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Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies

Middle Eastern Studies
Emeritus Professor of Persian History
President, The Islamic Manuscript Association
Vice-President, British Institute of Persian Studies
Director, Shahnama Project
Email address: 
+44 (0)1223 338141
Fellow of: 
Pembroke College

Born London on 10 May 1951, educated at Wellington College and Pembroke College, Cambridge (1969-72), BA Hons. (1st) in Oriental Studies (Arabic & Persian); University R.A. Nicholson Prize, Pembroke College E.G. Browne Prize (1972).  MA (Islamic History), London SOAS (1972-3). PhD, Cambridge, on “The historical seismicity of Iran from the 7th to the 17th century” (1978).  Research Assistant, Imperial College, London (1974-82); seismic hazard research consultant, CEGB-Nuclear Electric, etc. (1982-86); Assistant Lecturer in Oriental Studies, Cambridge (1984-8); University Lecturer (1988-2001); Reader (2001-8); Professor of Persian History (2008-present). Fellow of Pembroke College (1985-present).

He has been a long-serving member of the Governing Council of the British Institute of Persian Studies and chairman of the Research Committee, and is currently Vice-President. He has also served on the Board of the Societas Iranologica Europaea (1995-2003). Since 1999, he has been Director of the Shahnama Project, and since 2006 he has been President of The Islamic Manuscript Association (TIMA), both based in Cambridge. In 2010 he was behind an exhibition of Persian manuscripts and paintings of the Shahnama (Persian Book of Kings) at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge. He has travelled widely in Central Asia and Iran (both before and after the Islamic Revolution).

Teaching responsibilities: 

Professor Melville teaches courses on Middle Eastern History.

Research interests: 

Professor Melville’s main research interests are in the history and historiography of medieval Iran, with a concentration on the Mongol–Safavid periods (13th-17th centuries), and text-image studies of Persian manuscripts, particularly the Shahnama of Firdausi and historical texts (chronicles).

Recent publications include edited volumes of Safavid Persia (1996), Shahnama Studies (2006) and Shahnama Studies II (2012), and ‘Millennium of the Shahnama of Firdausi’ (Iranian Studies, 2010, with Firuza Abdullaeva). Co-authored books include The Persian Book of Kings. Ibrahim Sultan’s Shahnama(2008, also with Firuza Abdullaeva) and Epic of the Kings. The art of Ferdowsi’s Shahnameh (2010, with Barbara Brend). Edited volumes on Persian Historiography (vol. X of the History of Persian Literature) and Kingship from Antiquity to the Medieval World ('Every Inch a King', with Lynette Mitchell) were published in 2012, and The Mongols' Middle East: Continuity and transformation in Ilkhanid Iran (with Bruno de Nicola) in 2016.

A Chronicle of the reign of Shah ‘Abbas. Fazli Beg Khuzani Isfahani, was published in 2015, with Kioumars Ghereghlou.

Further publications