Anglo-Iranian Relations Since 1800

Friday, October 14, 2011

Editor: Vanessa Martin

Royal Asiatic Society Books
Hardcover: 192 pages
Publisher: Routledge (June 6, 2005)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 041537295X
ISBN-13: 978-0415372954


With contributions from renowned experts in the field, this book provides an excellent background to the history of Anglo-Iranian relations. Focusing on the political and economic relationship of Britain and issues of strategic sensitivity, the book also illuminates British relations with society and the state and describes the interaction between various representatives and agents of both countries.

Anglo-Iranian relations have had a long and complex history, characterized on the one hand by mistrust and intrusion and on the other by mutual exchange and understanding. This book explores the intriguing history of this interactive relationship since 1800, looking at it from a variety of perspectives. Drawing on previously unavailable documents in English and Persian, the book argues that Iran in the nineteenth century had a national state, which strongly defended the national interests.

This book provides an excellent background to the Anglo-Iranian relations. Focussing not only on the political and economic relationship of Britain and on issues of strategic sensitivity, it illuminates British relations with society and the state and describes the interaction between various representatives and agents of both countries. Two conferences organized by the Royal Asiatic Society, London and the Institute for Documentation and Diplomatic History, Tehran in 2001 and 2002 form the basis of the book. Experts in the field make a great contribution to our understanding of Iranian history by drawing on many documents in English and Persian that had previously not been available. Contrary to earlier works, this book corrects the view that Iran in the nineteenth century was vacuous. It clearly shows that there was a national state, which seriously defended the national interests.

Table Of Contents

*"Persia" in the western imagination / Ali M. Ansari

*Major-General Sir Robert Murdoch Smith KCMG and Anglo-Iranian relations in art and culture / Jennifer M. Scarce

*The clergy and the British : perceptions of religion and the ulama in early Qajar Iran / Robert Gleave

*The British in Bushehr : the impact of the First Herat War (1838-41) on relations with state and society / Vanessa Martin

*Ordinary people and the reception of British culture in Iran, 1906-41 / Morteza Nouraei

*The relationship between the British and Abd al-Husain Mirza Farman-Farma during his governorship of Fars / Mansoureh Ettehadieh Nezam Mafi

*Britain, the Iranian military and the rise of Reza Khan / Stephanie Cronin

*Oil in Iran between the two world wars / Mohammad Malek

*An assessment of the withdrawal of British forces from the Persian Gulf (1971) within the framework of disputed islands / Reza Nazarahari

*Anglo-Iranian relations over the disputed islands in the Persian Gulf : constraints on rapprochement / Hossein Heirani Moghaddam

*The restoration of diplomatic relations with Iran, December 1953 / Denis Wright.


British History; Asian Politics; Asian History; Middle East Studies; Middle East History; Middle East Politics; Security Studies - Pol & Intl Relns

Review: Anglo-Iranian Relations since 1800
Edited by Vanessa Martin

Reviewed by Michael Rubin
Middle East Quarterly

Summer 2007

Great Britain has a long history in Iran; the first British ambassador visited the country at the end of the sixteenth century. British diplomats had a regular presence in Tehran from the nineteenth century on, and many of them left detailed accounts of their experiences.[1] In contrast, the social and cultural interplay of the two countries has received considerably less attention.

Martin, a University of London historian, fills this gap with Anglo-Iranian Relations since 1800, a collection of short articles by prominent historians. Her own contribution describes the mid-nineteenth century British presence in the Iranian port city of Bushehr. University of Bristol religious studies professor Robert Gleave explores the growing realization of British officials that they needed to consider Iran's religious clerics when making policy. Stephanie Cronin, author of Army and the Creation of the Pahlavi State in Iran,[2] rehashes old territory with a chapter on "Britain, the Iranian Military, and the Rise of Reza Khan," the Iranian military officer who in 1925 would declare himself shah. St. Andrews University historian Ali Ansari writes about Iran in the Western "imagination," a topic that could be interesting except that it lacks any quantitative analysis, so his essay contributes little.

Far better is an essay by Jennifer Scarce, formerly of the National Museum of Scotland, who writes about Sir Robert Murdoch Smith, the military officer and diplomat who helped the Scottish museum assemble its impressive collection of Persian art. Also valuable is a short contribution by the late Sir Denis Wright, who headed a team of British diplomats to reopen the British embassy in Tehran following the 1953 coup against Prime Minister Muhammad Musaddiq.

Some contributors lend historical analysis to more contemporary issues. Oxford Oriental Institute scholar Hossein Moghaddam summarizes some long-forgotten Anglo-Iranian diplomatic wrangling of the nineteenth and twentieth century to reinforce Iran's claim to the Tonb Islands and Abu Musa, the Persian Gulf islands to which the United Arab Emirates also lay claim. Less helpfully, Reza Nazarahari of the Center for Documents and Diplomatic History in Tehran restates the Iranian claim using largely secondary sources and suggesting a British conspiracy.

Indeed, some of the most interesting chapters come from historians living in Iran. Using untapped Iranian archival documents, University of Isfahan historian Morteza Nouraei writes about how ordinary Iranians received British culture. Mansoureh Ettehadieh Nezam Mafi, a well-known historian and publisher, examines the archives to explore relations between the governor of the southern Iranian province of Fars and British officials during and immediately after World War I. Using British Petroleum archives, Gorgan University historian Mohammad Malek gives a snapshot of the activities of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company in Iran between the world wars. But this has been done before[3] and his work adds little new.

Thus, Anglo-Iranian Relations since 1800 is a mixed bag. Most articles are useful to historians, but only a few deliver the promised new insights into the interplay of Anglo-Iranian social and cultural ties. The publisher's absurd asking price—about 60 cents per page of text—will keep even these out of reach.

[1] See Sir John Malcolm, History of Persia (London: Murray, 1829); Harford Jones Brydges, An Account of the Transactions of His Majesty's Mission to the Court of Persia (London: J. Bohn, 1834); Reader Bullard, Letters from Tehran, ed. E.C. Hodgkin (London: I.B. Tauris, 1991).
[2] London: Tauris Academic Studies, 1997.
[3] James Bamberg, The History of the British Petroleum Company, Volume II: The Anglo-Iranian Years, 1928-1954 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994).

About the Author

Vanessa Martin is Reader in Middle Eastern History at Royal Holloway, University of London. She is the author of Islam and Modernism: the Iranian Revolution of 1906 (1989), Creating an Islamic State (2000) and The Qajar Pact: Bargaining, Protest and the State in Nineteenth-Century Iran (2005). She is joint series editor of Routledge/BIPS Persian Studies series.

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