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.

Mr Douglas Kinnear* (Honorary Treasurer & Company Secretary)

douglaskinnear-1024x1024Mr Douglas Kinnear


Douglas Kinnear, LLB, NP, was elected Honorary Treasurer and appointed Company Secretary in 2012. He is a Partner at Thorntons Law in Fife, Scotland. He has over 30 years’ experience in property matters, dealing with everything involved in property sale, maintenance, development and inheritance; he has practised since 1982 and joined the firm as a partner in 1998. Douglas is Clerk to St Andrews Harbour Trust and takes pride in being involved in a local business and making a contribution to the community.

Dr Oliver Bast* (Honorary Secretary)

s200_oliver.bast_-1024x1024Professor Oliver Bast


Oliver Bast, BA, Maitre-es-Lettres, Dr.phil, was elected Honorary Secretary in 2013. He was formerly Senior Lecturer of Middle Eastern History and Persian, University of Manchester and is now Professor of Persian Studies (Études iraniennes) at Université Sorbonne Nouvelle – Paris 3 where he serves currently as Deputy Head (Directeur adjoint) of the Department of Oriental Studies (Département d’études arabes, hébraïques, indiennes et iraniennes – EAHII).  He was Head of the Department of Middle Eastern Studies and a Visiting Fellow in Iranian Studies at Yale University while in October 2012, he co-founded the Manchester Iranian History Academic Network (MIHAN). His research interests include the diplomatic and political history of Modern Iran as well as the interface between historiography, politics and cultural memory in contemporary Iran.

Dr Michael Axworthy
Dr John Curtis OBE FBA

john_curtis_2-1024x1024Dr John Curtis OBE FBA


John Curtis, PhD, OBE, FBA, was elected to Council in 2012. He is Chief Executive Officer of the Iran Heritage Foundation in London and IHF America in Los Angeles, as well as President of the British Institute for the Study of Iraq. He specialises in the archaeology and history of Iran and Iraq from 1000 BC to 330 BC and was Keeper of the Middle East Department at the British Museum from 1989-2011, when he curated the special exhibitions ‘Forgotten Empire: the World of Ancient Persia’ and ‘The Cyrus Cylinder and Ancient Persia: a New Beginning for the Middle East’.

Dr Melanie Gibson* FRAS (Outreach Director)

Dr Melanie Gibson


Melanie Gibson, MA, PhD, FRAS, was elected to Council in 2012 and re-elected in 2015. She is the senior editor of the Gingko Library Arts Series which in 2016 produced ‘Art, Trade and Culture in the Islamic World and Beyond: From the Fatimids to the Mughals’. She was Visiting Professor at New College of the Humanities, London from 2013-2016 and Director of the Islamic module for the Postgraduate Diploma in Asian Art at SOAS from 2006-2017. She has published a number of articles on different aspects of ceramic and glass production as well as sculpture in plaster, metal, and ceramics.






Ms Jennifer Scarce

Jennifer-Scarce-768x1024Ms Jennifer Scarce FSA Scot


Dr Jennifer Scarce FSA Scot was elected to Council in 2015.  She studied Classical and Ancient Middle Eastern History at University College London before moving to Edinburgh as Curator of Middle Eastern Cultures in the National Museum of Scotland.  She is now an Honorary Lecture, Middle Eastern Cultures, at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, University of Dundee, where she advises postgraduate students and develops projects with them.    She is also a research and travel consultant, freelance curator and author.  She currently serves on the Advisory Council of IQSA (International Qajar Studies Association) which specialises in the history and culture of Iran during the 19th and early 20th centuries.

She has arranged many permanent and temporary exhibitions of Middle Eastern culture for the National Museum of Scotland.  She has travelled widely in the Middle East, North Africa and Eastern Europe – Iran, Turkey, the Arab Gulf States, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Tunisia and Romania – collecting contemporary textiles and dress for the Museum and pursuing varied research projects – Ottoman Turkish court dress, the tilework decoration of 19th century Iranian architecture, the material culture of North Africa and the Arab world, carpet weaving in Romania.  She has worked with teams of archaeologists at the medieval Persian Gulf port of Siraf and at the excavations of early settlements in Oman.   She has recently completed a catalogue of the collections of 19th century Persian tiles in the Victoria and Albert Museum which is in process of going online and was also awarded in 2012 a scholar’s residency at the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art in Honolulu to work on the Persian material.  She is also interested in European travellers to the Middle East especially those of Scottish origin.

Her many publications include articles and books on Middle Eastern dress and textiles mainly from Iran and Turkey, the ethnography of Kuwait, Romanian carpet weaving, Domestic Culture in the Middle East to accompany an exhibition in the National Museum of Scotland, and an essay on dress for the catalogue of an exhibition The Fascination of Persia; The Persian-European Dialogue in Seventeenth Century Art and Contemporary Art from Tehran held at the Rietberg Museum in Zurich 27 September 2013-12 January 2014.  Forthcoming publications include an introduction to a catalogue of Islamic textiles and an article on 19th century Persian tilework for the Working Papers series of the Doris Duke Foundation.

She continues to be an invited speaker to national and international conferences and specialised groups in UK, Europe, USA and the Middle East.  She has lectured for many tours to the Middle East – including Iran and Turkey, North Africa –Morocco and Tunisia, Eastern Europe- Romania and also cruises to the Red Sea to visit archaeological sites in Jordan and Egypt.  She lectured for two tours to Jordan in December 2013 and April 2014 and one in Romania in 2015.

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-).

Professor Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones

Professor Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones


Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones was born in Cefn Cribwr, Wales, and studied at the universities of Hull and Cardiff. Having worked for more than a decade at the University of Edinburgh, Lloyd is currently Professor of Ancient History and Persian Studies at Cardiff University, where he is also Director of Impact and Public Engagement. He is the author of ‘Aphrodite’s Tortoise: the Veiled Woman of Ancient Greece’, ‘King and Court in Ancient Persia’, ‘Ctesias’ Persica: Tales of the Orient’, ‘The Culture of Animals in Antiquity’ and ‘Designs on the Past: How Hollywood Created the Ancient World’. Forthcoming publications include ‘Ancient Persia and the Book of Esther: The Visual World of Achaemenid Iran’. Lloyd specialises in the history of Achaemenid Iran and is interested in Iranian interactions with other cultures in antiquity. He is also interested in the intersection of history and storytelling in Iranian culture. Lloyd travels frequently to Iran, and often leads tours to the country with a historical and cultural focus. He works closely with Iranian communities throughout the UK and is dedicated to promoting the history and culture of Iran in the public consciousness.

Ms Narguess Farzad

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

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.

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 Morgan

david-morgan-e1455716767582Professor David Morgan


David Morgan was elected an Honorary Vice President in 2015.  He was Professor of History and Religious Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison from 1999 to 2010 (now Emeritus). From 1975 to 1999 he was on the academic staff of the History Department at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London (Reader in the History of the Middle East, 1989-99), where he received his PhD (“Aspects of Mongol Rule in Persia”) in 1977. He is Professorial Research Associate in the History Department at the School of Oriental and African Studies. His first degree was a BA in Modern History from the University of Oxford in 1966.  He is the author of The Mongols (2nd edition, 2007) and Medieval Persia 1040-1797 (2nd edition, 2016), and is joint editor of volume 3 of The New Cambridge History of Islam (2010). He was Editor of the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society from 1987 to 1999, and was General Editor for Cambridge University Press of Cambridge Studies in Islamic Civilization from 1991 to 2013.

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

Sir Jeffrey James KBE CMG

Jeffrey joined the Diplomatic Service in 1967 after completing a degree in International Relations at Keele University. His first overseas posting was to Afghanistan in 1970, having first studied Farsi at SOAS and then in Iran. He went back to Iran in 1993 for four years as Charge d’Affaires at the British Embassy. In between he had postings in West Berlin, South Africa and India as well as working as Secretary to the Joint Intelligence Committee. He was High Commissioner in Nairobi from 1997 until his retirement in 2001. He was appointed UK Special Representative for Nepal from 2003 to 2005. He has retained his interest in Iran, particularly recent and contemporary history. He is also a member of the Council of the British Institute in Eastern Africa.

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.

Honorary Director

Dr Vesta Sarkhosh Curtis

Dr Vesta Sarkhosh Curtis



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


*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.