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Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies


For much of the last millennium, Persian was a language of high culture, literary production, and administration across much of Asia. An untold number of courtiers, administrators and intellectuals used Persian without being native speakers, and even people whom we might consider native speakers (notably Iranians) were unable to participate in this trans-regional high culture until they were formally taught a literary sensibility. Despite the importance of this educational tradition, we know remarkably little about how people in early-modern Asia learned Persian. This project will provide a long history of Persian-language literary education with the aim of better understanding the Persianate (that is, the Persian language-using) world. With a focus on pre-modern India, it uses largely untapped sources such as dictionaries, schoolbooks, and commentaries to offer new perspectives on the historical relationship of trans-regional cultural forms with local contexts. 

The project has three strands: The first seeks to identify lineages of teachers that connect different regions in India and Iran, the second analyses the textual basis for Persian teaching (the 'curriculum'), and the third considers how pre-modern Persian educational models fared in contact with colonial modernity and shaped the teaching of modern Indian languages.

Faculty Researchers