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 conflicts will be impossible without a discussion of its two wars with Russia (1804-13 and 1826-28), its role in WWI and WWII, 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 role of religion in Iran will not make sense without reference to the changing role of clerics during the Safavids, the revolutionary political Islam of Ayatollah Khomeini, and its 19th century pedigrees. 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. A central theme of the course will be based on interconnections between on the one hand the domestic and the international arena, and on the other hand the social, political, economic and cultural processes and actors. Moreover, part of films, music, poems, novels and other art forms will be used to discuss cultural and social transformations. Some classes will start with a contemporary issue and trace its historical development, while others will start with a historical event and discuss their contemporary consequences and their contemporary popular perceptions.
The students will learn the basic facts about Iran’s contemporary society, economy, and political-legal system, and they will learn to explain their interconnections. Moreover, students will learn to understand Iran’s modern history and apply it to analyses contemporary events and processes. Finally, students will learn to reflect critically on how contemporary narratives about Iran’s present and past have been shaped by political events.
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.
|5 EC x 28 hrs =
|Lectures (13 x 2)
|Exams (midterm and final)
Assessment and weighing
|midterm - Written examination with essay questions
|final exam - Written examination with essay questions
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.
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.
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.
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.
Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs
Registration Studeren à la carte
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.
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).