The Iranian Revolution

This information is for the 2023/24 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Roham Alvandi SAR M.12


This course is available on the MA in Modern History, 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 cultural, diplomatic, intellectual, political, and social history of Pahlavi Iran. The course begins with the emergence of the modern Iran during the Constitutional Revolution in the Qajar era, 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 locates 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.


10 x 2-hour seminars in the Autumn Term; 10 x 2-hour seminars in the Winter Term. There will be a reading week in the Autumn and the Winter Terms.

Formative coursework

A 2,000-word essay in the Autumn Term.

Indicative reading

  • Abrahamian, Ervand, The Iranian Mojahedin (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989).
  • Janet Afary and Kevin B. Anderson, Foucault and the Iranian Revolution: Gender and the Seductions of Islamism (Chicago: The University Press of Chicago, 2005).
  • Alvandi, Roham (ed.), The Age of Aryamehr: Late Pahlavi Iran and its Global Entanglements (London: Gingko Library, 2018).
  • Ansari, Ali, The Politics of Nationalism in Modern Iran (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012).
  • Boroujerdi, Mehrzad. Iranian Intellectuals and the West: the tormented triumph of nativism (Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, 1996)
  • Chehabi, Houchang E., Iranian Politics and Religious Modernism: the Liberation Movement of Iran under the Shah and Khomeini (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1990)
  • Keddie, Nikki R., Modern Iran: Roots and Results of Revolution, New Edition (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2006).
  • Milani, Abbas, The Persian Sphinx: Amir Abbas Hoveyda and the riddle of the Iranian revolution (Washington, DC: Mage Publishers, 2000).
  • Nabavi, Negin, Intellectuals and the State in Iran: politics, discourse and dilemma of authenticity (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2003).
  • Paidar, Parvin, Women and the Political Process in Twentieth Century Iran (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995).
  • Rahnema, Ali, An Islamic Utopian: A Political Biography of Ali Shari`ati (London: I.B. Tauris, 1998).
  • Shakibi, Zhand, Pahlavi Iran and the Politics of Occidentalism: The Shah and the Rastakhiz Party (London: I.B. Tauris, 2020).


Essay (35%, 3500 words) in the WT.
Essay (35%, 3500 words) in the ST.
Presentation (15%) and class participation (15%) in the AT and WT.

Key facts

Department: International History

Total students 2022/23: Unavailable

Average class size 2022/23: Unavailable

Controlled access 2022/23: No

Value: One Unit

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