Iran’s first revolution in 1906 provided the country with a constitution and parliament, laying the foundations for its political development over the next century. Although overshadowed by the later Islamic Revolution of 1979, it was the Constitutional Revolution - modelled on the British constitution and British political ideas - that gave birth to the modern state and shaped future political development.
This lecture will explore the ideas that shaped the revolution and its lasting legacy on Iranian politics.
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A lecture by Ali Ansari recorded on 17 October 2023 at Barnard's Inn Hall, London
The transcript and downloadable versions of the lecture are available from the Gresham College website: https://www.gresham.ac.uk/watch-now/iran-1906
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I am here to talk to you today about, uh, the history of the Constitutional revolution in Iran. Um, a couple of quick sort of background comments before we get started. I shall be using the terms Persia and Iran interchangeably. They are the same country. Don't worry. Uh, Iran is simply the term that those, uh, native to the country have called that country. Persia is obviously the term that many people in Europe have known the country. I tend to like to use it interchangeably, partly because in a Western context, you will find much more connection, in some ways, much more historical and cultural connection with the term Persia. But even in the context of the time that we're looking at, uh, many British and other observers would be talking about Persia and, you know, those Iranians who are active and the political activists at the time, but obviously in their own language. We talking about, uh, uh, about Iran. I want to say quite emphatically now also that the term Iran is not a new invention, just in case anyone sort of picks that up from some wayward textbook, which has got it wrong sadly. But I just want you to sort of be absolutely clear on that. Now, secondly, I want to sort of highlight why we should be looking at an event that happened over a hundred years ago, uh, in framing the context of the demonstrations and the protests that happened last year, and which in many ways are still simmering away. I mean, the problems have not gone away. And the reason is very simple. The constitutional revolution marks that moment when the modern Iranian state basically is born. Its shapes the political sort of lexicon for the next, you know, a hundred years, at least to this day. And many people today who are fighting for their rights in Iran. Look to 1906 as that period when this sort of, this process was born. 1906 itself, of course, has a long gestation, okay? It's, it's a, it's a process that took many, many years to come to fruition. And it's a process, which I'm sorry to say has yet to be fulfilled. That promise of the 1906 Constitution, and that, that, that, uh, that that period of revolution, uh, the promise that it held has yet to be fulfilled. And even at the centenary in 2006, Iranian students who seem, I have to say, to be amongst the, uh, most courageous, uh, elements in Iranian society today, repeatedly come up and say to their leaders, uh, why is it, you know, that we have not yet achieved even the most fundamental aims of the constitutional process, uh, in 1906? And of course, what they do in saying that is they undermine, in some ways, or de-legitimize the importance of the 1979 revolution, which they don't see as a, as a movement that actually achieved, uh, the aims that it set out to do. And not only that, but didn't actually even progress some of the, uh, the ideas that were outlined in 1906. So, this period, I think, is very important for understanding of modern Iran because it's important to Iranians themselves. They find it vital as an understanding of their own political development. But I think it's very important for us to understand also how this came to fruition. Also, in some ways, because of British Iranian relations themselves. As you'll see, the relationship between Britain and Iran in this period was particularly intimate. Uh, not entirely, not entirely positive, it has to be said, but not for the reasons that you might think. Um, and one which nonetheless shows that there is a sort of a, a tradition in some ways of, of Anglia, Iranian, or angular Persian corporation that we might going forward, uh, see fit to resuscitate. Now, this whole event starts in July, uh, 1906. This, this particular moment in the Constitutional revolution where the British affair in Tehran at the time, even in Grant Duff, someone who is a relatively junior official, is approached by a number of senior Iranian clerics as it happens. And they say to 'em, they say, you know, that we have been continuing our struggle against the monarchy in the absolute monarchy over the last six months, and we would like to seek your assistance in the pursuit of our aims, and we would like to take sanctuary in the British Embassy 'cause we don't trust our government anymore. And Grant Duff with, uh, a customary t says, well, you know, it is not the policy of his Majesty's government to intervene in the domestic politics of, uh, of Iran. So the clerics go off, they, they disappear off, and they don't talk about anything, and never. And then a few days later, they come back and they said, if we were to take sanctuary in the British Embassy compound, and this was a compound in outside of Tehran in the north of Tehran. It is actually inside Tehran now, but in those days, it was outside. Teran said, would you, would you use force to evict us? And we don't know what evil and Grant Duff said at that time, but he can't have said anything too harsh. He basically said, they might have said, well, it's not really our business really to forcibly evict you. So within two to three weeks, a number of individuals settled in encamped in the British Embassy compound. And within those two to three weeks, those initial 50 individuals that go in eventually amount to 14,000, 14,000 people from a city of Tehran, which at that time we estimate may have been no more than 250,000 in total, 14,000 men, let's limit it to the men. So we would say it's a huge proportion of the politically active population, and certainly, and the male population of Iran in Tehran at the time, all settled in, in the British Embassy compound. And there they instructed evil and Grant after they said, in our negotiations with the Iranian government, with the Crown, we want you to be our interlocutor. It's worth pausing and thinking about that for a moment, that these Persian revolutionaries at the time decided to ask a relatively junior official at the British Embassy. He was in charge of the minister, wasn't, hadn't arrived yet, that, you know, they want him to be the interlocutor. Why is it, and how was it that the British played such a central role in the development and the progress of this, of this revolutionary movement? And I think to understand that you have to look back over the preceding century actually, at the interaction and engagement between Iranians and the wider world, and how they absorbed the ideas that were confronting them. And we finally come now to this slide, which was meant to be the second slide, uh, which is actually, uh, one of the earlier encounters between British diplomats and the Persian King in around 18 0 8, 18 0 9. And it's just mainly emblematic of the interactions that occurred at the time during the Napoleonic Wars where the British were looking to engage Iran as an ally. Certainly in one sense for the defense of India, the growth of the British Empire in India, but also as a means of basically containing France initially, and then ultimately the Russians. And for the better part of a hundred years, Iran found itself as an imperial state, an imperial state in decline. Although it took a bit of time to realize it was in decline as an imperial state caught between the Pisa in a sense of the Russian Empire to the North. By far, the greatest threat to Iranian sovereignty has to be said in this period, because they were moving south, and the British Empire to the South and east in, in India, and intellectuals in Iran at the time began to divide over what was the best route and the best way to achieve. In some ways, their, you know, the challenge to cope with the challenge that the West was providing. Iran had coped with many challenges in the past, coming from abroad, and tended to sort of cope with them in one way or another, absorbed them, convert them, you know, whatever, adapt to their new. But the European challenge was something different. The European challenge was not only an economic and political challenge, but it was also an ideological challenge. And the British, in this respect, were particularly good, partly outta necessity in expressing and exuding the soft power that they had. The British didn't have the luxury of the Russians in 19, in the 19th century of sending a brigade over if they wanted to get their job done. The British, on the other hand, excelled in another thing. Political officers, people trained really in persuasion. And what did they have to sell? They basically sold, like a lot of these earlier diplomats said, they said to the, the Persians, the Iranians at the time, if you want to reap the benefits of modernity, this is what you need to do. They didn't say to them, by the way that you are incapable of this. They said, actually, quite interesting. If you read the accounts, they say, look, we in a miserable island on the northwest coast of Europe, we haven't really done a huge amount, but the last a hundred years have been pretty good for us. Why have they been good for us? Education, discipline, law. And that's what they say to the Persians. So, you want this, this is what you need to do. And a number of Persians, Iranians absorb this. They traveled to Britain, and they've been traveling to Britain really since the 19th century. There've been some extraordinary people who came to Britain at the time and basically absorbed and digested and lapped up really with a good deal of enthusiasm. What they saw. And the British were very keen to basically, obviously sell them sort of a British success story. Remember, this is post Napoleonic Britain, very confident in industrial. And what they say is that what you need to do is, you know, pick up the things that we've done. Look at the way we've adapted our politics, because the problem you have is not a social one. It's not because you are Persian. There's no biological deficiency here. The problem you have is political. And you see this in a number of British writers, and of course, it's very attractive to the Iranians and the Iranians sort of adapt and, and, and, and, and engage with this. One of the things many of the Persian diplomats who are engaged with Britain do is they all become members, almost universally, I have to say, of the Masons. They all become Freemasons. Why do they become Freemasons? Because the Freemasons offers them a root in to what they consider to be an international intellectual brotherhood. One that doesn't require them to believe in win wonderful ideas of the Christian Trinity, but it does expect them to believe in God, which suits them very well. And it has lots of ritual, which suits them even more. Yeah, they love it and they engage with it. And it's one of the means by which these ideas, these sort of what we term radical wig ideas, begin to become infused into the, into the Iranian consciousness. And throughout the 19th century, you begin to see this process of intellectuals arguing very forcefully that what the country needs is a political change, not a revolution. On the French model, let's not get carried away with the French, okay? We don't want to execute our king or anything. It's a bit rough. But the British seem to have a fairly nice idea of what we need to get done here. Constitution, rule of law limits on the power of the Monnet. More than that, they also pick up, and this is an interesting thing that most people don't pick up on, they also pick up that Britain is a, a cosmopolitan nation, if you will put it that way. It's made up of different components. It's got English, Scottish, Welsh, Irish, and they all seem to bind together. And of course, for the Iranians who are seeking a sort of a, a, the development of a, sort of a national state from what is essentially an imperial kingdom, this has its attractions to, it's a model they can follow. So when you are looking at this initial period, there are attractions, but there's also a push factor too. Let's not be, let's not be too rose tinted about what the relationship is. Because one of the problems that the Iranians have with their British interlocutors is they're very good on ideas, but they're not very good at putting them in practice. Okay? They look at the British and they say, you know, what do you think these ideas are marvelous, but why don't you live up to them? And of course, the British attitude is, well, you know, we've got this complicated, politics is complicated. The Russians, you know, we don't wanna mess around with them. So there's a wonderful case, actually, where a Persian prince complains to an Iranian diplomat, uh, beg your pardon to a British diplomat in the 1860s where he says, why is it that you have pursued the abolition of the slave trade with so much enthusiasm for no other reason than your shared common humanity? But you won't help us abolition the slave trade in Central Asia. And the reasons are simple, because Britain has a Navy, it doesn't have a very strong army, and it can't get to Central Asia, so it can't do it. But the British diplomat says privately, you know, I obviously have to fob the guy off. But privately I had to admit that it probably wasn't a great look in some ways that, you know, we weren't delivering on something that we did impress on some levels we couldn't in others. Now, in 1856, Britain and Iran went to war, hopefully for the last time. Actually, it wasn't technically Britain, it was the East India company. But nonetheless, the last war the East India company fought. It was short-lived. It didn't last long. But what was remarkable about it actually was not the war itself, it was the treaty that followed. And the treaty that followed the British actually imposed a very lenient treaty on the Iranians. The Iranians quite shocked, as compared to the Russian treaty. It was, it didn't have a huge amount to it. What that did is it also opened the door in some ways to British ideas being much, much more influential within Iranian political elites, because they suddenly realized that actually, you know, the British might be our friends. They were to be mistaken to some level, but nonetheless, they saw it as attractive. And one of the things they did, mistake, by the way, was they decided the way we need to pursue this, the way we need to pursue change is not through political change.'cause we can't do it. The Monarch going to allow it. We'll invite British entrepreneurs to come and set up corporations, offer concessions, economic, economic change. And that economic change will catalyze political change. These economic concessions that were to come in, in some ways, in, in many ways were to be enormously influential, okay? In an economic sense. I'm not gonna go into the into depth of them now 'cause we don't have time. What it did do, however, is it galvanized opinion in some ways against the British as well. So the British had both a positive and a negative impact on the way in which Iranian intellectuals, uh, forge the future. One is they were attracted by the ideas of British political organization, but two, they were in some ways offended by British policy and practice. Okay? The various, the various economic concessions were seen in many ways as selling out the country was selling out. But their criticism was really against the Monarch. It wasn't really, it wasn't so much against the British. It was against the Monarch. The Monarch was seen as selling out the country. So all these sort of feeds into a sentiment and an agitation. But I have to say, it's very slow. Iran doesn't have a print culture in the period. Literacy rate is pretty slow. It is pretty low. So it's not like you have, you know, political ideas, you know, in a sort of a fe political environment, an intellectual environment. It's not, it's pretty small. It is run through a series of sort of networks of, of, uh, connections of sort of lodges real or imagined. It has to be said. Many of them were imagined, but nonetheless, they were sort of can connected. So what you have the, the initial awakening, as people say, and it's one that Edward Brown basically, Let me get to, I've forgotten to now push these slides on. So I'm gonna skip this slide 'cause it's not quite as important anymore. I've moved on because are individuals who are, who are basically active in the, uh, in the, uh, um, in, in developing ideas of constitutionalism in Iran. This gentleman here incidentally say, Jamal Ladina Ani was, is generally known by a lot of writers, certainly in the Arab Muslim world as a political Islamist. I don't think he was, I think he was actually a co he was a, a someone who pursued ideas of constitutionalism and enlightenment ideas. Certainly Iran, he was very popular in London and Paris in the salons. And he wrote quite widely on it. Malcolm Khanh was another gentleman who lived in London for, for, for, for at least a decade. And he produced a newspaper called The Law, which he wanted to get, you know, in order to impress people on the different ideas. Now, there are two things that, basically, several things which, which accelerate the momentum towards change. As we get up to 1906, let's park these two individuals for a moment, because we'll get to them in a minute. Classic foreign office style. Here, by the way, as you can see on your, on your, uh, on your left, In 18 90, 91, there was a concession given completely misjudged to a British entrepreneur, a bit of a crook, to be honest, by the name of Major Tolbert, from a monopoly on tobacco selling in Iran. It caused huge offense upon the, amongst the merchant classes. And it sparked a revolt. It sparked a revolt, which combined different elements in Iranian society, part of the Iranian elite against the monarch, intellectuals, aristocrats and intellectuals, the clergy. And, uh, the merchant class is the bazaar. And these three groups came together. They persuaded a senior clericus who were fat, were banning smoking. It was very prescient. He said, smoking's bad for you, don't do it. And almost overnight, everyone in Iran stopped smoking. They boycotted it. I mean, didn't last. Don't worry, don't get too excited, <laugh>. But the fact is, it, it was, it was quite a moment. It was helped interestingly, by, interestingly enough, by an earlier concession, which was the establishment of the telegraph company in Iran, which is the British Indo Iranian, tele Indo, uh, European telegraph company, which allowed these ideas to disseminate quicker. But nonetheless, this, this moment is seen by different writers as, as, as the moment when this sort of Iranian awakening started, that there was this coalition of different interests that catalyzed, uh, of process of, of, of, of change in resistance. The Shah at the time was forced to cancel the concession at great cost. And it was seen as a bit of a triumph. But actually from that period, 1891 through to sort of 19 five, nothing much happens. The Shah is assassinated in 1896, but nobody really notices. His son comes in again. Nobody really notices 'cause he was even worse and even more lackadaisical than the father. And again, nothing much happens. There are certain things happening internationally, which are quite important. One is there's a Russian Persian war, uh, beg pardon, a Russia, Japanese war. And the Russians lose. It's a shocker, okay? The Russian Empire, the seat of autocracy loses a war to an as Asiatic power, and it sends shockwaves around Asia. Then there's also the Russian Revolution in 1905, which fails. But the agitation, a lot of rev Russian revolutionaries, particularly from the caucus of the Armenians move south. So there's a certain amount of agitation in the air. The economy in Iran isn't doing particularly well, but it hasn't been for a while. There's a particularly obstructive Belgian customs official by the name of Mussan Naus, who is there instructed to extract, extract as much tax as he possibly can from the merchants. And in one particular case, at the end of 1905, he, he's particularly brutal. When I say particularly brutal, he basically beats someone. He didn't shoot him, he beats him, but the person he beats is someone who seemed to have a certain religious standing in society. And for some reason, and we don't know why, and this is always the problem with these revolts, this is the trigger. This is the straw that breaks the camel's back. I mean, it would've been extremely routine to punish someone who was agitating about something or complaining about paying too much tax. But for some reason, beating this guy sparks off a revolt. Now, the British minister in Iran at the time, a gentleman by the name of Har Harding, Wrights, a very, very sort of, some of you will have read this, of course, uh, a very, very, uh, uh, laxative, well, no, actually, it's not a bad report actually, but, but he's, he is a bit bored. I mean, you can see when he, it's at the end of 1905, beginning of 96, and he says, there's been a few things in Iran going, but not much. It's a bit boring. Uh, you know, nothing happens this country, you know, it's useless. You know, we ought to talk to the Russians about how we can split spheres of influence. And he says that, and he goes off. Now, in the period, January, 1906 onwards, you get a series of rebellions. They're fairly light touch in some ways, but increasingly significant. They involved the clergy, they involved the intellectuals, and they involved the bza just as you had in 1891. And the clergy in particular, start to withdraw their services from the city, from the capitol, and to withdraw from the capitol. They say, until the king actually yields to our demands for a house of justice, we're not coming back. The king characteristically says, yeah, okay, okay. We don't, we don't want hassle. We'll think of a house of justice for you, whatever that is. And, and classic style, I mean, like all governments, he says, we'll set up a committee and we'll discuss it. So everyone comes back and says, okay, we'll set up your committee. Now, the detail of this goes on and on a bit, but it's about, and this is the period, several months when this goes on, and nothing really happens, but the protests mount, they start to get violent. Troops are sent in, people are shocked. People get killed. Again, we're not talking a vast number of people, but it's still significant by Iranian standards. And what you are beginning to hear is people talking in terms that they've never talked before. You have an official sitting, you know, the king says to people, they say, we're very pleased that you are here, uh, to support and, and you are loyal servants of the crown. And you get people saying, we are not servants of the crown. We are servants of the nation. Completely different language. The king, although he is very lackadaisical, doesn't really sort of understand what's going on, but clearly the momentum is losing, is getting rid of them. The king then with alarmingly good timing, has a paralytic stroke, and he's out, he's out of action. Fortunately, his minister of court takes over who's even more reactionary 'cause he thinks, well, the king, he's a bit useless. So now that he's had a paralytic stroke, I'll take over and I'll sort this rabble out. Of course, in trying to sort the rabble out, he just makes matters worse. I say these things because I just wanna sort of emphasize to you how revolutionary movements are very contingent. It's a bit of bad luck, a bit of good luck. But the king, you know, there's a wonderful account by Cecil Spring Rise here, the chap on the right who says that the king and his political stroke was being told by his courtiers just how well and fit he was, even though clearly he wasn't even really communicating anything at all, but they were encouraging him to continue living. It's at this stage in July where you get the sanctuary in the, in the British Embassy, and they go to the British Embassy because they've tried sanctuary in other places in mosques, for instance, and they haven't been able to get away. You know, the, the Crown just thinks that a mo, there's nothing sacred about a mosque, so let's not bother about that. So they go to the British Embassy. Those 14,000 people sitting in the British Embassy compound are very well organized and very well managed. Again, there's an account of the British Embassy, and they say, actually, to be honest, it's not a mob. They're actually pretty well, they look after themselves. There's been a few damage to the flowerbeds, but you know, let's not get, you know, we won't get too fussed about that. But by and large, the bazaar is supplying all the food. And, you know, they, they keep themselves, themselves, and they're discussing things. It's probably the greatest political seminar ever to have taken place in Iran. And they, in discussion with evil in Grant Duff, they organize, they sort of actually start to refine and organize what exactly their demands are, and their demands ultimately are for a constitution with a parliament, a separation of powers, and the notion of the, of, of the implementation, of the rule of law. Mufa Dean Shah, Have I got that? This fetching gentleman here finally signs the new constitution into law, or basically gives the edict for the new Constitution to go in and then does the good thing and dies. Okay? So he, he, he just doesn't, you know, that's it, that's his job done. It's, in some ways not a great idea because the, his son is, is, is, is a mega reactionary, but nonetheless, it's done. And there is this wonderful sort of pen portrait of people saying, for God's sake, sign it. Sign it. You know, before he just sort of finally comps out in the period of a year, there's a transformation in the political landscape of Iran. And it took everyone by surprise. I mean, this is one of the things that I find really quite striking. It was a movement that was founded fundamentally on ideas and new ideas that people had engaged with. It was, it was ideas which allowed people to think the unthinkable. And at a period of time from when, you know, Arthur Harding earlier says, there's absolutely nothing going on. It's all a bit of a disaster within a year. Suddenly you get this sort of complete transformation in the landscape in Iran. And Cecil Spring Rice Writes to Edward Gray, this chap who's the foreign secretary, and says, 1906 has been a transformative year in this due of Persia, because it has given Persia a constitution in the Parliament. But he adds to it also that the prestige of Britain has never been higher, Because all these revolutionaries are looking to us to support their endeavor. This chap, in particular, a gentleman by the name of Hassan, who became a very prominent, uh, ideologue of nationalism in the, in the, in the following 50 years, was a key revolutionary. He was very good friends with Edward Brown, who was the professor of Persian at, uh, actually he was professor of Arabic, I'm sorry to say, but the, his, his specialty was Persian at, at, uh, Cambridge. And they were communicated a great deal. Pat sends a, a missive to England, calls it an appeal to England, and you're gonna know why he did send an appeal to England. But he sends an appeal to England where he says, the constitutional revolution in our country is in a very special sense, the spiritual child of Great Britain. It's a striking thing to say. And in the document he says it's three times. Why does he say it Before he, before you wonder why, why does he say it? Because this gentleman, Edward Gray, who'd become foreign secretary in 1906, and was suddenly confronted with this turmoil in Iran, wasn't very interested in the turmoil in Iran. Edward Gray was the new liberal foreign secretary. Everyone has a go at Lord Rson arch imperialist. But interestingly enough, Lord Kon was a good deal, more sympathetic to what was going on in Iran than Edward Gray. Edward Gray was principally interested in Britain security in Europe. Britain security in Europe depended on alliance or a deton with France, a deante with France to contain Germany, required Britain to have a day hunt with Russia, who was France's ally. For most Britts, this was a fiasco. The idea that we'd be siding up to Zarus Russia, the headquarters of autocracy, not the done thing. So Edward Gray's diplomacy was really done sort of under the covers, if you will. He wasn't very keen on publicizing exactly what he was doing, but nonetheless, he writes back to Cecil Pring Rice, who's the, uh, who then arrives as minister in Tehran at the end of 1906, who's full of effusiveness and praise for what's gone in Iran. And he says, why the hell did even, and Grant Duff let these people into the compound anyway, why are we interfering in the domestic politics of Iran? This revolution isn't gonna go anywhere, and we need to look at the bigger picture. So what Gray does is he organizes and follows on a sort of an agreement with the Russians encouraged by the French to basically settle all their disputes in Asia, their imperial disputes in Asia, in order to basically consolidate the alliance in Europe. One of the areas obviously, that they settled their disputes are, is in, is in Iran. And in Iran. Edward Gray settles on a convention with the Russians called the Anglo Russian Convention of 1907, in which Iran is split into spheres of influence. I emphasize spheres of influence, by the way, they're not sort of taking the country apart, but nonetheless, spheres of influence. And it's a dreadful deal for the British dreadful. Why? Because basically what Edward Gray concedes to the Russians is he says that your sphere of influence will be Northern Iran covering all the populated areas, burys, Tehran, Mashhad, all the way down to Shan. There'll be a, a little central bit, which will be neutral, which we can both meddle in. And then the southeast bit Bastan will be the British sphere of influence, ostensibly for the protection of India. Even the British government in India thought it was a disaster. He said, why, why? What, what have you, what you've given away Northern Iran for Baluchistan. I mean, what, what, what the hell's that about? I emphasize this because one of the side developments that I don't mention is at this stage, the British have just been awarded a concession for the discovery, for the exploitation of oil in Iran, which is in southwest Iran. It's not included in the zone of influence, okay? Think about it, in my view, it's one of the less salubrious, shall we say, deals struck by the British government, this spirit. But what it does do is it cuts off basically the revolutionaries, like t and others are looking to the British. They're looking to the British for support. They say the Russians are against this. The Russians, they've been defeated by the Japanese, they've had a bit of their hassle with their own revolution, but now z Nicolas is back and he wants rid of this nonsense constitution. So people like Tadi say, what we need is the British to help us stop the Russians interfering in our country. And it's a very interesting document he puts out. He says, I don't want the British to intervene in Iran. I want the British to stop the Russians intervening in Iran. But gray, sadly is of the view that no, we've signed an agreement, and you know, those areas are gonna be in the Russian sphere of influence. And if the Russians intervene to basically block the Constitution in support of a reactionary monarchy, we're not intervening in that. It's not our problem. Massive mistake in my view, certainly. And CEC will bring Rice writes the gray privately, and he says, in doing this, we will be seen by many of our Persian friends as having betrayed them. Cecil Spring rights, as I was saying to Martin earlier, also wrote the, uh, the him, my vow to be my country, by the way, in his spare time, um, quite an achievement in itself. He later becomes ambassador in Washington, actually as it happened. So, uh, uh, uh, quite a list of celebrated postings. But spring rice is absolutely right. And he laments in his letters, he says, what we have done is we've dropped the ball very, very badly. Here, there is a constitutional revolution that is built on a model of a British constitution. You'll see in books, by the way, that they'll say it's based on the Belgian constitution or the Bulgarian constitution, or this, that, the other, this is all flannel, alright? This is because nobody wants to admit it's actually from the English constitution, because, you know, that would be a bit problematic for them. But basically, the Belgian constitution is a redacted English constitution. Okay? So this is what it, so they've adapted it from that. It's a parliamentary system, okay? With the, um, you know, with, with limitations on the, uh, on the, on the powers of the Monarch. A a, a limited franchise. By the way, we're not talking about a franchise that's, that, that's universal by any stretch of the imagination, but it doesn't compare too badly with what's going on in Europe, but more pertinently within it. It does say in its original construct, in its original reading that sovereignty lies with the people. And this is quite striking and it's pretty progressive. But almost immediately you get problems not only with the divisions internationally, which are clearly problems that are gonna suffocate the way the revolution moves, but also the revolutionaries themselves. Again, one of the great problems of liberals the world over from 1848 onwards, really, they achieve something and then in their enthusiasm at their achievement, actually dunno what to do next. Yeah. The way in which the Parliament is set up, and this is the big problem, of course, it's that it's set up with a heavily weighted number of deputies from Teran, the Capitol, the rest of the country is very poorly represented. But not only is the Capitol overrepresented the minute all the votes came in, and all the deputies are elected for teran, the parliament meets it's core. All the other deputies can can wait for them to get them sorted out. So they get on with things, they're so enthusiastic, and then they suddenly come to the realization, well, we want free education. We want a good transport network. We want standardization to wait together. We on a national anthem, we want this, we want an army, we wanna, and then someone says, who's gonna pay for it? And they say, well, I mean, doesn't it just happen? No. So they then go to the Monarch and they say, well, you can pay for it. And he says, I'm not paying for it. I don't like this constitution business. Anyway, the whole point was of course, that what had to be done was a system of taxation. But of course, nobody wants to pay taxes. Even If they wanted to pay taxes, there was no system for collecting taxes. I mean, this was the fundamental problem facing the constitutional revolutionist, big on ideas, not great on implementation. And it confronted them very hard. I mean, it hit them very hard that all these ideas they had, and the ideas are extraordinary, actually. I mean, they are extraordinary. The fact is, they were running into a sort of a, a, a, a real ravine in terms of being able to do anything about it. So you get this toing and froing, you get the sort of the counter revolutions in the revolutionaries, and they fight to and fro to and fro, to and fro. It goes on to about 1911. Finally, the Constitution seems to have triumphed, but in terms of the power of the constitutionalists, it's not getting very far. The country is beginning to become ungovernable. The Russians aren't letting go either. They commit some pretty serious atrocities as well. It's, it's accounted for in a number of writings of the time. The constitutionalist in desperation, shall we say, suddenly decide. They say, we need to bring in someone to come and help us sort out the finances of this country. So they go to the United States, the Americans don't want to get involved, But they said, we'll, let you have a financial advisor gentle by the name of Morgan Schuster, but he can be your employee. We're not sending him as an American. He can be an employee of your government. Schuster lasts about a year. Not only is the system so byzantine in its own way and quite corrupt, but he says there's a whole plethora of foreign powers, including the British and the Russians, who are just not interested in me being here, and they're not helping. So the whole thing comes to crashing halt until we then get To The Great War. And in the great War, basically, Iran becomes a battleground for essentially the Ottomans and the Russians for the British coming in later, but in a very small way. Now, I put this picture up because I just wanna sort of emphasize the, the sort of the, um, the relationships between, uh, intellectuals across the divide. This is that gentleman , who I showed you earlier now suitably tied and suited up coming to London to come and plead the case of the Constitutional revolution. He's aided and abetted by his colleague at the University of Cambridge, Edward Brown, suitably a tied in Persian costume. Okay? Brown, in a classic sense, said to t, he said, when you come here and give a talk, for God's sake, play it up, dress like a Persian, because they're like a bit of Exoticness. And of course, TDI said, I'm not a performing monkey, you know, I'm not, I'm not, you know, I'm not coming to play the play the role. But the bond between these two was extremely tight and brown, ultimately in 1910, writes what is still in some ways the definitive study of the Persian Revolution. Um, certainly in the English language, it's then used by Iranian historians for their own histories. Although I have to say that his own history is, you know, there's a much more of a reciprocal relationship between, you know, it's not as if, you know, brown was using a lot of sources from Iran as well. And so they sort of fed off each other. But Brown in many ways represents one of the first academic activists. He was a very, very prominent academic in his field. But in the Persian revolution, he becomes quite polemical in his, in his bid to sort of push the idea of, um, Of, uh, Of the importance of the Persian revolution for Britain and, uh, and the wider world. And not least obviously for the Iranians themselves. It's writers like these, of course, that set the scene and set the legacy for the constitutional revolution going forward.'cause the constitutional revolution in Iran fails, in practical terms, it doesn't succeed. But what it does do is it basically inaugurates what we might term a revolution of the mind. Okay? And this is important because the legacy of the constitutional revolution is profound. And subsequent sort of rulers basically reflect off it. None of them fulfill its promise. Nobody pays any attention to a constitution, but they all want to implement its ideas about the development of the modern state. And basically these become fulfilled later with the arrival of the dynasty, in particular the new dynasty that replaces the old Raja dynasty in Iran from 1925 onwards. And it's the ideas of these men like Za and others, and this gentleman like , another gentleman, another idea Ideolog of the period, an intellectual who basically pushed through a se a series of reforms that, uh, transformed the Iranian state. They engage with the world, with the wider world. And it's a profound intellectual engagement. Many people think that much of this engagement started in the 20th century. It didn't, it started a century earlier. And the ideas that transferred across borders were, were, were well developed, and they were absorbed by the Iranians. Yeah, we, we see too much, I'm sorry to say, those who are not from the historical profession tend to tend to get a little bit too obsessed with what we might term presentism, which is that it's all about, you know, what happens now, you know? But the fact is it has deep roots. And one of the reasons why I think ultimately peoples fight for their rights in Iran will ultimately yield success is because its roots are so deep and because the ideas haven't been shifted, these ideas that you get in Iran today about the rights of the individual, about constitutional, about the rule of law, despite every attempt by successions of autocrats and most particularly the Islamic Republic and its religious theocracy to uproot these hasn't worked. And even the people who are fighting on the streets last year were simply echoing many of the ideas that were expressed first a hundred years ago. It's very striking actually, that individuals like who were dismissed by the Islamic Republic, as you know, westernized stooges, are basically now coming back in to the political lexicon of many young people as, as the people for whom you know, that they should look up to. And they say, we've dismissed these people as lackeys of the West, but actually far from it, they had the right idea. They understood what needed to be done in order to build a state from the bottom up with nothing. It is in, in a, in a, in a classic sense, a sort of real pol as friends of mine have discussed, not realism, but how do you apply liberal ideas in an illiberal environment? Probably the chief question of our times, by the way. Yeah. But this is what these people are dealing with. How do you apply liberal ideas in a situation which is the most unsympathetic to it? We neither have the tools. We neither have the means. We have a reactionary government, we have an international environment that isn't particularly good. How do we do it? And they got a good way there. I won't go through all this particularly, but I, if you have a look at it, you can always ask me questions on what on earth I'm talking about in terms of conservatism and . But it's there, there are a lot of the ideas that come through reflect many of the ideas that were permeating in in the West and in Britain in particular during the 19th century. They're very fond. You'll be interested to know in people like Edmund Burke, it's obvious why they should be, because Edmund Burke is seen as someone who reconciles tradition with modernity. So that's what they try, and that's what they try and do. Ultimately, the state that is built by the Patis and Reha in particular, and his son Mohammed Zahar, only fulfills part of the promise of the constitutional revolution. And the part that it fulfills, of course, is the development of the state. What they don't do, they don't get round to doing, is the rights of the individuals within that state. Okay? So you get the development of the judiciary, you get the development of mass education, you get a transformation of the law, but you don't have actually that completion of that process, which is the social aspect of it. And many people assume that the 1979 revolution might be the great leap forward that would achieve that. I think we've been sadly disabused of that notion. But that's not the case in many ways. What the current crop of rulers in Iran are trying to do is to take Iran to a pre constitutional revolutionary phase where the king is absolute, but not just absolute, in this case, even more seriously, truly divinely mandated to do as they please. But the social pushback against this, I think is quite interesting. I'll leave you, for those of you who think Anglia and Ireland relations are really terrible, which they, they have been of late, has to be said with this, which I think it still exists. There are some Iranian colleagues here in the audience who might be able to tell me if it's still true or not true. But I think it is true. This is Edward Brown Street in Tehran. They never changed the name. They kept Edward Brown very firmly. I mean, it's just a street. It's not like a highway or anything, but hell, you know, it's better than nothing. Um, and Edward Brown is still considered by Iranians as the one person who supported the people against their government and didn't abandon them in their time of need. And as a consequence of that, brown is the one intellectual of any nationality, by the way, of any nationality who is still honored, uh, in the Iranian capital today. Let's hope that that may be, uh, a little lesson that can be learned by all sorts of policy makers going forward. Uh, that, um, certain ideas, certainly, uh, certain ideas are worth supporting and worth pushing through. And, uh, I do think ultimately that the founding principles of these individuals on a whole range of those, and I've only touched the surface, obviously, um, are the founding principles that I think will, will, will guide Iran through to a much more successful, I hope, and much more, uh, productive future. And I shall Martin leave it there, which I think is, uh, just about four to five minutes. Thank you. I stay there. I'll stay there. Yeah. So, um, could you clarify for me a little bit about the period of time when the spheres of infants were developing, and so we've got Russia and one side and UK or on the other. Um, the, how aware were they of the potential raw material prob raw materials in Iran at that time? So a little bit before we needed oil, wasn't it? Mm-Hmm.<affirmative>. So, um, why were they splitting it up? Was it to control the access to India or other routes, silk route and so on? What, what was it For at that stage in 19 seven? It was purely a geopolitical decision for the protection as a buffer zone for India, and obviously for the Russians for their own severe influence for their North. They weren't thinking in terms of natural resources at the time. I mean, oil hadn't been discovered yet, right? Oil would be discovered in 1908. I mean, one, one of the great, you know, problems when we look at the oil industry in Iran is we sort of assume that it was a given. That it would be, you know, this was gonna be a major center of oil production. But at the time when, um, uh, Darcy Knox, Darcy was given the concession in 1901, despite the fact that there was obviously clearly oil seeping out the ground in places, um, the fact is they couldn't find reserves that were exploitable. I mean, they couldn't find, it took him seven years to dis discuss, and they almost went bankrupt. But it is, it is striking that it didn't even feature in Brown's, uh, in, um, gray's calculations. I mean, he didn't, he didn't, it wasn't even a feature in 1915 during the Great War, the sphere of influences extended because by then oil is being produced. And of course, the Royal Navy has gone over to oil as, as its principle Source of, and was there, um, an involvement of, of commerce commercial organized, like the East India company had such a, a powerful influence over Indian politics? Was there a, a commercial companies engaged in the periphery of all of this at the time? Oh, yes. I mean, so the British had the, the British Imperial Bank of Persia, which was the one sort of, uh, body that, um, uh, basically had fiscal sort of duties in Iran, effectively could print bank notes. Um, there was a limited amount of sort of commercial exchange, partly 'cause the British and Russians never wanted to give the other preferential concessions. I mean, the British had one pretty dramatic concession, the Reuters concession in 1872, which was so extraordinary that even Curson commented on it and said it was the most extraordinary sort of like, Uh, dives of, of, of a country's natural resources to a single entrepreneur. But it was so, it was so objected to not only by foreign powers, but by in the foreign office itself that they, it was canceled. I mean, it had, was canceled, but then they went through extended negotiations until Reuters then got his concession for the British Imperial Bank of Persia. There was the telegraph company, of course, and then there were various other trading concessions. But until you get the oil company in 1908, which eventually forms that, it's the oil company that basically transforms the, um, how you say the industrial landscape of Iran. So this is, this is a question which obviously linked to what happened later in 1979. Yeah. But, um, uh, I can't say where it's from, I don't know. But what, was there any role for Shia Islam in this era? Was the Yes, the clerics were very actively involved in, in, And they were Shia. Yeah, Yeah, yeah, absolutely. I mean, when we're talking about the three, so in 1891, the fat was issued by a senior cleric. But the, the point about it is, is that it's that senior cleric in conjunction with, you know, intellectual secular intellectuals in the bazaar in 1906, the clerics basically split. There were some clerics who were very supportive of the constitutional movement, very actively. So there were others that were completely against it. Um, and one of them, uh, a gentleman by the name of Nouri Faso Nouri was eventually hanged for his sins in 1909. But of course, in the Islamic Republic of Iran, he's seen as very much a hero of the constitutional movement, even though he was opposed to all its principles. So the sheer clergy basically split. I mean, they split very even. And of course, you know, we have to be careful when we talk about intellectuals and, you know, the baar and the clergy as being all sort of like single groups. They're not in that sense. I mean, there, there, there are people who basically split. Sorry, I was wondering if you could comment on the class or occupational composition of the parliament that was convened after 1906, roughly speaking, who is your median deputy? Who is your median deputy? Well, there were, there were an awful, awful, I mean, the, the difficulty here by the way, is because, um, first of all, you don't have the, the dress code changes that come in afterwards. So when you get a picture of the parliament in 1906, there seems to be an awful lot of people with turbans, right? And everyone's assumes they're all clerics. They're not all clerics. But the fact is that, you know, traditional costume tended to, to be, to be, you know, worn by quite a few people. I think very much at this stage. The, the, the median, um, composition of your deputies at the time are still pretty elitist in that sense. I mean, you're talking about an elite group of people. Remember that you are not talking about a period of time when, uh, literacy or political awareness is, is, is is socially extensive. So you are, even when you're talking about members of the bazaar or intellectuals or or, or members of clergy, you are talking about the higher echelons of those, of those, of, of those groups, the educated, the educated elements. They're not all rich, if that's what you're asking about. Sorry. Thank you. Um, I want to ask you about the Bahai problem. Mm. Um, I think, uh, the Bob was, was, uh, executed I think around about that time and No, no much earlier Was earlier than that. And there was bah and also there was this problem of the Bahais. Can you throw some light on this Start? I can indeed. I sort of, uh, um, um, skipped over that unfortunately because of, of time, but also 'cause I think it adds another layer, but I'm happy to outline it here. So we have a, uh, the Arian movement and the barb in the 1840s and the early 1850s. What that does, um, for those of you, just to give quick background, the Barb basically is a, is a a a is a a and an individual who basically claims, uh, that not only is he the, is he the sort of gateway to the, the final hidden arm of the, of the, uh, uh, of the shears. Again, this is why I didn't want to sort of go into a huge amount of depth about this 'cause it's a little bit more, more complex. Um, but not only that, but at some stages claimed, certainly by his followers as being the hidden Iman return. So he's basically seen it, it's, it's basically this messianic millionaire figure. Now, why is this important in many ways? Is because in being, uh, in making these claims, it's actually quite a revolutionary moment. There are some people that argue that the Barbie revolt is basically an old style religious revolt. I tend to see it actually as something quite modern, um, albeit in a religious guise, but one in which the bar tries to basically argue, uh, you know, with what he's saying, that there's an abrogation of, of, of, of Islamic law. And, and, and, and, and, and religion is renewed. And it's the first time, by the way, that you see women unveil the Iran. Okay? Because they say that, you know, Islamic law is now, is now over, uh, needless say the, the traditional clergy aren't o overly joyed by, overjoyed by this development. And basically the Barbie movement is, is crushed. Ultimately it takes shape under Baah to the BAHAs that you have today, and they move abroad. Obviously, there's still a lot of ba uh, BAHAs obviously in Iran, they are treated by the Orthodox clergy, essentially as heretics. Okay? I mean, that's the way they're treated. They are not recognized. Now, why are they important in some ways for the constitutional revolution? Because one, the Barbie revolt encouraged, again, people to think the unthinkable it shattered that that orthodoxy, okay? So that's one thing. And there were a lot of Barbies who came from very well educated groups, very wealthy groups. A lot of aristocrats became Barbies. And those Barbies who stayed in Iran, it didn't go with Baha line to the Baha faith, but became what are known as the Asali Barbies. They are generally considered also to have been very pivotal in the development of the, uh, in the development of the Constitutional Revolution. So you can see from the Islamic Republic's point of view, of course, the constitutional revolution is full of Barbies and Freemasons, which is why they, they're deeply suspicious of it. But it's, I think it's very, very important actually in terms of showing how, um, Uh, You know, these new ideas basically shattered the orthodoxies. And I think the Barbies are actually extremely important in, in that process as well. So that's what I would say in terms of the constitutional revolution. What about Baah? I mean, he, he was his disciple, so to speak, But it's the Ali Barbie who are, who split off from the, from Bahala. So Bahala would've gone abroad by that stage, but nonetheless, they would've had a yes. I mean, I think they would've had an influence in changing the ideas that, that were shaping, uh, that were shaping the political dynamic in, around at the time. But I wanna make that distinction between the two different groups in that sense. There's a group of questions which I'll try and reword, which is, um, when did, uh, an identity as a state arise? So there've some people drawing parallels between, um, what's happening to the Azaris and in as Bajan moment, what is the sense of national pride of, of being in a Persian or an Iranian? Was that a long time ago? Is this a, something that reformed as these countries country established itself During this ion? Well, that, that is a, that is a, I mean, that is a complex question on a, a number of different levels. However, I mean, Iran is probably unusual in the Middle East as being a, an identifiable territorial state from quite early on. Okay. So it's not a dynastic state. It's not like the Ottoman Empire, which defines itself in relation to the dynasty. Already from the 17th century onwards, you have in documents the notion of the state of Iran. Okay? So it's clearly seen as a distinctive state and a distinctive polity. And there is an identity now that's distinct from nationalism, which most of us would accept, is basically a modern ideology and the development of nationalism. But clearly that modern nationalism, which I think basically develops in the 19th century and spreads from an elite, you know, outwards as you get education and others, um, is founded on a much longer sense of, uh, of distinct identity. Thanks. Um, I've just got a question about, uh, the way that like ideas spread, I suppose. Yeah. Um, and I feel like your lecture gave an argument, um, saying that the, uh, individuals, uh, behind this process were basically uncritically absorbing, uh, like post-enlightenment ideals from the British and that model of absorption. And I wondered if you press deeper, um, it might get more complicated just from the examples I'm familiar with, um, in the Indian context here. Bailey wrote a book about liberalism, um, being diffused in India, and he offers a model of like creative adaptation and fussing with local traditions. Um, and that process of like enlightenment and ideals being translated into like non-Western context, if that makes sense. It does. I mean, I mean that, I mean, that's exactly what happens. By the way. I mean, I don't wanna give the impression they don't uncritically accept them. They digest them. I mean, they integrate them into their own model. But what is striking is we're talking at this stage about very basic ideas. Okay? So it's basic ideas of state development of which they find some of the ideas about, you know, what, what the British give the arrangements at this period is this possibility of change. Okay? That's basically what it is. And that's what I mean by a very biggish narrative. Okay? Now, when it goes into practice, clearly there's a, there's an element there where they need to integrate these. I mean, you get a whole group of constitutionalists who, who basically rigorously interrogate many of the sort of intellectual texts and start to try and adapt them to the local environment. That said, I wouldn't want to exaggerate to, to what, I mean you will see that later in the 20th century, but it, it's, it's, it's very interesting how people have rebounded back. So in the Islamic Republic, for instance, people will talk about Islamic economics or Islamic human rights or this, that the other, in many cases, what people have concluded is that this doesn't make a huge amount of sense. Okay? There are human rights and there's economics, and these are disciplines and these are other things and rights that you need to basically incorporate. Now, does it have to sort of sit well within a Iranian context? Yes. So in the constitutional revolution, for instance, you know, one of the aspects of the constitution was there should be a five man religious committee made of clerics to make sure that laws that are passed are not contradict, do not contradict Islamic law. But again, the dis first of all, I mean, I should say that the committee never sat, which was a major issue, right? But the, uh, but the, um, but the idea was certainly there. And, but the fact is also depended very much on what you understood by Islamic law. Okay? I mean, there is a, there is a distinction between that notion that what people were arguing here for was for rights. Okay? And I think there is a sort of a, um, there was a division of opinion, certainly among the clerics at the time, about how you can reconcile those. But there were those that did reconcile them. You know, they said that, you know, sovereignty belongs to God, but God has delegated that to man and therefore by extension, you know, man has, you know, agency over his future. I'm gonna Read and I use man and women interchangeably. By the way, in case anyone of you, I'm going to read a a last question from, uh, someone in the overflow room, which is quite a little bit longer. As the question you said that the Islamic Republic is trying to take Iran back to a pre constitutional era, but this person's heard that one of the consequences of the post 1979 revolution and the war with Iraq was actually significant bureaucratization of the state within post-revolutionary Iran. Is that right? And therefore, has the Islamic Republic actually developed aspects of constitution constitutionalism by accident, as it were? Yeah, No, I mean that's, uh, you know, there are elements that I have a friend of mine who says that, you know, harmony is the third PA king, which is quite an interesting idea. The, um, I, I think one of the problems we have here is that we tend to see the Islamic Republic, which, you know, has been going for 44 years, after all, almost like it's some sort of like static, um, static, uh, political organization. It's certainly true that what you see, so when I look, when I chart the Islamic Republic, I see the Islamic Republic as a legacy of the Avi State. So it carries a certain momentum of the previous 50 years of development, but then there's a period when that stops and the thing starts to go into decline. And what you find is that basically in, in, certainly in my view, is that many of the aspects of the state that exist in, at least in, in, in, in, in, in theory, in practice, don't really work anymore. So, I mean, one of the, the, the striking things, of course is that no, no state since 1906 has ever has ever thought it legitimate to abolish parliament. No one, they won't dare, okay? Parliament is a fixed aspect. We've gotta have it, almost every single one of 'em has ignored it, however, Yeah. Or tried to manipulate it or tried to, you know. And what you are finding now is that people are complaining that parliament, which at the onset of the revolution in 1979 was seen as Thena house of the nation. And this, that the other is basically now seen as a cipher. I mean, it's basically seen as a sort of an adjunct to the office of the Supreme leader. So essentially all these, all all these institutions have, have become hollowed out. I mean, that's basically what's happening. And what you found is the dominance, a reestablishment of the dominance of the role of the supreme leader in Iran. I mean, this is a, this is a lecture for one of your subsequent lecturers, but of, of, of the, of, of, of, of the, of the Supreme leader's office that has taken on as a sort of a religious despotism, um, a degree of power and authority that most Persian monikers monarchs would've envied. I mean, that, that, that in, in theory, at least, whether you can do it in practice, another matter, but in theory, at least few Persian monarchs, at least in the last 300 years, could make the sort of claims, uh, to authority that the current supreme leader in Iran is making. Thank you very much. I'm sure you can see while we, why you invited Professor Ansari, it's been a delight to hear you. Thank you very much from all of us.