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Conference: Historiography & Iran in Comparative Perspective


Institute of Iranian Studies, University of St Andrews / Iran Heritage Foundation
10-13th September 2009

Seuterri Map of Persia c1730

The Persian speaking world has enjoyed a long tradition of historical writing which sought to situate the Iranian people within a particular narrative of descent and historical development. These narratives were to be challenged with the introduction of new historical methods from Europe in the late 19th century. By the late 20th century there was a dramatic increase in historical writing in Iran, partly as a consequence of the need to produce new national narratives and partly a result of the demand engendered by the growth in literacy and communications. The writing of history, reflecting the realities of the day, has more often than not proved to be a profoundly political act. Historical texts, narratives, and memoirs have all sought to shape and define the way in which Iranians have thought of themselves and their history. Yet for all the emphasis on national particularities, historical writing has also been driven by means and methods determined by the modern European tradition. Of particular importance in this regard was the distinction created between historical writing and myth; a process which resulted in much of the pre-modern Iranian historical tradition being confined to the realm of literature.

This conference will seek to highlight a number of these developments by assessing the traditions of historical writing in Iran and situating them within broader trends in historiographical thought, in particular the development of European historical narratives. Questions to be addressed include the role of historical writing in the construction of identity; myth and history, literature and the oral tradition; how do we understand the development of a historical consciousness; what parallels can be drawn between the Iranian and European traditions of historical writing; to what extent does contemporary Iranian historical writing situate itself within a European narrative.


New Arts Building, University of St Andrews, St Andrews
10-13 September 2009

A conference focusing on the developments in the historiography of Iran in comparative perspective.

The conference Programme is subject to frequent changes. For updates visit here

Thursday 10th September - Arrival and Registration
16:00 - 18:00 Registrations - New Arts Building
19:00 Welcome Drinks reception - Lower Parliament Hall

Friday 11th September - Day 1

8:00 - 8:45 Late Registration (New Arts Building)
8:45 - 9:00 Welcome - Professor Ali M Ansari - Persia and Iran
9:00 - 9:45 Keynote: Professor Michael Bentley - Historiography and Iran; the view from the West [University of St Andrews]
9:45 - 10:30 Keynote: Professor Bert Fragner - Persian Historiography [Austrian Academy of Sciences]
10:30 - 11:15 Keynote: Professor Chris Lorenz - Comparative historiography [Free University of Amsterdam]
11:15 - 11:45 Coffee
11:45 - 13:30 Panel I - The Early Modern Period
(Chair - Professor Andrew Pettegree tbc)

Andrew Newman - Safavid Historiography [University of Edinburgh]

Lloyd Ridgeon - Sufi's in Safavid Iran [University of Glasgow]

Mansour Sefatgol - The Idea of Iran in the Safavid era [University of Tehran]

Stephen Blake - 'History and Chronology in Early Modern West and South Asia: The Safavid Mughal, and Ottoman Empires' [University of Minnesota]

Sanjay Garg - Safavid-Mughal Relations: the numismatic evidence [National Archives of India]
13:30 - 14:30 Lunch
14:30 - 16:30 Panel II - Nationalism and historiography
(Chair - Professor Ali Ansari)

Mohammad Imanpour - 'The Growth of historical nationalism and new trends in historiography of Iranian in early 20 century: the Case of Pirniya's Ancient History' [The Ferdowsi University of Mashad, Iran]

Ali Mohammad Tarafdari - 'A Research on "The Service or Treachery" in History: Surveying of the Effects of Nationalism on Iran's Historiography in the late Qajar Era until the end of Reza Shah Pahlavi's Reign' [Encyclopeaedia Islamica Foundation, Iran]

Pejman Abdolmohammadi - 'History, National Identity and Myths in the Iranian Contemporary Political Thought: Mirza Fathali Akhundzadeh (1812-1878), Mirza Agha Khan Kermani (1853-1896) and Hassan Taqizadeh (1878-1970)' [University of Genoa, Italy]

Lindsay Allen - "The New Crusade": pictorial reportage and America's archaeological mission to Iran in the 1930s'. [King's College London]
16:30 - 17:00 Tea
17:00 - 18:00 Keynote: Professor Abbas Milani - The Shah: Methodological Problems of a Biography
(Chair - Michael Bentley)

19:30 Conference Dinner
 Saturday 12th September - Day 2
9:00 - 11:00 Panel III - Antiquity
(Chair: Dr Tim Greenwood)

Touraj Daryaee - Aspects of Sasanian Historiography [University of California, Irvine]

Lynette Mitchell - Herodotus' Persians and political freedom [University of Exeter]

Mohsen Zakeri - 'From "Two Centuries of Silence" to "The Dawn of Islam". A new approach for writing the early Islamic history of Iran' [der J. W. Goethe Universitšt, Frankfurt]

Asghar Montazeralqaem - Local histories in the first three centuries of Islam [University of Isfahan, Iran]
11:00 - 11:30 Coffee
11:30 - 12:30 Keynote: Professor Abbas Amanat [Yale University]
The construction of Grand narratives
(Chair - Dr Paul Luft)
12:30 - 13:30 Lunch
13:30 - 15:30 Panel IV - The Mediaeval imagination
(Chair - Professor Robert Hoyland)

Rob Bartlett - Persia in the mediaeval imagination [University of St Andrews]

Carole Hillenbrand - Persian and Arabic historiography on the Great Seljuqs of Iran [University of Edinburgh]

David Morgan - Rashid al Din [University of Wisconsin-Madison]

Anja Pistor-Hatam - 'History and Its Meaning in the Islamic Republic of Iran: The Case of the Mongol Invasion and Rule' [Christian-Albrechts- Universitšt, Kiel]
15:30 - 16:00 Tea
16:00 - 17:30 Panel V - Persia in the Early Modern Imagination
(Chair - Dr Steve Murdoch)

Hafiz Abid Masood - 'Renaissance Humanism, Classical Persia and 16th Century English Drama' [University of Sussex]

Elisa Sabadini - 'Persia in the western imagination: From reign of freedom to land of oppression: 17th century Persia through Italian eyes' [UniversitŠ degli Studi di Milano]

Farhang Jahanpour - Persia in the Western imagination
17:30 - 19:00 Panel VI - Memoirs
(Chair: tbc)

Shahram Kholdi - 'Politics of Memory and the Historiography of the 1979 Revolution' [University of Manchester]

Mehrdad Amanat - memoirs of Reyhani

Pedram Khosronejad - The Ethnography of Sacred Defence Literature [University of St Andrews]

Sunday 13th September - Day 3
9:00 - 11:00 Panel VII - Aryanism and its discontents
(Chair: Dr Bernhard Struck)

Robert Irwin - Gobineau and the construction of Aryanism [School of Oriental and African Studies]

David Motadel - 'Evolution and Transfer of the Term "Aryan" in Modern Intellectual and Political History' [University of Cambridge]

Menachem Merhavy - 'From "The Great Civilization" to "False Cyrus" - Legacy of ancient Iran as reflected in Pahlavi discourse' [Tel Aviv University]
11:00 - 11:30 Coffee
11:30 - 13:30 Panel VIII: Writing 20th century History
(Chair - Ali M Ansari)

Afshin Matin Asgari [California State University, LA]

Peter Sluglett - Writing the History of 20th century Iraq [University of Utah]

Yadullah Shahibzadeh - 'The Implications of Recent Historiographical Trends in Iran' [University of Oslo, Norway]
13:30 - 14:00 Conclusion

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