News & Events

News
2 Jun 2014

It is hard to imagine another modern culture more in thrall to its distant literary past than Iranians with their Shahnama, the national epic composed by the poet Ferdowsi in the eleventh century. With its luminous array of villains, heroes, and demons, and stories probing the struggle of love against betrayal and good against evil, the Book of Kings is at once a retelling of Persian history before the Arabic conquest and a repository of literary myths that places Ferdowsi alongside Shakespeare and Homer as one of the great giants of storytelling. The Shahnama exerts a profound emotional and psychological hold over Iranians to this day, and the epic remains central to contemporary Iranian identity, a perennial cultural refuge in turbulent political times.

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News
27 May 2014

“Being originally from Russia, working on this project with the British, I realise we are sort of the worst possible candidates from the Iranian point of view to organise the preservation of Persian culture.” Dr Firuza Abdullaeva gives a self-deprecating smile to a chorus of knowing chuckles. As Head of Pembroke College’s Shahnameh Centre for Persian Studies, inaugurated this Saturday, Dr Abdullaeva has every reason to smile.  The Shahnameh Centre is the culmination of a project founded by Professor Charles Melville in 1999, and despite the superfluous ghosts of old wrongs, any misgivings could be formed only in error. In their passion, neither Melville nor Abdullaeva could be doubted (the latter named at least three paintings from the ‘Time Forward’ exhibition as her favourites, and may well have elucidated more had she had time). Both are giants in their field, and continue the impressive tradition of research into Persian culture which has existed in Pembroke since at least the 1880s, and which has included such eminent...

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News
25 May 2014

The donation means that the College’s “phenomenal tradition” of Oriental and Persian studies can continue. Pembroke alumnus E.G. Browne was famously one of the first Western scholars to publish works on Persia, even having a street named after him in Tehran.

The centre will acquire an extensive library of books and publications on Persian literature and culture.

The Shahnama Centre is a development of The Shahnama Project, founded by Professor Charles Melville in 1999. It has an online database of illustrated manuscripts of the Shahnama, Book of Kings...

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Event
1 Apr 2014, 6:30pm Jordan Hall, Building 420, Room 041

Charles Melville is Professor of Persian History at the University of Cambridge and a Fellow of Pembroke College. He has a BA (Hons.) in Arabic and Persian from Cambridge (1972), an MA in Islamic History (SOAS, 1973) and a PhD on the Historical seismicity of Iran (Cambridge, 1978). His main research interests are in the history and historiography of Iran in the Mongol to Safavid periods (14th-17th centuries), and the illustration of Persian manuscripts. Recent publications include “The illustration of history in Safavid manuscript painting”, in Colin P. Mitchell (ed.) New Perspectives on Safavid Iran: Empire and Society, London 2011; “The itineraries of Shahrukh b. Timur (1405-47)”, in D. Durand-Guédy (ed.) Turko-Mongol Rulers, Cities and City Life, Leiden, 2013, and “The Royal image in Mongol Iran”, in Lynette Mitchell & Charles Melville (eds), Every Inch a King: Comparative studies on kings and kingship in the ancient and medieval worlds, Leiden, 2013. He is currently working on the illustration of mediaeval Persian history.

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Event
10 Dec 2013 (All day) Russian Academy of Fine Arts, Moscow, Tsereteli Centre

Opening of the solo exhibition of Sergey Feofanov ‘The Flight of Simurgh’. The opening ceremony included many speeches, among them by the newly appointed ambassador of Iran to Russia, HE Mehdi Sanai; a Member of the Russian Academy of Fine Arts, Vladimir Molchanov; a Member of the Board of the Russian Academy of Fine Arts and President of the Artists of Moscow, Boris Messerer; and the Head of the Cambridge Shahnama Centre Dr Firuza Melville.

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News
29 Nov 2013

A Cambridge University project analyzing and promoting the Shahna-meh has been given a funding boost of $2 million by Iranian-American philanthropist Bita Daryabari, the former wife of Google executive Omid Kordestani.

Set up in 1999 by Professor Charles Melville, a fellow of Pembroke College and a Persian studies professor, the project aims to study and translate anew the 1000-year-old Persian epic.

Daryabari, who fled Iran as a child after the revolution, set up the endowment as part of an ongoing project to promote Iranian heritage...

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Event
28 Oct 2013 (All day) West Road Concert Hall, Cambridge

First exhibition of contemporary art ‘Imagining Shahnama in the 21st century’ in the series of the project Shahnama Forever. Shahnama Forever is a fresh sub-project that grew out of the bigger ‘mother’ Cambridge Shahnama Project started in 1999 and originally funded by the AHRC and later supported from several private sources, including the Iran Heritage Foundation and the Aga Khan Trust for Culture.

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Event
26 Oct 2013, 11:00am Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, University of Cambridge, Sidgwick Site, Sidgwick Avenue, Cambridge, CB3 9DA

Cambridge University Festival of Ideas: Ancient stories of the Persian Book of Kings in Modern art, included lectures by Professor Charles Melville, Dr Firuza Abdullaeva, Dr Mahbod Ghaffari and presentations by the artists who participated in the art show ‘Imagining Shahnama in the 21st century’, curated by Veronica Shimanovskaya.

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