Working to improve mutual understanding between the Middle East and the West


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2015 Conference

Date: 14 – 16 September
Place: British Academy, London
Co-Conveners: Prof. Ali Ansari (British Institute of Persian Studies) & Dr Barbara Schwepcke (Gingko Library)


The Constitutional Revolution of 1906 is widely recognised by historians of Iran as the moment in which the foundations of the modern Iranian state and politics were laid. For all its practical and immediate failures, the Constitutional Revolution had a profound effect on the political culture of the country, establishing the principles of parliamentary representation and shaping popular attitudes towards the state long after the turmoil of revolt had subsided. Giving voice to powerful nationalist impulses, the causes and consequences of the Constitutional Revolution continue to dominate political discourse in Iran to this day.

This international conference brought together scholars from East and West to discuss the intellectual roots and consequences of the Revolution. It focused, in particular, on the impact of Enlightenment thought on the intellectuals that formed the vanguard of the Constitutional Movement and the means and ways in which they engaged with new ideas of political organisation and sought to make them their own. How did Iranian thinkers, scholars and political activists draw on and apply ideas of constitutionalism and the rule of law? How did they understand the challenges facing their country, and how, in particular, did they seek to inculcate a popular sense of patriotism and national purpose? The conference also looked at the historiography of the Constitutional Revolution; how it has been subsequently interpreted by both academics and politicians.

A central theme of the conference was the intellectual engagement between East and West and the inter-relationship of ideas that emerged. It was of interest to scholars of Iran, Europe and broader intellectual history.

‘a highly auspicious and commendable initiative … I hope that this initiative will, albeit slowly, facilitate and promote the process of peace and mutual understanding among peoples around the globe.’
– Mahmoud Dowlatabadi

‘The Constitutional Revolution is by far the most significant political event in the modern history of Iran, far more significant than the subsequent Islamic Revolution in the sense that it completely altered the political fabric of the country.’
– Prof. Ali Ansari, conference co-convener