New at Brill in Open Access: Encyclopædia Iranica Online


Encyclopaedia Iranica is the most renowned reference work in the field of Iran studies. Founded by the late Professor Ehsan Yarshater and edited at the Ehsan Yarshater Center for Iranian Studies at Columbia University, this monumental international project brings together the scholarship about Iran of thousands of authors around the world.




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Encyclopædia Iranica Online Now Freely Accessible at Brill

The Ehsan Yarshater Center for Iranian Studies at Columbia University, New York, and Brill are delighted to announce that the Encyclopædia Iranica Online is now freely accessible at Brill’s Reference Works Platform. Encyclopædia Iranica is the comprehensive academic reference work dedicated to the study of Iranian civilization in the Middle East, the Caucasus, Central Asia, and the Indian subcontinent.

Ancient Iran Series Added to Brill’s Publishing Portfolio

As part of their growing portfolio in Middle East and Islamic Studies, Brill has signed an agreement for the take-over of the book series Ancient Iran Series. With its coverage of ancient, pre-, and early-Islamic Iran, this book series complements other book series with a more modern focus on this geographical area, as well as the various other journals and encyclopaedias Brill publishes in this field.

Read an interview with Geert Jan van Gelder

The longstanding series Handbook of Oriental Studies. Section 1: The Near and Middle East recently reached its 150th volume by publishing the special Prominent Murder Victims of the Pre- and Early Islamic Periods Including the Names of Murdered Poets. We caught up with Geert Jan van Gelder, editor and translator of the volume.


Acquisitions Editors


Maurits van den Boogert

Nicolette van der Hoek

Abdurraouf Oueslati

Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht

Jehona Kicaj

Middle East and Islamic Studies

In 2004, one year after the parliamentary elections and two years before the presidential elections in 2006, no major political challenge faced Benin, even if the succession to President Mathieu Kérékou was still on the agenda. Relations between executive and judiciary, which gave rise to mutual criticism, were still very poor. Relations with Nigeria remained one of the main features of foreign affairs and socioeconomic developments. The government maintained macroeconomic stability, but public sector workers went on strike at the end of the year. This crisis illustrated that Beninese stability remained weak in some degree.

Despite economic growth indicating nascent economic recovery, the political climate was sensitive throughout the year. President Thomas Boni Yayi’s personal credibility was at risk after allegations of a murder plot against private investor Patrice Talon and when cases against certain suspects were dismissed by the judiciary in both France and Benin. Political debate was dominated by the president’s proposals for a revision of the Constitution, which were widely seen as part of his alleged ambition to go for a third term (the present constitution stipulating a two-term limit). A series of cabinet reshuffles demonstrated the country’s political instability.


While most people in Benin were concerned about the rising cost of living, the political and societal elite continued to fight a war of words about the political intentions of incumbent President Yayi. Since his re-election in 2011, the opposition had assumed that his initiative to reform the country’s constitution was aimed at permitting him another re-election despite Benin’s two-term limit. Yayi constantly denied this in public. The third-term issue dominated the political debate and thus led to neglect of urgent socio-economic and security issues such as commodity production, port effectiveness and Boko Haram in neighbouring Nigeria.


After years of heated debate about President Yayi’s intention to modify the Constitution in order to allow him to run for a third term, April’s parliamentary election results took away the government’s majority. Therefore, unilateral constitutional amendments became impossible, the political debate cooled down and focused on the candidates who were preparing their election campaigns. The election procedure confirmed Benin’s reliance on democratic processes. Meanwhile, the country continued to experience moderate economic progress and major corruption scandals. Though the domestic security situation remained stable, Benin assumed more regional responsibility in the fight against jihadist terrorism, given the imminent threat of jihadi attacks at home and growing international pressure to join international efforts to combat terrorism.


The major event of the year was the presidential elections, won by Patrice Talon. The new president portrayed his government and politics as a complete break with the policies of the outgoing administration. After years of ambiguous foreign relations, particularly with donor countries, the new president attracted new donor interest and was able to rely on the anticipated confidence of the donor community. The new administration diversified Benin’s portfolio of international partners but its rhetoric still had to translate into action. Economic and social vulnerability remained high, although Benin did not experience any major economic shocks.


Politics remained focussed on President Patrice Talon’s activities, despite his attempts to delegate public appearances to government members. Talon, who had assumed office in 2016, continued with ambitious reform projects including constitutional amendments and economic liberalisation. These project met resistance in parliament and from labour unions. The economy received tailwinds from increased agricultural production and economic recovery in neighbouring Nigeria, as well as from regional and global financial institutions that trusted in the new government’s reform capacities.


As in previous years, politics remained focussed on president Patrice Talon’s activities. The president continued to push for economic reforms but postponed his ambitious plan to amend the constitution. Revisions of the political parties law and the electoral law caused public outcry and concerned domestic and international commentators about the country’s highly valued democratic standards. Underneath, the country further diversified its international ties, for example by favouring China in crucial infrastructure projects. The cotton industry continued to flourish, and the general economic outlook gave reason to be optimistic about the country’s development despite the heated political disputes.

In 2019, the government of President Patrice Guillaume Athanase Talon continued with some of the political, economic, and social reforms considered essential for the emergence of the country, according to the ‘Bénin révélé’ programme. However, the very nature of some political reforms, and the way opposition and dissent were treated, produced a general feeling that individual and democratic freedoms were being increasingly undermined.

The year 2020 marked 60 years of Benin’s independence, which was celebrated modestly as compared with the 50th anniversary, without the traditional parade of security and defence forces, and without foreign guests. Though Benin, like other countries, had to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic, the low-key celebrations also symbolised the relatively morose political atmosphere, resulting from the recent controversial elections.


Benin national news in 2021 was rich and varied. It was strongly marked by the April elections, arrests of members of the political opposition, the vaccination campaign against Covid-19, jihadist attacks, and a series of political, economic, and social reforms that affected every sector. Several actors came to the fore and various circumstances arose that placed Benin at the heart of social, economic, political, judicial, security, health, and environmental debates in the sub-regional and global contexts.