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History of Contemporary Iran


Admission requirements



For better or worse, Iran often appears in the international headlines. The reasons are varied: Iran’s nuclear program and tensions with the US; its competition with Saudi Arabia; the complicated nature of its economy; social policies such as subsidy reforms; its thriving art scene; its vibrant youth cultures; the role of social media; gender relations and women’s protests; the involvement of religion in society and politics; electoral politics; pro-democracy protests; water crisis, etc.
None of these contemporary issues, however, can be understood without a solid historical grounding. Any explanation of Iran’s international politics is impossible interactions with 20th century superpowers, the 1953 coup d’état, the 1979 hostage crisis, the Iran-Iraq war (1980-88), and the nuclear program crisis (2003 to present). Politics and popular protests in contemporary Iran have to be traced back to the Tobacco Revolt (1891), the Constitutional Revolution (1906-11), the social movements of the 1940s, and the Iranian Revolution (1978-79). The contemporary social, cultural and intellectual transformations require an explanation of the emergence of modern nationalism in late 19th century, the Pahlavi’s modernization project, and the post-revolutionary urbanization, expansion of education, changing family size, etc.
This course, therefore, applies a historical perspective to contemporary Iran. The discussions will be based on secondary literature, but students will be also introduced to key primary sources.

Course objectives

After the completion of this course, participants are able to reproduce the basic facts about Iran’s contemporary society, economy, and political-legal system, and they will be able to explain their interconnections. Moreover, participants are able to analyse contemporary events and processes within their historical context. Finally, students will learn to reflect critically on how contemporary narratives about Iran’s present and past have been shaped by political events.


Timetable BA MOS

Mode of instruction

Attendance is mandatory.

Course Load

5 EC x 28 hrs = 140 hrs
Lectures (13 x 2) 26
Preparation 40
Exams (midterm and final) 4
Preparation exams 70

Assessment and weighing

Partial Assessment Weighing
midterm - Written examination with essay questions 40%
final exam - Written examination with essay questions 60%

The final mark for the course is established by determining the weighted average.
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 which will make up 100% of the mark.

Exam review

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


Blackboard will be used in this course to share course information, documentation and to communicate with the participants.

Reading list

The course readings are available in the University’s main library in Course Reserves. Materials unavailable in the library will be provided by the instructor.

Required Readings
We recommend you to purchase the following book:

  • Ervand Abrahamian, A History of Modern Iran (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008).
    The electronic version of this book is also available at Library Catalogue.

  • Further reading will be announced or distributed via Blackboard.


uSis is mandatory.

General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Registration Studeren à la carte

Registration Contractonderwijs


Dr. M. Warnaar


Students with disabilities

The university is committed to supporting and accommodating students with disabilities as stated in the university protocol (especially pages 3-5). Students should contact [Fenestra Disability Centre] at least four weeks before the start of their courses to ensure that all necessary academic accommodations can be made in time conform the abovementioned protocol.

Academic Integrity

Students are expected to be familiar with Leiden University policies on plagiarism and academic integrity. Plagiarism will not be tolerated. If you submit any work with your name affixed to it, it is assumed to be your own work with all sources used properly indicated and documented in the text (with quotations and/or citations).