Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century Iran

Iranians protesting in the aftermath of the fraudulent 2009 elections.
Iranians protesting in the aftermath of the fraudulent 2009 elections. [Source: Wikipedia]

Fundamental to the understanding of contemporary Iran is a proper appreciation of the two Twentieth-Century revolutions that changed indelibly the nature of political rule in the country. Each of these events, the Constitutional Revolution (1905–1911) and the Islamic Revolution (1978–1979), reflected the culmination of several decades of interaction between traditional elements of Iranian society and forces of modernity and change; each of them also saw the coalescence of a familiar coalition of internal actors: the clerical establishment, the mercantile class, and the intelligentsia. In this class, we shall follow the internal developments of Iran as it went from Qājār autocracy in the Nineteenth Century to the Islamic Republic today. Specific topics of discussion include the Bābī revolt, the Tobacco Protest, the Constitutional Revolution, the attempted coup by Moḥammad Moṣāddeq, the 1955 anti-Bahāʾī pogrom, and the Islamic Revolution. Ultimately, we shall shed light on the red thread running throughout all of these events: the tension between the political and religious authorities in Iran.

Course expectation and student evaluation

This course represents a combination of a lecture and seminar approaches and individual participation in class dialogues is critical. Each student will have the opportunity to lead a classroom discussion revolving around the assigned readings. Students will write two papers for this class: a mid-term paper on an assigned topic and a research paper on a topic of choice. Students will be evaluated on the basis of four factors: (1) participation (20%), (2) mid-term paper (25%), (3) seminar presentation (25%), and (4) a research paper (30%). Given the importance of discussion, students are expected to have read the assigned reading in advance of each class. Recommended readings are not required, but are offered for those seeking further depth, as a starting point for research papers, and as a highly-encouraged resource for those leading the daily conversations. At the end of this course, it is hoped that students will have not only a better understanding of modern Iran, but have developed better research skills, practiced critical thinking, and gained experience collecting and presenting information clearly.

Required texts

Arjomand, Saïd Amir. The Turban for the crown: The Islamic revolution in Iran. New York City & Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988.

Keddie, Nikki Ragozin. Modern Iran: Roots and results of revolution. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003.

Course outline

I. Historical context

  1. Introduction to Iran

  2. Iran from Antiquity to the Ṣafavids

  3. Required reading:
    Recommended reading:
  4. From the Ṣafavids to the Qājārs

  5. Required reading:
    Recommended reading:

II. The State and its challenges

  1. The Religious hierocracy

  2. Required reading:
    Recommended reading:
  3. The Bābī revolt

  4. Required reading:
    Recommended reading:
  5. European penetration

  6. Required reading:
    Recommended reading:

III. Reform, reaction, and revolution

  1. Reformers and currents of change

  2. Required reading:
    Recommended reading:
  3. The Tobacco Protest of 1891

  4. Required reading:
    Recommended reading:
  5. The Constitutional Revolution, 1905–1911

  6. Mid-term paper due.
    Required reading:
    Recommended reading:

IV. Pahlavī rule

  1. The Rise of Reżā Khān and the rule of Reżā Shāh, 1925–1941

  2. Research paper outline due.
    Required reading:
    Recommended reading:
  3. Moṣāddeq and the crisis of Pahlavī rule, 1951–1953

  4. Required reading:
    Recommended reading:
  5. The 1955 anti-Bahāʾī pogrom and the restoration of Pahlavī power

  6. Required reading:
    Recommended reading:
  7. Pahlavī autocracy and the prelude to revolution

  8. Required reading:
    Recommended reading:

V. The Islamic Revolution and the Islamic Republic

  1. The Revolution of 1978–1979

  2. Required reading:
    Recommended reading:
  3. The Establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran

  4. Required reading:
    Recommended reading:
    • Saskia Maria Gieling, Religion and war in revolutionary Iran (London & New York City: I B Tauris, 1999), 12-39.
  5. The Islamic Republic of Iran, 1979–?

  6. Required reading:
    Recommended reading:
    Research paper due at end of term.

Upcoming talks and lectures

Please note that not all of these events are open to the general audience; please check with the organisers to confirm.
  • 03 November 2017, 18.15—‘Jewish and Christian minorities in the mediæval Islamic world’ (Medieval Fair Lecture Series, Center for Medieval & Renaissance Studies, University of Oklahoma): Norman Public Library West, 300 Norman Center Court, Norman, Oklahoma.
  • 06 November 2017, 10.00—‘“Micro-minorities” in Israel: Druze, Circassian, and Baháʾí communities and the Jewish State’ (International Studies Institute, University of New Mexico): Lobo A & B, Room 3037/3039, Student Union Building, 1 University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, New Mexico.
  • 07 November 2017, 12.00—‘What is radical Islam and why is it so “radical”?’ (Institute for International and Immigration Law, Texas Southern University): 3100 Clerbourne St, Room 105/106, Houston, Texas.
  • 07 November 2017, 17.30—‘Minorities and the Jewish state: The Druze, Circassian, and Bahāʾī communities of Israel’ (International Studies Lecture, Texas A&M University): Harrington Education Center 108, 540 Ross St, College Station, Texas.
  • 15 November 2017, 15.00—‘Tajikistan between Iran and Islam: Nationalism and identity in post-Soviet Central Asia’ (Farzaneh Family Center for Iranian and Persian Gulf Studies, University of Oklahoma): Farzaneh Hall 145, Norman, Oklahoma.
  • 21 November 2017, 10.30—‘Call-and-response battles in Syria and Iraq: The Literary construction of Islamic collective memory’ (51st annual meeting of the Middle East Studies Association): Marriott Wardman Park Hotel, Washington, DC.
  • 17 March 2018—‘Armenians, Georgians, and Albanians and the initial Sāsānian response to the Arab-Islamic expansion’ (8th biennial congress of the Association for the Study of Persianate Societies): Ilia State University, Tbilisi, Georgia.
  • Past events ► click to expand