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Books

Safavid Persia in the Age of Empires

Melville, Charles (ed.). 2021. Safavid Persia in the Age of Empires (The Idea of Iran 10). Londn: I.B. Tauris.

The sixteenth and seventeenth centuries saw the establishment of the new Safavid regime in Iran. Along with reuniting the Persian lands under one rule, the Safavids initiated the radical transformation of the religious landscape by introducing Imami Shi’ism as the official state faith and in this as in other ways, laying the foundations of Iran’s modern identity.

In this book, leading scholars of Iranian history, culture and politics examine the meaning of the idea of Iran in the Safavid period by examining contemporary experiences of both insiders and outsiders, asking how modern scholarship defines the distinctive features of the age.

While sometimes viewed as a period of decline from the high points of classical Persian literature and the visual arts of preceding centuries, the chapters of this book demonstrate that the Safavid era was nevertheless a period of great literary and artistic activity in the realms of both secular and theological endeavour.

With the establishment of comparable polities across western, southern and central Asia at broadly the same time, the book explores some of the literary and political interactions with Iran’s Ottoman, Mughal and Uzbek neighbours. As the volume and frequency of European merchants and diplomats visiting Safavid Persia increased, especially in the seventeenth century, and as more Iranians recorded their own travel experiences to surrounding Muslim lands, the Safavid period is the first in which we can document and explore the contours of Iran’s place in an expanding world, and gain insights into how Iranians saw themselves and others saw them.

Table of contents
  • Ali Anooshahr: “The body politic and the rise of the Safavids”
  • Gregory Aldous: “The Qazvin period and the idea of the Safavids”
  • Colin Mitchell: “Man of the Pen, Pillar of the State: Hatem Beg Ordubadi and the Safavid Empire”
  • Rudi Matthee: “The Idea of Iran in the Safavid period. Dynastic pre-eminence and urban pride”
  • Sussan Babaie: “Safavid town-planning in the seventeenth-eighteenth centuries: From Farahabad (Mazandaran) to Farahabad (Isfahan)”
  • Willem Floor: “Commercial relations between Safavid Persia and Western Europe”
  • Aurelie Salesse-Chabrier: “From absolute prince to despot: the political representations of Safavid Iran in seventeenth-century France”
  • Maryam Ala Amjad: “The world is an oyster and Iran, the pearl. Representing Iran in Safavid Persian travel literature”
  • Sunil Sharma: “Local and transregional places in the works of Safavid men of letters”
  • Roy S. Fischel: “Shi’i rulers, Safavid alliance and the religio-political landscape of the Deccan”
  • Florian Schwarz: “The Safavids and the Ozbeks”
  • George Sanikidze: “Particularities of the Safavid policy towards Eastern Georgia”
  • Benedek Péri: “O Mohebbi! You have lit your lamp with Khosrow’s burning passion. Persian poetry as perceived by sixteenth-century Ottoman authors”
  • Frenec Csirkés: “Popular religiosity and vernacular Turkic: A Qizilbash catechism from Safavid Iran”
  • Andrew J. Newman: “Safavids and Shi’ism in the age of Sectarianism”
  • Sajjad Rizvi: “Practicing philosophy: Imagining Iran in the Safavid period”
  • Daniel J. Sheffield: “Universal harmony (sulh-i kull) and political theology in Safavid Iran”
  • Sheila R Canby: “Flora in Safavid paintings from Shah Tahmasp’s Shahnama
  • Negar Habibi: “From Khazana to audience. On the making of new art in the House of Shah Soleyman”
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Books

Handbook of Ancient Afro-Eurasian Economies

Reden, Sitta von (ed.). 2020. Handbook of ancient Afro-Eurasian economies. Volume 1: Contexts. Berlin: De Gruyter.

The notion of the “Silk Road” that the German geographer Ferdinand von Richthofen invented in the 19th century has lost attraction to scholars in light of large amounts of new evidence and new approaches. The handbook suggests new conceptual and methodological tools for researching ancient economic exchange in a global perspective with a strong focus on recent debates on the nature of pre-modern empires.The interdisciplinary team of Chinese, Indian and Graeco-Roman historians, archaeologists and anthropologists that has written this handbook compares different forms of economic development in agrarian and steppe regions in a period of accelerated empire formation during 300 BCE and 300 CE. It investigates inter-imperial zones and networks of exchange which were crucial for ancient Eurasian connections.Volume I provides a comparative history of the most important empires forming in Northern Africa, Europe and Asia between 300 BCE and 300 CE. It surveys a wide range of evidence that can be brought to bear on economic development in the these empires, and takes stock of the ways academic traditions have shaped different understandings of economic and imperial development as well as Silk-Road exchange in Russia, China, India and Western Graeco-Roman history.

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Books

Short-term Empires in World History

Rollinger,Robert, Julian Degen & Michael Gehler (eds.). 2020. Short-term empires in world history. Wiesbaden: Springer.

The volume will focus on a comparative level on a specific group of states that are commonly labelled as “empires” and that we encounter through all historical periods. Although they are very successful at the very beginning, like most empires are, this success is very ephemeral and transient. The era of conquest is never followed by a period of consolidation. Collapse and/or reduction to much smaller dimension run as fast as the process of wide-ranging conquest and expansion. The volume singles out a series of such “short-term empires” and aims to provide a methodologically clearly structured as well as a uniform and consistent approach by developing a general set of questions that guarantee the possibility to compare and distinguish. This way it intends to examine not only already well established empires but also to illuminate forgotten ones.

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Books

Music of a Thousand Years

Lucas, Ann. 2019. Music of a thousand years: A new history of Persian musical traditions. Oakland: University of California Press.

Iran’s particular system of traditional Persian art music has been long treated as the product of an ever-evolving, ancient Persian culture. In Music of a Thousand Years, Ann E. Lucas argues that this music is a modern phenomenon indelibly tied to changing notions of Iran’s national history. Rather than considering a single Persian music history, Lucas demonstrates cultural dissimilarity and discontinuity over time, bringing to light two different notions of music-making in relation to premodern and modern musical norms. An important corrective to the history of Persian music, Music of a Thousand Years is the first work to align understandings of Middle Eastern music history with current understandings of the region’s political history.

Source: Music of a Thousand Years by Ann E. Lucas | University of California Press

Ann E. Lucas is Assistant Professor of ethnomusicology in the Department of Music at Boston College, where she also teaches in the Islamic Civilizations and Societies Program. She is recognized for her work on music historiography of the Middle East.

A free open access ebook will be available upon publication of the book. Visit this link to find out more: www.luminosoa.org.

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Events

The Idea of Iran: The Safavid Era

The Idea of Iran: The Safavid Era

27 October 2018, Brunei Gallery, SOAS London

The sixteenth and seventeenth centuries saw the establishment of the new Safavid regime in Iran, heir not only to the succession of leadership of the Safavid sufi order, but also to the Aq Qoyunlu dispensation of western Iran and more remotely to the Timurid Empire in the East. Along with reuniting the Persian lands under one rule, the Safavids initiated the radical transformation of the religious landscape by introducing Imami Shi‘ism as the official state faith and in this as in other ways, laying the foundations of Iran’s modern identity. While sometimes viewed as a period of decline from the highpoints of classical Persian literature and the visual arts of preceding centuries, the Safavid era was nevertheless a period of great literary and artistic activity in the realms of both secular and theological endeavour. In addition, with the establishment of comparable polities in across western, southern and central Asia at broadly the same time, interactions with Ottoman, Mughal and Uzbek neighbours ensured fruitful interactions with other Muslim states also making the transition for the medieval to the modern world. Finally, European encounters with these worlds provide rich new layers of information and evidence of material and intellectual transmission.What does the Idea of Iran mean at this period? Can we discern the ways that contemporaries viewed their traditions and their environment (natural or built); what was the view of outsiders, and how does modern scholarship define the distinctive aspects of the period? These are some of the questions we hope to explore in the symposium dedicated to this rich and highly productive period that took Iran to the eve of modernity.Convened by Sarah Stewart, SOAS and Charles Melville, University of Cambridge.

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Books

Jewish histories of twentieth-century Iran

  1. Sternfeld, Lior B. 2019. Between Iran and Zion: Jewish histories of twentieth-century Iran. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press.

Iran is home to the largest Jewish population in the Middle East, outside of Israel. At its peak in the twentieth century, the population numbered around 100,000; today about 25,000 Jews live in Iran. Between Iran and Zion offers the first history of this vibrant community over the course of the last century, from the 1905 Constitutional Revolution through the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Over this period, Iranian Jews grew from a peripheral community into a prominent one that has made clear impacts on daily life in Iran.

Drawing on interviews, newspapers, family stories, autobiographies, and previously untapped archives, Lior B. Sternfeld analyzes how Iranian Jews contributed to Iranian nation-building projects, first under the Pahlavi monarchs and then in the post-revolutionary Islamic Republic. He considers the shifting reactions to Zionism over time, in particular to religious Zionism in the early 1900s and political Zionism after the creation of the state of Israel. And he investigates the various groups that constituted the Iranian Jewish community, notably the Jewish communists who became prominent activists in the left-wing circles in the 1950s and the revolutionary Jewish organization that participated in the 1979 Revolution. The result is a rich account of the vital role of Jews in the social and political fabric of twentieth-century Iran.

Lior B. Sternfeld is Assistant Professor of History and Jewish Studies at Penn State.

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Books

Armenian Christians in Iran

Barry, James. 2019. Armenian Christians in Iran: Ethnicity, religion, and identity in the Islamic Republic. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Since the 1979 revolution, Iran has promoted a Shi’a Islamic identity aimed at transcending ethnic and national boundaries. During the same period, Iran’s Armenian community, once a prominent Christian minority in Tehran, has declined by more than eighty percent. Although the Armenian community is recognised by the constitution and granted specific privileges under Iranian law, they do not share equal rights with their Shi’i Muslim compatriots. Drawing upon interviews conducted with members of the Armenian community and using sources in both Persian and Armenian languages, this book questions whether the Islamic Republic has failed or succeeded in fostering a cohesive identity which enables non-Muslims to feel a sense of belonging in this Islamic Republic. As state identities are also often key in exacerbating ethnic conflict, this book probes into the potential cleavage points for future social conflict in Iran.
  • Table of Contents

Introduction
1. Iranism, Islam and Armenian-ness in Iran
2. Education and the construction of Armenian Iran
3. Discrimination, status and response
4. Stereotyping and identity
5. Performing Armenian-ness in Tehran
6. Identity and emigration
Conclusion.

  • Autor

James Barry is an Associate Research Fellow in Anthropology at Deakin University, Victoria specialising in religious and ethnic minorities. He holds a Ph.D. in Anthropology from Monash University, Melbourne. His research focuses on the role of Islam in Iranian foreign policy and supports the work of the Chair of Islamic Studies. In addition to Iran, Barry has carried out fieldwork in Australia, Indonesia and the United States.

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Books

Iran: A Modern History

Amanat, Abbas. 2018. Iran: A modern history. Yale University Press.

his history of modern Iran is not a survey in the conventional sense but an ambitious exploration of the story of a nation. It offers a revealing look at how events, people, and institutions are shaped by currents that sometimes reach back hundreds of years. The book covers the complex history of the diverse societies and economies of Iran against the background of dynastic changes, revolutions, civil wars, foreign occupation, and the rise of the Islamic Republic.

Abbas Amanat combines chronological and thematic approaches, exploring events with lasting implications for modern Iran and the world. Drawing on diverse historical scholarship and emphasizing the twentieth century, he addresses debates about Iran’s culture and politics. Political history is the driving narrative force, given impetus by Amanat’s decades of research and study. He layers the book with discussions of literature, music, and the arts; ideology and religion; economy and society; and cultural identity and heritage.

Abbas Amanat is professor of history and international studies at Yale University and director of the Yale Program in Iranian Studies at the MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies. He lives in North Haven, CT.

Source: Iran by Abbas Amanat – Yale University Press

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Books

A manual for Iranian Studies (Handbuch der Iranistik, Vol. 2)

Paul, Ludwig (ed.). 2017. Handbuch der Iranistik. Vol. 2. Wiesbaden: Reichert Verlag.
The second volume of the Handbook of Iranian Studies  follows the concept of the first volume and develops it further. It follows the division of the first volume (for the first Volume see here) into eight discipline-defined sections and completes the research overview of the first volume in a comprehensive way with about 50 articles. Thus, in the second part, the few gaps of the first volume are closed in eight sections, and the “Iranian Philosophy and Sciences” are added in a ninth section. The view is also directed increasingly at the geographical periphery of the Iranian world. Several articles deal with the history, culture and present of Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Kurdistan and other regions. The second volume of the handbook of Iranian Studies, in addition to the first volume, also provides research reports. In the second volume, specialized research reports on certain areas are added in the second volume, such as “Persian Literature”: Contributions to Iranian exile and travel literature, current innovative topics such as gender, bio-ethics, the Internet and new media.
You can see the table of the contents of this volume here.
About the Editor:
Ludwig Paul is professor of Iranian Studies at the Asien-Afrika-Institut, Universität Hamburg. He is a scholar of Iranian Linguistic, dialektology as well as Iranian modern history.
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Books

Ctesias’ Persica and its Near Eastern Context

Waters, Matt. 2017. Ctesias’ Persica and its Near Eastern context (Wisconsin Studies in Classics). University of Wisconsin Press.

The Persica is an extensive history of Assyria and Persia written by the Greek historian Ctesias, who served as a doctor to the Persian king Artaxerxes II around 400 BCE. Written for a Greek readership, the Persica influenced the development of both historiographic and literary traditions in Greece. It also, contends Matt Waters, is an essential but often misunderstood source for the history of the Achaemenid Persian Empire.

Matt Waters is a professor of classics and ancient history at the University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire. He is the author of Ancient Persia: A Concise History of the Achaemenid Empire, 550–330 BCE and A Survey of Neo-Elamite History.

Source: UW Press: Ctesias’ Persica and Its Near Eastern Context