mossadegh, the Iranian Revolution, the Iran-Iraq War, the Reform Movement and the regime of President Ahmadinejad. We will also consider the impact of the Green Revolution and Iran’s foreign policy in the Middle East. While the readings are arranged chronologically, the last few meetings are devoted to studying important issues that are central for the understanding of contemporary Iran. Questions of theory and method will be dealt with throughout the semester.

Unit 1: The Safavids
Unit 2: State and Society under the Qajars
Unit 3: The Tobacco Revolt and the Constitutional Revolution
Unit 4: WWII and Reza Shah Pahlavi
Unit 5: Mohammed Reza Shah and the White Revolution
Unit 6: The Iranian Revolution
Unit 7: The Iran-Iraq War
Unit 8: Contemporary Iranian Politics: Reformists and Ultra-Conservatives
Unit 9: Green Revolution
Unit 10: Iran’s Foreign Policy in the Middle East

Course objectives

The aim of this course is to offer student an overview of developments in modern Iran, by placing them in their historical, political and religious contexts.

Time table

Time table

Mode of instruction


Assessment method

(1) Attendance and Participation. This component, which includes presentations (20%) and participation in the general discussions (20%), constitutes 40% of the final grade. (2) Essay. Each student will write a 12-15 page analytical paper on a topic to be determined in consultation with the instructor. This component constitutes 60% of the final grade.


Reading list

Abrahamian, Ervand, A History of Modern Iran , New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009. ISBN: 978-0521528917
(Other selected readings will be available on Blackboard)


Contact information