Sprint Long Distance

email us

Sprint Long Distance



Iranian books

US Transcom
US Transcom

Sehaty Foreign Exchange

Flower delivery in Iran


 Write for The Iranian

Shapour Monument remains, Sasanid period, Bishabour, Fars.
Photo by Mansour Sane'

Not too deep
Shortcomings in the study of Iranian history

By Khodadad Rezakhani
August 11, 2000
The Iranian

This might sound a little unusual. It must sound downright "geekish." But I have an urge to speak out. It is a simple matter, and it concerns teaching history at universities. I am specifically concerned about Iranian history, since this is my own field of study. People study it, and everybody has opinions about it, and that irritates me. I never walk up to an electrical engineer and lecture him about signal processing theory and how useless it is or that he is doing everything wrong. So why is it that every mid-wife or plumber feels free to tell me that the reason behind Pirouz' defeat by the Huns was that he ate too much beans the night before?

What's worse is when academics limit the study of Iranian history only to superficial things. I give you one example from France and try to compare it to the situation about Iran. When you go to university and study the history of France, you receive information on three levels. The first level is to give basic information, like when Hugh Capet became the king or who fought in the Hundred Year Wars. The second level involves specifics. The example can be an in depth study of Henri IV and his life and how and why he became the king of France. This is usually a little more in depth and not only answers the When and Where, but also a little bit of Why. The third level is a really deep and thorough study of a subject, like the reasons behind the French Revolution and its consequences and everything about the subject, down to the presents that Danton received on his eleventh birthday.

After all that, you get into a real academic study of a subject. This is usually what a Ph.D student or a professor does. Most of the time, the research is about a new subject or an unexplored field. In its best form, this study presents facts that are contradictory to what is generally believed and accepted, and it has sources and documents to prove that the "norm" is wrong. One good example is the book, "Myth of Absolutism" that tries to prove that Louis XIV, the poster boy of European absolutism, was not an absolute monarch at all, but just a great deal-maker and an outstanding business man. This is the dream of all up-and-coming historians, and the worst nightmare of established professors. But in the end, it benefits the whole understanding of history.

My concern is that in almost all the universities around the world which offer classes on Iranian history, there is no in depth study of various subjects. Professors and students just satisfy themselves with When and Where, and they take on a little bit of Why, but they don't go very deep. Most only rely on Western sources and what is generally accepted as fact, but they don't try very hard to check those facts or to broaden their understanding. Heroodotus, Sophocles, Procopius, and such Greek and Roman historians, are still the major sources of Achaemenid and Sasanid studies.

That is why everybody thinks Iran's name was "changed" from Persia. The fact is, it never did! Khosro I Anushervan calls himself "Shahanshahi Iran i Aniran" (King of the Kings of Iran and other countries under his rule). Iran has always been Iran. It is sad that one of the best general sources for the study of Sasanid history is still A. Christensens's "Les Sasanids," written in early 20th century. By comparison, the 1996 book on the Grand Duchy of Moscovy will soon to be eclipsed by another coming out this September. Four years is the expiration date on the study of a Western historical subject. But we are still referring to Pirnia's decades-old "History of Ancient Iran".

Other details about Iranian history are just taken at face value and fed to students as the truth. Gaumat was certainly a usurper to the thrown of Cyrus. Arashk II was the son of Arashk I. Ardeshir was the grandson of Sasan. Azar Narsi was crazy and was rightfully overthrown in favor of his unborn brother, Shahpour II. Shirouyeh killed his father just because he was crazy. Khosro lost the battle only because Bahram Chubin was a great military strategist. The list of controversial subjects in the history of Iran just goes on and on right up to more recent events such as the murder of Adel Shah Afshar due to his madness.

The historical community only bothers about simple facts and not much else. The few who do are fast disheartened by the lack of support from the rest of the academia, financially and otherwise. The truth is, the need for a deeper understanding of Iranian history has not yet been appreciated . An average French or English Ph.D student cannot graduate by just listing basic facts. He/she need to do in depth research; find and present new facts and challenge established ones.

You get the idea?

Comment for The Iranian letters section
Comment to the writer Khodadad Rezakhani

 Sprint Long Distance

Copyright © Abadan Publishing Co. All Rights Reserved. May not be duplicated or distributed in any form

 MIS Internet Services

Web Site Design by
Multimedia Internet Services, Inc

 GPG Internet server

Internet server by
Global Publishing Group.