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* (President)

cpm-1024x1024Professor Charles Melville*


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* (Vice President)

Lloyd-Ridgeon-1024x1024Dr Lloyd Ridgeon (Vice President)


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. His latest book, Shi’i Islam and Identity: Religion, Politics and Change in the Global Muslim Community, discusses the nature of contemporary Shi’ism and focuses on the creation of identities.

Professor Alan Williams* (Research Director)

Professor Alan Williams


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-).

Dr Cameron Petrie (Cambridge)

Dr Cameron Petrie

Editor of BIPS Archaeology Monographs Series and Deputy Editor of Iran.

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)

Dr Sarah Stewart

BIPS Outreach Director

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 Andrew Peacock (St Andrews)

Professor Andrew Peacock

BIPS Medieval Programme Director

Professor regarding, the history of the Middle East, Central Asia and the broader Islamic world from the rise of Islam to the early modern period; the spread of Islam and the process of Islamisation; nomads in the Islamic world; the intellectual history of the Islamic world and Arabic, Persian, Turkish and Malay manuscripts; the history of the Indian Ocean and Southeast Asia; medieval Anatolia and Iran.

Ms Narguess Farzad (SOAS)

Ms Narguess Farzad


Ms Farzad teaches Persian as a foreign language, translation studies, poetry of the Persian-speaking world, Persian poetry of Sacred Defence. She is also a poet and author of the Complete Modern Persian Beginner to Intermediate Course published by Hachette UK.

Almut Hintze FBA (SOAS)

Almut Hintze, FBA (born 7 June 1957) is an academic, philologist, linguist and scholar of Indo-Iranian studies and Zoroastrianism. Since 2010, she has been Zartoshty Brothers Professor of Zoroastrianism at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.

Dr Vesta Sarkhosh Curtis (British Museum)

Dr Vesta Sarkhosh Curtis

BIPS Honorary Director (non-resident) Tehran



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


Honorary Vice Presidents

Professor Robert Hillenbrand FBA FRSE

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


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.

Professor David Stronach OBE

ston2-1024x1024Professor David Stronach


David Stronach, PhD, OBE, FSA, was elected Honorary Vice President in 2008. He is Professor Emeritus of Near Eastern Art and Archaeology at the University of California, Berkeley. He is a leading expert on the city of Pasargadae and in the 1960s and 1970s, was Director of the British Institute of Persian Studies in Tehran. During the 1990s, he excavated several parts of Nineveh and in 2004, was the recipient of the Archaeological Institute of America Gold Medal for “Distinguished Archaeological Achievement.”

Professor Ali Ansari FRAS FRSE

Ali-Ansari023-1024x1024Professor Ali Ansari FRAS FRSE


Ali M. Ansari, PhD (SOAS), FRAS, FRSE, severed as BIPS President from 2013-2018. He is Professor of Iranian History and the Founding Director of the Institute for Iranian Studies, University of St Andrews, Trustee of the Persian Language Foundation, 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 the modern Middle East; ideology, myth and nation building; social and intellectual history; and Iran’s relations with the West.

Co-opted Members

Mr John Drake

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.

*Member of Executive 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.