nl en

Empire and Identity in the Turco-Persian World


Admission requirements

Students who have successfully completed the propedeutic exam of the BA Middle Eastern Studies.
Students from other relevant bachelors programmes (e.g. International Studies, History) who are interested in taking this course are requested to contact the co-ordinator of studies


The programme 'Empire and Identity in the Turco-Persian World' covers a broad swathe of time periods and geographical regions, focusing on identity as it developed across the Middle East and Central Asia during periods of intense cultural contact between Turks and Persians. These periods of intense contact were brought on largely through invasions of the Turkic world into the heartlands of the old Persian Empire, where Turkic/Mongol groups established vast empires. Already these lands had been transformed beginning in the 7th century as Arab armies and the religion they brought with them, Islam, penetrated the Persian world, and eventually, in the case of Islam, the Turkic domains as well. Thus identity is a key question in considering the pre-modern Turco-Persian world as Turks interacted with Persians and Arabs, Muslims encountered those of other faiths and nomads entered the lands of sedentary people. These concepts are often portrayed and seen as dichotomies, and one aim of this course will be to examine further these interactions and unpick the complexities that emerge from our sources.

These topics will be considered through the fields of history, anthropology and socio-linguistics, as many of the challenges faced when addressing these topics cannot be overcome by experts from one discipline alone. The course will consider both pre-Islamic Persia and Central/Inner Asia in order to provide background knowledge and context to Turco-Persian interaction. The Arab conquests and the advent of Islam will also necessarily be discussed due to the prominent place of Islam in the regions studied. Subsequently, several case studies of Turkic/Mongol empires (Seljuqs, Mongols, Timurids) will be considered in which a great degree of interaction, both violent and peaceful, took place between Turks and Persians. As these interactions increased, Turco-Persian dynasties established themselves over most of the Middle East, Central Asia and India. These Gunpowder Empires (the Ottomans, Safavids, and Mughals) will be considered in turn, bringing students up to the modern period. Students will look at both primary and secondary sources across various fields, as well as considering art history and architecture where applicable.

Course objectives

Students taking this course will:

  • gain a broad understanding of pre-modern Central Asia and the Middle East from a political, cultural and linguistic standpoint.

  • understand how to think about identity in a non-Western pre-modern context

  • grasp the complexities involved in studying such a large area over several centuries

  • be able to ask the right questions in further research in the field



Mode of instruction

  • Seminar to be given by three lecturers.

Attendance and active participation are obligatory for seminars. Students are required to prepare for and attend all sessions. The convenors need to be informed without delay of any classes missed for a good reason (i.e. due to unforeseen circumstances such as illness, family issues, problems with residence permits, the Dutch railways in winter, etc.). In these cases it is up to the discretion of the convener(s) of the course whether or not the missed class will have to be made up with an extra assignment. The maximum of such absences during a semester is two. Being absent without notification and/or more than two times can result in exclusion from the term end exams and a failing grade for the course.

Course Load

5 EC x 28 hrs = 140 hrs
Lectures (13 x 2) 26
Preparation tutorials 3
Tutoring 1
Study of compulsory literature 50
Assignment(s) 60

Assessment method

Partial Assessment Weighing
Class participation 20%
Abstract, oral presentation 30%
Paper 50%

The final mark for this course is determined by the weighted average. An additional requirement is that students must pass their paper (> 5.50). In order to pass the course, students must obtain an overall mark of 5.50 (=6) or higher.
The course is an integrated whole. All assessment parts must be completed in the same academic year. No partial marks can be carried over into following years.

Late submissions will result in a deduction of marks for the paper as follows: 1-24 hs late = -0.5; 24-48 hs late = -1.0; 48-72 hs late = -1.5; 72-96 hs late = -2.0. Submissions more than 96 hs late, including weekends, will receive a failing grade of 1,0 for the paper.


A re-sit is available only for an insufficient paper. In such cases, the lecturer can assign the student a new topic for the final paper, and will set the re-sit deadline at least 10 working days after the fail grade has been issued.

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

This is a general reading list, from which excerpts will be given throughout the semester. Other readings to be provided based on the specific class that week.

  • Potts, Daniel (ed). The Oxford Handbook of Ancient Iran. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2013.

  • Savory, Roger. Iran under the Safavids. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1980.

  • Frye, Richard (ed). The Period from the Arab Invasion to the Saljuqs ( Cambridge History of Iran, vol.4). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1975.

  • Subtelny, Maria. Timurids in Transition Leiden: Brill. 2007

  • Golden, Peter Central Asia in World History. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2011

  • Golden, Peter, Di Cosmo, Nicola, and Frank, A.J. (eds) The Cambridge HIstory of Inner Asia: The Chinggisid Age. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 2009

  • Isom-Verhaaren, Christine and Schull, Kent, Living in the Ottoman Realm: Empire and Identity, 13th-20th Centuries. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2016

  • Csato Johansen, Eva and Johansen, Lars, The Turkic Languages. New York, Routledge, 1998.

  • Golden, Peter, An Introduction to the History of the Turkic Peoples. Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz. 1992


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available on the website

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable


Contact information

Tobias Jones Nicholas Kontovas Sara Mirahmadi


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

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).