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Saudi British Society member Iradj Bagherzade, founder of I.B.Tauris, dies aged 80

Iradj Bagherzade, founder and chairman of educational publishing house and Bloomsbury imprint I B Tauris, has died aged 80.

Bagherzade had been chairman for 35 years. He passed away on 8th January 2023.

By Lauren Brown

He started his publishing career with Time Life Books in New York, and in 1979 was sent to Tehran to establish a local publishing arm. Within a few months the Islamic Revolution had closed his fledgling operation and he returned to London to try again, this time setting up a publishing house. I B Tauris & Co launched its first list in 1983, dedicated to publishing quality non-fiction in the hinterland between trade and academic. Bagherzade described it as “a university press without a university”.

Jonathan McDonnell, former managing director of I B Tauris, said: “Tauris soon established a reputation for quality in the areas of Middle East studies and politics (with bestsellers including Ahmed Rashid’s Taliban) gradually adding lists in international relations, history, classics, religion and film and visual culture, art and architecture, along with travel books in its Tauris Parke Paperbacks imprint. At its peak it was publishing about 260 books annually.

“Having rebuffed the advances of corporate suitors over the years, in 2018 Iradj accepted an offer by Bloomsbury to acquire the company. After a handover period of some months in Bedford Square, he left to pursue interests that ranged from indulging his grandchildren to some quite serious skiing: he was on the Colorado slopes just a few days before his death.”

Jo Godfrey, former editorial director of I B Tauris, now senior commissioning editor at Yale University Press London, said: “Iradj had so many friends in the publishing world and made such a contribution to the industry over many years.”

Alex Wright, a former employee of Bagherzade, now senior executive publisher and head of humanities at Cambridge University Press, described Bagherzade as “one of the finest and cleverest publishers I have known, polymathic in his interests and knowledge, subtle and astute in his thinking, and full of small kindnesses and generosities”.

He said: “Iradj had a gifted knack of attracting not just great writers but also talented and highly individualistic colleagues. He approved of people who thought for themselves, who were quirky and left-field and questioning. Much like himself, in fact. Many of those erstwhile colleagues now occupy some of the leading positions in the world of academic publishing, whether at Yale, OUP, CUP, Bloomsbury or elsewhere. All his protégés, wherever they are now, in large part owe their careers and advancement to the wise and humane tutelage of their former boss. Iradj liked and was interested in people, and though he also liked to tease (he had a great sense of michievous fun, especially when it came to others’ religious belief – which perplexed him) he cared about his friends and mentees deeply. I am proud to have been his friend as well as (for 15 remarkable and unforgettable years) one of his acquisitions editors and employees. My life – personally and professionally – was enriched through knowing him, and the sense of loss is huge and deep.”

Reproduced with kind permission from The Bookseller.

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