Persian or Farsi is an Indo-European language with roots going back to the old Iranian languages but written in the Arabic script. Forms of Persian are spoken in Iran, Tajikistan and part of Afghanistan. It was also the language of the Moghul rulers of northern India and the vehicle for Moghul literature. Because it is related to European languages, Persian is one of the easiest Middle Eastern languages to learn. Students also benefit from the fact that the written and spoken forms of the language are close and have remained relatively constant over time, so they are quickly able to read a range of classical and modern materials.
Persian is perhaps most famous for its poetry which is one of the great canons of world literature. Great Persian poets like Omar al-Khayyam, Hafiz, Sa'di and Rumi have been beloved by Europeans reading their words in translation for over two hundred years: to read these poets in the original only adds to their depth and beauty. Persian is also the second language of Islam with many important works of history, literature, philosophy and Sufism (Islamic mysticism).
Persian has been studied and taught at Cambridge for many years by eminent scholars including E G Browne, R A Nicholson and A J Arberry. As a result, Cambridge has excellent resources in Persian studies. We teach classical and modern Persian language and literature and several history courses which cover Iran's history since the Islamic conquest to the twentieth century.
Prospective students should, nearer the time of admission, consult the preliminary reading list available on this website.