The Governing Council

BIPS’s Governing Council oversees the Institute’s affairs and is responsible for delivering its mission. 

Most Governing Council members, including all members of the Executive Committee, are elected by the fellow and ordinary members of BIPS and serve as trustees of the registered charity and directors of the limited company. They serve for three-year terms, with the possibility of re-election for a second consecutive term, after which they must retire for at least one year.

Other Governing Council members are co-opted to serve in recognition of their specific expertise, for example in business or financial matters, or sit on Council as Honorary Vice Presidents (an emeritus-type role awarded to former BIPS trustees in recognition of their expertise and knowledge of Persianate studies and BIPS’s history).

Council Members

Professor Charles Melville, University of Cambridge (President)*

cpm-1024x1024Professor Charles Melville

BIPS President*

Professor of Persian History
University of Cambridge

Charles Melville, MA, PhD, was elected President in 2018. He is Professor of Persian History, Fellow of Pembroke College and Founding Director since 1999 of the Shahnama Project. He is also President of the Islamic Manuscripts Association and Vice Chair of the Academic Council at Iran Heritage Foundation. He has travelled widely in Iran and Central Asia.  His main research interests are in the history and historiography of Iran in the Mongol to Safavid periods and the Persian manuscript culture.  He is currently working on the illustration of Persian historical texts and is editor of the BIPS Persian Studies series.

Dr Lloyd Ridgeon, University of Glasgow (Vice President)*

Lloyd-Ridgeon-1024x1024Dr Lloyd Ridgeon

BIPS Vice President*

Reader in Islamic Studies
University of Glasgow

Lloyd Ridgeon, BA, MA, PhD, was elected to Council in 2012. He is Reader in Islamic Studies at the Department of Theology and Religious Studies, University of Glasgow, where he teaches on classical Islam, modern Islamic thought and modern Iran. His research interests encompass Persian literature, Iranian history and culture, classical and modern Sufism and Islamic history. In 2018, he published an edited book on Javanmardi (with Gingko Library) which was one of the three-year BIPS research projects. His latest research project looks at the hijab in the modern Iranian context by examining the ideas of three modern jurists.

Ms Narguess Farzad, SOAS University of London (Honorary Secretary)*

Ms Narguess Farzad

BIPS Honorary Secretary*

Senior Fellow in Persian
SOAS University of London

Narguess Farzad teaches Persian as a foreign language, translation studies, and the classical and modern poetry of the Persian-speaking world. She has written on challenges of translating classical Persian poetry and has worked on several projects focused on translation, the latest of which is A New Divan, A Lyrical Dialogue Between East & West, published by Gingko, May 2019.  She is also the author of the Complete Modern Persian Beginner to Intermediate Course published by Hachette UK. 

Dr Arezou Azad, University of Oxford

Dr Arezou Azad

Senior Research Fellow
University of Oxford
Dr Arezou Azad is Senior Research Fellow at the University of Oxford, and was Lecturer in Medieval History at the University of Birmingham where she taught and supervised undergraduate and graduate students in Islamicate history. She is a historian of the medieval Islamicate East, and has previously worked on the staff of international charities and the United Nations in strategy development and fundraising. As an academic researcher, Dr Azad has authored a monograph and articles on the social, gender, landscape and topographic history of medieval Balkh (Afghanistan). She has co-authored three volumes of books that are forthcoming, including a revised edition and translation of the Faḍāʾil-i Balkh and a collection of articles based on the Balkh Art and Cultural Heritage project which she co-directed in 2011-15. From the autumn of 2019, Dr Azad will direct two new major research projects, which together investigate the early development of Persian and other languages through documents and religious and linguistic plurality in the medieval Islamicate East.
Dr Vesta Sarkhosh Curtis, British Museum (Honorary Director)*

Dr Vesta Sarkhosh Curtis

BIPS Honorary Director (non-resident) Tehran*

British Museum

Vesta Sarkhosh Curtis was born in Tehran, obtained an M.A. in Near Eastern Archaeology and Ancient Iranian Languages at the University of Göttingen in Germany and a PhD from University College London on Parthian art. She was Joint Editor of the Journal IRAN (1983-2003), Secretary of BIPS (1998-2003), President of the British Institute of Persian Studies (2006-2011) and Secretary of the Royal Numismatic Society (2005-2010). She is a member of the Academic Committee of the Iran Heritage Foundation (IHF) and Honorary Director of the British Institute of Persian Studies, Tehran since 2014.

She was appointed Curator of Middle Eastern Coins in the Department of Coins and Medals, The British Museum in 2005. She has successfully completed a joint collaborative project with the National Museum of Iran on Sasanian Coins of AD 224-651, which resulted in two volumes co-authored with Mrs Elahé Askari, the former Head of the Coins and Seals Department of the National Museum of Iran in Tehran, and Elizabeth Pendleton of the British Museum. Together with Dr Michael Alram in Vienna, she is the Joint Director of the International Parthian Coin Project, The Sylloge Nummorum Parthicorum (SNP). This is a collaborative research project involving major museums in the world with important Parthian coin holdings, including Tehran, Paris, London, Berlin, Vienna and New York. She is currently preparing in this series the publication of SNP Volume 2: Coins of Mithradates II.

She has published extensively on ancient Persian coins, art and culture and is particularly interested in religious and royal iconography

Professor Andrew J. Newman, University of Edinburgh

Professor Andrew J. Newman

Personal Chair of Islamic Studies and Persian
University of Edinburgh

Professor Newman holds a BA in History, summa cum laude, from Dartmouth College, New Hampshire, USA, and an MA and PhD in Islamic Studies from the University of California, Los Angeles, USA. He joined IMES in 1996, having been a Research Fellow at both the Wellcome Unit for the History of Medicine, Oxford and Green College, Oxford, whilst researching topics in the history of Islamic medicine.

Dr Richard McClary, University of York

Dr Richard McClary

Lecturer, Islamic Art and Architecture
University of York
Dr Richard Piran McClary is a lecturer in Islamic Art and Architecture at the University of York. He received his doctorate from the University of Edinburgh in 2015. He has lectured extensively on the topic of Medieval Islamic architecture around the world and has conducted fieldwork in India, Turkey, Central Asia and the Middle East. He held a Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellowship at the University of Edinburgh from 2015 to 2018, examining the surviving corpus of Qarakhanid architecture in Central Asia, and the resulting monograph is currently in press. His monograph entitled Rum Seljuq Architecture 1170-1220. The Patronage of Sultans was published by Edinburgh University Press in 2017, and he has published numerous articles and book chapters on the topic of medieval Islamic architecture and ceramics.
Professor Andrew Peacock, University of St Andrews

Professor Andrew Peacock

BIPS Medieval Programme Director
Professor of Middle Eastern and Islamic History
University of St Andrews
Andrew Peacock is Professor of Middle Eastern and Islamic History at the University of St Andrews. His research interests focus on the medieval and early modern history of Iran and the broader Persianate world (Anatolia, Central Asia, India and the Indian Ocean). He also specialises in the study of manuscripts in Persian, Arabic, Turkish and Malay and pre-modern Islamic historiography  and intellectual history.
Dr Cameron Petrie, University of Cambridge

Dr Cameron Petrie

Editor of BIPS Archaeology Monographs Series and Co-Editor of Iran.

Reader in South Asian and Iranian Archaeology
University of Cambridge

Dr Petrie conducts research on the archaeology of India, Pakistan and Iran and has been with the Department of Archaeology in Cambridge since 2005, when he became the Research Councils UK Fellow in South Asian and Iranian Archaeology, and was appointed as a lecturer in 2010. Prior to that he was the Katherine and Leonard Woolley Junior Research Fellow at Somerville College Oxford (2003-2006), and was appointed to that position after finishing his PhD at the University of Sydney (1998-2002).

Dr Sarah Stewart, SOAS University of London (Outreach Director)*

Dr Sarah Stewart

BIPS Outreach Director*

Shapoorji Pallonji Senior Lecturer in Zoroastrianism
SOAS University of London

Sarah Stewart is the Shapoorji Pallonji Lecturer in Zoroastrianism at SOAS. She also is a lecturer regarding Muslim Minorities in a Global Context (Distance Learning) and is published author.

Professor Alan Williams, University of Manchester (Research Director)*

Professor Alan Williams

BIPS Research Director*

British Academy Wolfson Research Professor and Professor of Iranian Studies, University of Manchester

Alan Williams read Classics, then Persian & Arabic at Oxford , before completing a PhD on Iranian Studies with the late Professor Mary Boyce at SOAS, London. After teaching at the University of Sussex and SOAS, he moved to the University of Manchester in 1985, where he is now Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Religion. He was recently British Academy Wolfson Research Professor (2013-2016) and is now holder of the Leverhulme Major Research Fellowship (2016-2019) to complete a parallel text edition with the Persian alongside a literal English translation into blank verse of the Masnavi of Jalal al-Din Rumi.

His interest in Iran spans pre-Islamic and Islamic Iran to the present day, and he has published on Zoroastrian texts in Avestan, Pahlavi, Classical Persian and Indo-Persian, as well  articles about Zoroastrian ritual and society, translation studies and comparative literature.

His six volume Masnavi is forthcoming from I.B.Tauris (2018-).

Honorary Vice Presidents

Professor Ali Ansari FRAS FRSE, University of St Andrews

Ali-Ansari023-1024x1024Professor Ali Ansari FRAS FRSE


Ali M. Ansari, PhD (SOAS), FRAS, FRSE, served as BIPS President from 2013-2017. He is Professor of Iranian History and the Founding Director of the Institute for Iranian Studies, University of St Andrews, Member of the Academic Council at Iran Heritage Foundation, and Senior Associate Fellow of the Royal United Services Institute. He has written more than five books and his research interests include the development of the state in Iran; historiography, ideology, myth and nationalism; social and intellectual history; and Iran’s relations with the West. 

Professor Robert Hillenbrand FBA FRSE, Universities of St Andrews and Edinburgh

rh-1024x1024Professor Robert Hillenbrand FBA FRSE

Emeritus Professor of Islamic Art
Universities of St Andrews & Edinburgh

Robert Hillenbrand, MA, DPhil, FBA, FRSE, was appointed to an Honorary Vice President in 2008. He is the Chairman of the Academic Council of the Iran Heritage Foundation in London, Professor Emeritus of Islamic Art at the University of Edinburgh and Honorary Professorial Fellow of Islamic Art at the University of St Andrews. He is actively engaged in research projects in Persian painting, Islamic iconography and Islamic architecture, notably of Syria and Iran. He taught at the University of Edinburgh for thirty-six years and has published more than 160 articles as well as nine books.

Professor Paul Luft, Durham University


Professor Paul Luft


Paul Luft, MA, PhD, was elected an Honorary Vice President in 2006. He is Fellow of the German Historical Institute, London and an Honorary Fellow at the Institute of Middle Eastern & Islamic Studies, Durham University, where he co-founded a Centre for Iranian Studies.His main academic interests are the periods of transformation in 19th and 20th century Iran, including the political and cultural changes from a tribalised to a court society in the first half of the 19th century and further administrative reorganisation of the state in Iran in the early period of Reza Shah.

Co-opted Members

Mr John Drake, Bird and Bird LLP

John is Chief Commercial Counsel for Bird and Bird LLP, where he is in charge of several change programmes, having been Chief Operating Officer for 7 years until 2015. A qualified barrister, most of John’s career was in industry both in Asia and the UK mostly as CEO in operational engineering and service provision businesses undertaking major change in telecoms, electronics and transportation sectors. He has a strong personal interest in Iran and all things Iranian, having travelled to the country in the 1970s and worked on the Harvard Semitic Museum archaeological dig at Davazeh Tepe north of the Kuheh Ramat in Fars Province near Marv Dasht.

Mr Christopher Bell FCA, Cambridge Recruitment Software Solutions Ltd (Acting Honorary Treasurer)

Mr Christopher Bell FCA

Cambridge Recruitment Software Solutions Ltd

*Member of Management Committee





The scope of Governing Council’s responsibilities is significant. Specifically, the Council determines the general character of the Institute’s activities; approves the topics of any conferences organised by or in conjunction with the Institute; approves the academic and financial relationships with publishers of its publication series and journal; approves the conferment of all awards made, including Fellowships and Prizes; reviews and approves the services and benefits to be provided to Members and the level of subscription to be charged. The Council also establishes financial procedures to safeguard the assets of the Institute, which include approving the Annual Accounts for filing with the Charity Commission and for presentation at the Annual General Meeting. Furthermore, the Council appoints by consensus or majority vote the Chief Executive Officers of the Institute (President, Vice President, Honorary Secretary and Honorary Treasurer), the Chairs of the Council’s constituent Committees, and at its discretion, the Council undertakes other tasks that are consonant with the Institute’s aims and the Council’s legal and financial responsibilities.