Iran:  A History

Mark Albertson

37 Russell Street,

Norwalk, Ct. 06855


From Antiquity to 1935 it was known as Persia.  In 1935, Iran; since 1979, the Islamic Republic of Iran.  As the standard bearer of Shiism, Persia/Iran has had a history unique in Asia.  As a civilization it has spanned the centuries; indeed, as one of the oldest.  Yet as history shows, Persians are of sturdy stock, having weathered invasions and sweeping changes in history as well as enjoying the fruits of empire.  This course will trace one of history’s most fascinating yet misunderstood of people.

Week 1:  In the Beginning. . .

. . . traces Persian history,  beginning the Elamites in the third millennium B.C., to the Aryans, the Medes, Persian-Achaemenid Empire, which gave way to the empire of Cyrus the Great, 580-529 B.C.; Greco-Persian Wars; the Parthians; Sassanids.

Week 2:  Islamic Persia

Traces the beginnings of the Islamic religion; the resulting Sunni-Shia Split, the Umayyad Dynasty; Abbasid Caliphate and, how Islam—in particular, the Shia variety, became permanently ensconced in Persia.  Rise of the Safavids

Week 3:  Hundred Years War to Modernity

Begins with 100 years of warfare between the Safavids and the Ottomans for control of Mesopotamia, resulting in the Ottoman victory in 1638.  The end of the Safavids and the rise of the Zand Dynasty; giving way to the Qajars.  Britain and Czarist Russia and the Great Game.  Upheaval and the Constitutional Revolution, early 20th century.

Week 4: From Qajar to Pahlevi

The demise of the Qajars and the rise of the Pahlevis.  Britain and Oil.  Consequences of World War I.  Shah Reza Pahlevi abolishes Sharia Law and strives for modernization.  1935, renamed Iran (Aryan roots) and, affinity towards Nazi Germany.  Joint Anglo-Soviet occupation, August-September 1941.  Shah Reza Pahlevi deposed by the British; replaced by son Muhammad Reza Shah Pahlevi, popularly known as the Shah of Iran.

Week 4:  To Revolution

The Mossadegh Affair; importance of oil.  The White Revolution; clerical opposition.  1970s, Iran as the Middle East policeman for the West.  Revolution, first stage:  Freedom Movement; second stage: Islamic Revolution.

Week 6:  Shia Revival

1979 was a decisive year for Sunnis:  The infidel Soviet Union invaded a Muslim nation known as Afghanistan; while the Shah of Iran was deposed by the Shia Fundamentalist, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini; thus accentuating the Sunni-Shia divide:  The Iran-Iraq War; Persian Gulf War; Plan for the New American Century; Bush blunders into Iraq; Iran and Saudi Arabia compete for primacy.

Week 7:  The Nuclear Deal

Politics surrounding the misunderstood and controversial nuclear deal to prevent an Iranian A-Bomb.  Overview of the history of the Iranian nuclear program, beginning with President Eisenhower’s 1953 Atoms for Peace speech; following with the Shah’s nuclear program, supported by the United States.  Effect of such developments as the 1979 Revolution and the 1994 Budapest Memorandum.

Week 8:  Shia Islam

A primer on the Shia variety of Islam. - Lapham Community Center