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Historiography and Cultural History (Persian Studies)


Admission requirements

Admission to the MA Arabic, Persian and Turkish Languages and Cultures or to the Research Master Area Studies: Asia and the Middle East, Specialisation Middle Eastern Studies. Proficient reading skills in modern Persian (level B2 European Common Framework). Students who are interested in taking this course, but who are not admitted to one of the mentioned master programmes and/or are not sure whether they meet the language requirement are requested to contact the convenor, Dr. A.A. Seyed-Gohrab


This course is a biweekly seminar, examining historiography and cultural history of Iran from the Sasanian period up to the end of the Qajar dynasty. The purpose of this course is to analyse the nature and purpose of history and to study decisive phases in the history of Iranian peoples and their environment. The issues to be addressed are among others the following: what did Persian historiographers conceive of history, what type of material did they use as their source material, and what kind of literary techniques did they apply to their texts. The importance of pre-Islamic history in the context of Islamic Persia will be examined. In this course both early histories and other genres closely related to historiography such as ‘mirrors for princes’ will be studied. With the advent of the Mongols in the Iranian plateau historiography became even more important than before as the Mongol rulers wished to establish their own position within the tradition of Iranian history. For the Shiite Safavids, history was closely connected to the propagation of religion. The course will be ended by analyzing the role of history during the Qajar dynasty.

Course objectives

For each seminar, students are required to read in advance selections from secondary literature and to analyse a limited number of passages from primary sources. Each session consists of two hours. In the first hour a general lecture is given and in the remaining hour, the students discuss several issues from the prepared reading material. Each student is expected to give two presentations on a specific topic from the overview below.
1. Transitional period from Sasanian to Islamic era
2. Ghaznavid history
3. Saljuq history
4. Local histories
5. Mirror for princes as a historical text
6. Mongol history and historiography
7. Central Asian historiography
8. Safavid history
9. Qajar history
10. The constitutional movement in Iranian history


This course is (provisionally) scheduled on Mondays, 9-11 hs.

Mode of instruction

Biweekly seminar.

Assessment method

Paper, presentations.

The final assignment of this course is an essay of 5,000 words, part of which should be an annotated translation of a relevant text.


Reading list

Both primary and secondary literature are available from the lecturer. Students are responsible for their own photocopies of the texts.


Registration for this course is compulsory

Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Study in Leiden website for information on how to apply

Contact information

Dr. Asghar Seyed-Gohrab