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Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies

Middle Eastern Studies
University Associate Professor in the Eastern Islamic Lands and Persian-Speaking World
Email address: 
+44 (0)1223 335131
Fellow of: 
Pembroke College
Director of Studies at: 
Pembroke College

Assef Ashraf is a historian of early modern and modern Iran and the Persianate world. 

Much of his recent research has revolved around the questions of how and why political cultures endure, and how and why they change. His book Making and Remaking Empire in Early Qajar Iran (Cambridge University Press, 2024) explores this topic by focusing on the formation of Qajar Iran at the turn of the nineteenth century, and the governance practices which, over time, constructed, consolidated, and ultimately exposed the limits of Qajar political authority. Other areas of research interest include the history of political thought, as well as how the history and memory of the past can be used towards political ends.

In addition to his monograph, aspects of Dr Ashraf's research have been published in Comparative Studies in Society and History, the International Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, and the Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient. He has co-edited a volume of essays entitled The Persianate World: Rethinking a Shared Sphere (Brill, 2019), and is currently co-editing the Cambridge Companion on Qajar Iran (under contract, CUP).

Dr Ashraf received his PhD from the Department of History at Yale University before moving to Cambridge in 2018. He lectures and supervises in a variety of papers on the history and culture of Iran, the Middle East, and the Persian-speaking world. 

Supervision information: 

Dr Ashraf welcomes inquiries from prospective MPhil and PhD students who are interested in projects relating to the history of Iran and the Persian-speaking world, from the early modern to modern periods broadly defined.

Research interests: 

Comparative empires; the ‘Persianate world’; imperial and state formation; political culture; Persian historiography; history, memory, and the politics of knowledge.

Current PhD students

Saleh Alkhulaifi: The modern history of the Gulf and the emergence of Gulf states in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
Yusuf Chaudhary: Islamic Intellectual History in the Mongol Ilkhanate (1258-1358); Theological Works of Rashid al-Din al-Hamadhani; Ilkhanid Intellectual Networks
Iqan Shahidi: The concept of decline and decadence in the writings of the contemporary intellectuals of Iran.