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Iranian studies


Iranian studies

Iranian studies (Persian: ايران‌شناسی‎‎ Īrānšenāsī), also referred to as Iranology, is an interdisciplinary field dealing with the study of history, literature, art and culture of Iranian peoples. It is a part of the wider field of Oriental studies.

Iranian studies is broader than and distinct from Persian studies, which is the study of the modern Persian language (known as Farsi or Parsi to Iranians) and literature specifically. The discipline of Iranian Studies focuses on broad trends in culture, history, language and other aspects of not only Persians, but also a variety of other contemporary and historical Iranian peoples, such as Azeris, Kurds, Talysh, Pashtuns, Ossetians, Baluchis, Scythians, Sarmatians, Alans, Parthians, Sogdians, Bactrians, etc.


  • Iranian Studies in pre-modern Iran 1
  • Iranian Studies in modern Iran 2
  • Iranian Studies in Europe 3
  • Iranian Studies in North America 4
  • Journals 5
  • Yarshater lectureship 6
  • List of Iranologists 7
    • Iranian Scholars 7.1
    • International Scholars 7.2

Iranian Studies in pre-modern Iran

The medieval Iranian poet Abu'l-Qasim Ferdowsi, author of the Iranian national epic the Shahnameh, can be considered the "founder" of Iranian Studies in the sense that in his work he made a deliberate effort to highlight Persian culture prior to the Arab conquests. In this sense Ferdowsi's nationalistic approach can be contrasted with that of Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari, the famous ninth-century historian whose History of the Prophets and Kings reflects a more specifically Islamic perspective. Ferdowsi's work follows earlier semi-historical works such as the lost Sasanian-era Khwaday-Namag.

Persian historiography strictly speaking begins with the Tarikh-i Mas'udi of Abolfazl Beyhaghi (995-1077), whose fluent prose style was highly influential on subsequent Persian literature. Persian historical writing reached its peak two centuries later with the Jami al-Tawarikh of Rashīd al-Dīn Fadhl-allāh Hamadānī (1247–1318). Other important historical works include the Tarikh-i Jehan-gusha by Ata-Malik Juvayni and the Zafar-nameh of Sharaf ad-Din Ali Yazdi, a history of the Mongolian conqueror Timur (Tamerlane; 1370–1405).

Iranian Studies in modern Iran

Among the most prominent scholars of Iranian Studies in Iran during the twentieth century may be counted Badiozzaman Forouzanfar, Abdolhossein Zarrinkoub, Zabihollah Safa, Mojtaba Minovi, Mohsen Abolqasemi, Ahmad Tafazzoli, and Alireza Shapour Shahbazi. The Loghat-nameh of Ali-Akbar Dehkhoda is the largest comprehensive Persian dictionary ever published, in 15 volumes (26,000 pages).

Iranian Studies in Europe

European scholarly interest in Iranian language and civilization dates back to the late eighteenth century, with the emergence of comparative Indo-European linguistics and the translation of the Avesta by French scholar Abraham Hyacinthe Anquetil-Duperron. British interest in Persian was spurred by the fact that it was the administrative language of much of India; German scholars were attracted by the purported cultural links with Iran as a fellow "Aryan civilization".

The major European scholarly organization devoted to Iranian Studies is the Societas Iranologica Europea. The London-based Iran Heritage Foundation supports Iranian studies at several universities and sponsors a wide range of public cultural events.






  • Scandinavian Society for Iranian Studies


  • Avestan Digital Archive, University of Salamanca


Iranian Studies in North America

The first major American Iranist was Columbia University Professor A. V. Williams Jackson (1862-1937), a scholar of Indo-Iranian languages who is known for producing a grammar of the Avestan language. During the 1950s Richard Frye developed Iranian Studies at Harvard. An Iranian Studies program was created at UCLA in 1963. Other Universities where Iranian Studies are offered include the University of Chicago; Princeton University; Indiana University, Bloomington; Concordia University, and the University of Toronto. The Society for Iranian Studies (now the International Society for Iranian Studies) was founded by a group of Iranian graduate students in 1967 and began producing a journal, Iranian Studies. The field expanded considerably during the 1970s, with a number of Americans having served in the Peace Corps in Iran taking up academic positions. Close relations between Iran and the US facilitated the growth of academic programs as well as the Asia Institute in Shiraz and the American Institute of Iranian Studies.

The 1979 revolution initially reversed this trend; American academic centers in Iran were closed and their assets seized. Over the past three decades, lack of funding and the difficulty of research travel to Iran have been major obstacles to scholars based in North America. Nevertheless, the field has seen some important achievements such as the monumental Encyclopedia Iranica project led by retired Columbia professor Ehsan Yarshater. In recent years several new centers for Iranian Studies have been established, notably at the University of California-Irvine, the University of Maryland, and Concordia University in Montreal, Canada. Iranian Studies "initiatives" have been launched at the University of Toronto, University of Oklahoma, New York University, and the University of California-Santa Barbara.

  • The American Institute of Iranian Studies (AIIrS)
  • Columbia University, Center for Iranian Studies
  • Concordia University, Centre for Iranian Studies
  • Foundation for Iranian Studies
  • Harvard University, Iranian Studies
  • ILEX Foundation
  • International Society for Iranian Studies
  • Iran Heritage Foundation America
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Iranian Studies Group
  • New York University, Iranian Studies Initiative
  • Ohio State University, Middle East Studies Center
  • San Francisco State University, Persian Studies
  • Quinnipiac University, Center for Iranian Research and Analysis
  • Stanford University, Moghadam Program in Iranian Studies
  • University of Arizona, Persian and Iranian Studies
  • University of California-Irvine, Samuel Jordan Center for Persian Studies and Culture
  • University of California-Los Angeles, Iranian Studies
  • University of California-Santa Barbara, Iranian Studies Initiative
  • University of Chicago, Iranian Pre-Historic Project
  • University of Maryland, Roshan Center for Persian Studies
  • University of Oklahoma, Center for Middle East Studies
  • University of Texas at Austin, Center for Middle Eastern Studies
  • University of Toronto, Iranian Studies Initiative
  • University of Virginia, Department of Middle Eastern and South Asian Languages and Cultures
  • University of Washington, Persian and Iranian Studies


  • Abstracta Iranica
  • Acta Iranica
  • Analytica Iranica
  • Archäologische Mitteilungen aus Iran und Turan
  • Ars Orientalis
  • Farhang-i Kerman
  • Critique: Critical Middle Eastern Studies
  • Indo-Iranica
  • Indo-Iranian Journal (Previous publisher page, current publisher)
  • Iran: Journal of the British Institute of Persian Studies
  • Iran Analysis Quarterly (ISG Journal)
  • Iranica Antiqua edited by Department of Near Eastern Studies of Gent University
  • Iran & the Caucasus
  • Iranian Studies
  • Iran-nameh: Armenian Journal of Oriental Studies
  • Iranshinakht
  • Iran Shenasi
  • Iranica Antiqua
  • Iranistische Mitteilungen
  • Majallah-yi Zabanshinasi
  • Manuscripta Orientalia (includes articles on Persian manuscripts etc.)
  • Namah-i Farhangistan
  • Persica. Jaarboek van het Genootschap Nederland-Iran
  • Rahavard
  • Studia Iranica
  • Zabanshinasi
1748 French map by Le Rouge titled "L'Empire de Perse".

(Some of these authors have also written articles for the Encyclopædia Iranica)

Yarshater lectureship

The Yarshater lectureship is today the most prestigious honor in the field.

List of Iranologists

Iranian Scholars

Daryoosh Akbarzadeh

International Scholars

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