Studies of Babi and Bahai history have long suffered from hagiography, apologetics, and revisionism. Most of the works listed below avoid such shortcomings, are objective, critical, scholarly books and articles, and offer a fresh approach for the 21st Century.
A cautionary note on a popular Bahai novel. Historians and scholars of ability have been universal in their criticism of The Dawn-Breakers, as in Dr. Denis MacEoin's article below. Properly speaking, Shoghi Effendi turned Nabil's brief 70-page narrative of Babi history into a vaguely historical romance of over 700 pages, ignoring that much of the actual teaching and practice of the Bab was emphatically condemned and repudiated by both Baha'u'llah ("The excesses of some at the beginning of the cause were like devastating, ruinous winds that cast down the saplings of trust and hope") and Abdul-Baha ("The decree of the Bayan was the striking of necks, the burning of books and papers, the destruction of shrines, and the universal slaughter of all save those who believed and were faithful").
Far from idealizing and misrepresenting Babism, the Reform Bahai Faith is based on the actual history, words, and interpretations of Baha'u'llah and Abdul-Baha, not the Bab or a Shiite imamate clothed in more Western language as a "guardian."
Abbas Amanat, Resurrection and Renewal: The Making of the Babi Movement in Iran, 1844-1850. Cornell University Press, 1989. The first work in English that presents Babi and Bahai history in objectively modern terms.
Hippolyte Dreyfus, The Universal Religion: Bahaism, It's Rise and Social Import. 1909.
Edward Granville Browne. Materials for the Study of the Babi Religion. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1919. Browne's work is especially important for preserving the historical record.
Edward Granville Browne, trans. The Tarikh-i-Jadid, or New History of Mirza 'Ali Muhammad The Bab. By Mirza Huseyn Hamadani. Translated by Edward G. Browne. Cambridge: University Press, 1893.
Edward Granville Browne. A Year Amongst the Persians. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1927. [First published A & C Black, Ltd., 1893].
Juan R. I. Cole, Modernity and the Millennium : The Genesis of the Baha'i Faith in the Nineteenth-Century Middle East. Columbia University Press, 1998. Review. Especially insightful of Baha'u'llah's response to the tension between traditional Islam and modernity. (Other assorted articles by Professor Cole are available on Documents on Baha'i History and Thought.
Abul Fazl Gulpaygan, The Brilliant Proof, 1912.
Denis Martin MacEoin, From Shaykhism to Babism: A Study in Charismatic Renewal in Shi'i Islam. 1979 dissertation. A scholar of outstanding intellectual integrity, perhaps the most independent, modern view of Babi and Bahai history.
Denis Martin MacEoin, From Babism to Baha'ism: Problems of Militancy, Quietism, and Conflation in the Construction of a Religion. Religion Vol. 13 (1983): 219-55.
Sen McGlinn, Church and State: A Postmodern Political Theology. University of Leiden, 2005. Review. Though flawed in some particulars, McGlinn's book offers a fresh approach to Baha'u'llah's Teachings for the 21st century.
Jenabe Fazel Mazandarani. History of the Manifestation of Truth (Tarikh-i Zuhur al-Haqq). Nine Volumes. Written in Farsi. Jenabe Fazel's work was suppressed after the 3rd volume for presenting an independent, scholarly understanding of Babi and Bahai history. See his translated talks to American Bahais during the early 1920s.
The works of Ayati, Husayn "Avarih" might also be of special importance since he was "excommunicated" by at least one Bahai denomination. Kashf al-Hiyal. Volume 1. Volume 2. Volume 3.Tehran: Kitabfurushi-yi `Ilmi, 1326/1947.
Ayati, Husayne "Avarih." al-Kawakib ad-Durriyyah [Brilliant Stars]. Volume 1. Volume 2.(Cairo: Matba`at as-Sa`adah, 1923-1924).