Monday, 15 December 2014 20:15

Historical Geography, an Inevitable Discipline of Medieval Iranian Studies


Dr. Ehsan Eshraqi is the prominent professor of History at Tehran University and permanent member of Farhangestan-e  Olum (Institution of Science). He received his BA degree in History and Geography in 1949 and his MA in History and Sociology in 1963 from Tehran University. In 1970, he received his Ph.D. degree in History from Tehran University.Besides teaching, Dr. Eshraqi has been the dean of History Department and the director of research projects at Tehran University. Because of his studies on Qazvin, he was honored as a distinguished professor in 2002. “Beihaqi, Tasvirgar-e Zaman” (Beihaqi, the Illustrator of Time), The corrections of “Tarikh-e Jahanaray-e Abbasi” by Mirza Muhammad Tahir Vahid Qazvini, “Tarikh-e Soltani, az Shekh Safi ta Shah Safi” by Hossein Astarabadi, “Kholasa al-Tarikh” by Qazi Ahmad Qomi and the translation of  “Safavi devletinin Kurulusu ve gelismesinde” by Faruk Sumer are some of scholarly great works done by Dr. Eshraqi.  

  Professor Eshraqi it is a great pleasure for me to have an interview with you regarding the medieval history and its geographical history. When is the Iranian medieval time and to which phases do you divide the history of Iran?

 When we were studying at Tehran University, history of Iran was not usually divided into ancient, medieval or modern and contemporary eras. Instead, it was classified according to different dynasties.  Like the history of any other civilizations, the history of Iran begins with the invention of writing. In this regard, our courses were divided into pre-history and history era.

 Our courses in history era of Iran dealt with the history of the development of cities and Aryan civilization. Different dynasties were not taught one by one, but two or three dynasties were taught in one course. To give an example, courses contained the Medes and the Achaemenids,  the Saluki and the Parthians, the Sasanians, the Taherids, Saffarids, and the Samanids, the Qaznavids and the Saljuqs, and the Mongols and the Timurids.

Now, if you want to have your own classification of history, what do you suggest?

  I usually do not agree on the classification of the history of Iran into the phases of ancient, medieval, and modern ages. This sort of classification is in accordance with the classification of European history. The history of Europe is classified into the Antiquity, Middle, Renaissance, and Modern time. The Middle Ages, or Medieval that is from the 5th to the 15th century, began with the collapse of the Western Roman Empire and ended to the Renaissance. This classification is based on the political, social and economic conditions of Europe and is not consistent with social and political conditions of Iran.  To my idea, we can classify the Islamic history of Iran as it follows: from the Taherids to the Saffarids, the Samanids to the Qaznavids, the Saljuqs to the Mongols, the Timurids, The Safavids, the Zand to the Afsharids, the Qajars to the Pahlavis.

You have done much research on the geography of Iran. Which regions do you regard parts of the Iranian historical geography?

  As it is be inferred from the concept of geographical history, the geography of Iran has gone under drastic changes throughout history, so we cannot define precise coordinates for it. Based on historical geography, Iran, Afghanistan, Caucasus, Central Asia, Arab countries of Persian Gulf constitutes different regions of Iran in medieval time.


Nowadays Iran is considered a part of the Middle East and some researchers regard Iran and Afghanistan as a part of Central Asia. To which classification do you believe?

  As I mentioned Iran was geographically much wider and it included some parts of Mesopotamia, Central Asia, and Caucasus. Nowadays, however, Iran is part of Middle East.


Historical geographically speaking, which subjects do you think ought to be taken into consideration in studying the Iranian medieval history?

 Besides examining historical events, political, economic, and social affairs, geography ought to be studied. History and geography are two integrated fields of human sciences which have critical impacts on each other. Geographic determinism and its impact on social, economic, political, and even psychological affairs have crucial roles in historical circumstances. Therefore, physiographical factors are required to be taken into consideration.  Moreover, the distribution of population, occupation of people in villages and cities are just some issues of human geography that must be studied.

Interviewed by: Maryam Kamali


 Eshraqi book



#2 Maryam Kamali 2015-02-18 21:35
Dear Prof. Hillmann
Thank you so much for your attention and your critical question. Regarding your question, Dr. Mohammad Reza Shafi’ie in his paper “Talaqi-e Qodama az Vatan”has addressed the viewpoints of different poets including Hafez, Saidi and Ferdowsi about Iran in general and hometown particularly. By examining some verses of their poems, Shaf’ie concludes that they even though geographically Iran included many territories, many poets were more concerned with their own hometown or those regions ruled by their patrons. This is of course different for Ferdowsi who considered Iran in its pre-Islamic sense. You can see the paper in the following link:
However, I believe that your question is so significant and it is required to be studied more critically. I will be in touch if I find out any more new points regarding your question.
With best regards
#1 MIchael Hillmann 2015-02-16 18:31
Ehsan Eshraqi: Based on historical geography, Iran, Afghanistan, Turkey, Caucasus, Central Asia, Arab countries of Persian Gulf constitutes different regions of Iran in medieval time. MCH: In what senses did "Iran" exist in medieval times; e.g. for Rumi, Sa'di, and Hafez?

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