Fall 2021 - HIST 352 D100

Religion and Politics in Modern Iran (4)

Class Number: 3967

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Sep 8 – Dec 7, 2021: Thu, 2:30–5:20 p.m.

  • Exam Times + Location:

    Dec 8, 2021
    Wed, 12:00–12:00 p.m.

  • Prerequisites:

    45 units, including six units of lower division history. Recommended: one of HIST 151, 249.



The intellectual and social history of greater Iran from the Safavids to the twentieth century. Emphasis will be on the relationship between religion and politics.


This course is a survey of the history of Iran from the fall of the Safavid Empire (1722) to Ahmadinejad’s presidency (2005).  The focus of the course will be on social and intellectual history, especially the problematic relationship between religion and politics. First, we will situate Iran within a larger theoretical background: the understanding of Iraniyyat (the historical notion of Iranian identity); the ecological trilogy of city, country, and tribe and their sociologies. Second, we will approach the eighteenth century transition with the fall of the Safavids and eventual rise of the Qajars. This approach entails an explanation of concepts and strategies of empire and its failure; state and sub-state formation; the articulation of ethnic and national identities; and especially the drawing of increasingly exclusive boundaries concerning the definition of Shi’i within an Iranian context. Third, we will focus on the modern period (19th and 20th centuries) and assess Iranian reactions to western imperialism, technicalism, and modernity under the Qajar and Pahlavi dynasties.  How do we account for shifts in economic, coercive, and ideational power?  How are we to understand Iranian movements of reform, nationalism, constitutionalism, secularism, clericalism, and revolution?  What does the Iranian experience tell us of the nature of modernization, secularization and revolution theory?  What prompted the rise of political Islam in Iran and the 1979 Islamic Revolution? This discussion leads us into the practice of religion and politics in the Islamic Republic of Iran.


  • Midterm 20%
  • Participation 20%
  • Term Paper 20%
  • Final Exam 40%



Ervand Abrahamian, A History of Modern Iran, 2nd edition (Cambridge, 2018)

Roy Mottahedeh, The Mantle of the Prophet: Religion and Politics in Iran, 2nd edition (Oneworld, 2014)

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