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History of Contemporary Iran


Admission requirements



This course is designed to familiarize students with the historical, political, economic, social and cultural developments of contemporary Iran. It aims at giving students the critical tools to go beyond the stereotypical interpretations of Iran. The mainstream media often present the country as trapped in a three-dimensional pattern (religion/veil-geopolitics-authoritarianism), which overlooks historica processes and cultural transformations. In order to understand the nature of these transformations, this course starts from the current debates. It then tracks the developments taking place from the Qajar era until today’s Islamic Republic.

Course objectives

Critically identify the main historical eras and political trends of contemporary Iran.

  • Interpret the interactions between different political actors throughout time.

  • Assess the interdependent roles of class, religion, ethnicity and gender in shaping politics.

  • Examine the interconnections between the domestic and the international arena.

  • Develop key skills to study and analyse historical facts on a multi-dimensional level (domestic and international.)


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Mode of instruction

Attendance is not obligatory for lectures. The conveners do not need to be informed in case of missed classes. Information and knowledge provided in the lectures greatly contribute to the subsequent courses of the programme. In order to pass the course, students are strongly advised to attend all sessions.

This course is organized in weekly meetings, consisting of lectures and Q&A discussions.

Assessment method

Partial Assessment Weighing
Midterm (500-800 words essay in class) 40%
Final exam (details to be shared in class) 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.

Reading list

The full reading list is available on Brightspace. All the course readings are available in the University’s library and digital catalogue.

It is recommended to purchase the following books:

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

  • Michael Axworthy, Revolutionary Iran: History of the Islamic Republic, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013).


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


M.S. Morgana MA


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).