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Dr Hormoz Ebrahimnejad  

Lecturer in History (Modern Iran)

Dr Hormoz Ebrahimnejad 's photo

Dr Hormoz Ebrahimnejad is a Lecturer in History at the University of Southampton.

BA in history (Major), and sociology (Minor): (University of Ferdowsi, Mashhad, Iran); MA in history: (Paris Sorbonne IV); PhD in history: (Paris Sorbonne III)

I am a historian of modern Iran (eighteenth-twenty first centuries) specialising in:

Research interests

My current research stems from my general and long-term interest in the structure of power in Iran (18th-20th centuries). Having experienced the 1979 Revolution in Iran, which was the second after the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, I was intrigued by how and why such an event occurred. In the space of a few months the Revolution swept out the Shah’s regime, which was, in the words of Jimmy Carter, “the isle of stability in the Middle East”. As a research student in Paris, I was interested in examining how the clerics could take power. However, lack of available sources on this subject in France led me focus on the Qâjâr dynasty in the nineteenth century. For my PhD at Sorbonne, I investigated issues of power and succession under the early Qâjârs. In my first book, Succession et pouvoir en Iran: les premiers Qâjârs 1726-1834 (L’Harmattan, Paris, 1999) through a detailed analysis of the Qâjâr families and clans, I argued that the Shah, contrary to official historiographical discourse or even modern historiography, did not hold absolute power. The seat of sovereignty was shared by various Qâjâr dignitaries. The nebulous structure of power was mainly due to the tribal organisation of the Qâjârs, characterised by horizontal rather than vertical and hierarchical relationships between different clans and families, and in which the transmission of right to rule was based on both maternal and paternal lines. In such a situation, the Shah could only name his successor tacitly. Although such a nomination was also backed by a tacit consensus, after the death of the Shah the heir apparent, had to secure his right to the throne by the sword as well as by relying on the support of foreign powers.

During the archival research for my dissertation, I came across a host of material on epidemics, which directly or indirectly affected the political situation. These sources led me to examine the medical manuscripts in the nineteenth century to explore the impact of epidemics on medical literature. Despite the change of subject, my work on the history of medicine continues to address the structure of political power but from a different angle: that of the relationship between the state, medicine, and public health. In my first book, I exclusively discussed problems of political power and the transmission of authority and sovereignty and my research in the history of medicine also covers the transmission and transition of science and knowledge.

My second book, Medicine, Public Health and the Qâjâr State: Patterns of Medical Modernisation in Nineteenth-Century Iran (Brill, 2004), examined the medical transformation in Iran from an institutional point of view, arguing that the new state-run institutions (such as the first polytechnic school, the military hospital and the boards of public health) furthered medical professionalization by bringing together traditional physicians and modern-educated doctors. It was thanks to this framework that theoretical and intellectual transition in medicine occurred. The book illustrated the importance of institutional change in medical transformation through the edition and analysis of a Persian manuscript written in the 1860s by a traditional physician.

My third book, Medicine in Iran: Profession, Practice and Politics (Palgrave, 2014), complemented the study of medical transformation in Iran by examining the theoretical transition in traditional medicine, and investigating the change in the perception of diseases and medical concepts within the framework of humoral theory. It demonstrates that traditional physicians played an important role in the rise of modern medicine in Iran, not only through their contribution to translate medical texts, but more substantially by overturning the concepts of humoral medicine when applying these in the treatment of epidemic diseases. This process allowed Persian physicians to be more open to new ideas, with the introduction of anatomy-pathology and biomedicine in Iran.

The result of this research was to introduce a new historiographical approach in the history of medical modernisation that had thus far segregated Western and non-Western medicines by seeing modernisation as simply the old being pushed out by the new, rather than an internal and intellectual transformation. In order to test these findings against other historical contexts, I organised an international workshop in London (2004), in which several research papers discussed medical modernisation in countries such as Vietnam, Turkey, Egypt, Japan, India and elsewhere. I published the proceedings of this workshop in a book, The Development of Modern Medicine in Non-Western Countries, Historical Perspectives (Routledge, 2009).

Current projects:

I am currently working on two different projects: the first is to continue with the question of modernisation pattern from a wider perspective (how modernisation occurred in Iran in different domain: education, judiciary, politics, historiography, relation between civil society and the state; concept and structure of political power, etc.)

My second project is on the Waqf (charitable endowments in Islam) and welfare or public health in the Islamic countries. I approach this question through the practice of waqf and how waqf dynamics informed different legal settings of waqf in different countries.

Research project(s)

Medicine in History and Society

Initially of interest to physicians from the time of the Enlightenment onwards, the history of medicine has gradually gained the attention of historians, sociologists, philosophers, anthropologists, and other social science students.

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Book Chapters


HIST1145, From Shah to Ayatollah

HIST2087, Islamism in modern period

HIST3159-3160, Iran and the West (1850-)

HIST3175, Medicine in History

Areas where I can offer postgraduate supervision:

  • History of medicine
  • Socio-political history of Iran
  • Socio-political history of the Middle Eastern countries
Dr Hormoz Ebrahimnejad
Building 65 Faculty of Arts and Humanities University of Southampton Avenue Campus Highfield Southampton SO17 1BF United Kingdom

Room Number NNN: 65/3035

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