The Iranian Revolution

This information is for the 2019/20 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Roham Alvandi SAR M.12


This course is available on the MSc in Empires, Colonialism and Globalisation, MSc in History of International Relations, MSc in International Affairs (LSE and Peking University), MSc in International and World History (LSE & Columbia) and MSc in Theory and History of International Relations. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

Please note that students taking this course cannot take GV4E7 Islamic Republic of Iran: Society, Politics, the Greater Middle East (H).

Course content

This course examines the origins of the 1978-79 Iranian Revolution in the political, intellectual, and diplomatic history of Pahlavi Iran. The course begins with the emergence of the modern Iranian state in the Safavid and Qajar eras, before turning to the Iranian encounter with decolonisation and the Cold War under the Pahlavi monarchy. We discuss Iran’s experience of American modernisation and the crisis of legitimacy that engulfed the last Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, following the 1953 coup in Iran. The course examines the origins of the Iranian Revolution in the global contest between the Shah and the Iranian opposition throughout the 1960s and 1970s, as both the state and its opponents contested notions of modernity, Shi’a Islam, universal human rights, and Third Worldism. Students are asked to look in depth at the politics and ideology of the Pahlavi state and the opposition forces arrayed against the Shah, both in a national and global context. A particular emphasis of the course is on the international relations of Pahlavi Iran, particularly Iran’s relations with the United States, and the transnational connections between the Iranian opposition and the anti-imperialist movements of the global 1960s and 1970s. The course culminates with the fall of the Pahlavi monarchy in 1979 and the subsequent creation of the Islamic Republic.


20 hours of seminars in the MT. 20 hours of seminars in the LT. 2 hours of seminars in the ST.

There will be a reading week in the MT and the LT.

Formative coursework

Students are required to submit one 3,000 word essay in the Michaelmas Term and to make a class presentation in either the Michaelmas or the Lent Terms.

Indicative reading


Alvandi, Roham, Nixon, Kissinger, and the Shah: The United States and Iran in the Cold War (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014).

Amanat, Abbas, Iran: A Modern History (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2018).

Ansari, Ali, The Politics of Nationalism in Modern Iran (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012).

Katouzian, Homa, The Persians: Ancient, Mediaeval and Modern Iran (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009).

Keddie, Nikki R., Modern Iran: Roots and Results of Revolution, New Edition (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2006)..


Exam (75%, duration: 3 hours) in the summer exam period.
Essay (25%, 3000 words) in the LT.

Key facts

Department: International History

Total students 2018/19: Unavailable

Average class size 2018/19: Unavailable

Controlled access 2018/19: No

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information