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School of History

Dr Rowena Abdul Razak


Lecturer in Cold War History



I started my academic journey with an interest in modern Iranian history. I was drawn to the complicated (but fascinating links) between Iranian interactions with the superpowers and the Global South during the Cold War. My doctoral thesis examined the role of Iran's communist movement within British policy and how this affected labour politics among the country's oil workers. More recently, I have been developing a research project on the history of Malaysian-Iranian relations.

I am from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. I studied at SOAS and King's College London. I hold a DPhil in Oriental Studies from the University of Oxford. 



Research Interests:

I am interested in 20th century Iranian history especially during the Cold War period. I am currently working on the manuscript of my first book which will look at the beginning of Cold War tensions in Iran. I am also developing a new research project on the history of Malaysian-Iranian relations, as a way to understand non-alignment and South-South solidarity during the Cold War.


Journal articles
“Activism in Isolation: the Tudeh Party in British Left discourse during the long 1980s” | International Labour & Working Class History | April 2023
Link (Open Access):

“Resource imperialism and resistance: Labour, security and social reproduction after Iranian oil nationalization.” Co-written with Mattin Biglari | Journal of Energy History Special Issue, ‘Hydrocarbons and societies: histories of labour, social relations, and industrial culture in the oil and gas industry.’ | Dec 2022
Link (Open Access):

“Oil heritage in Iran and Malaysia: the future energy legacy in the Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean.” Co-written with Asma Mehan | New Metropolitan Perspectives | May 2022

“Oil, labour and empire: Abadan in WWII occupied Iran.” Co-written with Rasmus Elling | British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies | July 2021

“The British, the Tudeh party and the 1947 World Federation of Trade Unions’ Visit: battle for labor reform in Iran.” | Labor History | April 2019

“When guns are not enough: Britain’s response to nationalism in Bahrain, 1958 – 1963” | Journal of Arabian Studies | July 2017

“”But what would they think of us?” Propaganda and the manipulation of the Anglo–Soviet occupation, 1941 – 1946”| Iranian Studies | September 2016

Chapters in edited book
“Convenient comrades: reassessing the early relationship between the Hizb-i Tudeh and the Soviet Union during the British – Soviet occupation of Iran, 1941–1945.” | Russians in Iran: Diplomacy and power in the Qajar era and beyond (Edited book) | IB Tauris, January 2018

Public Engagement

Since 2020, I have appeared frequently on BBC Radio to comment on current issues with regards to Iran and Afghanistan. I am an associate fellow of the Royal Historical Society.

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