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The Politics of Gift Exchange in Early Qajar Iran, 1785–1834

  • Assef Ashraf (a1)


This article uses gift-giving practices in early nineteenth-century Iran as a window onto statecraft, governance, and center-periphery relations in the early Qajar state (1785–1925). It first demonstrates that gifts have a long history in the administrative and political history of Iran, the Persianate world, and broader Eurasia, before highlighting specific features found in Iran. The article argues that the pīshkish, a tributary gift-giving ceremony, constituted a central role in the political culture and economy of Qajar Iran, and was part of the process of presenting Qajar rule as a continuation of previous Iranian royal dynasties. Nevertheless, pīshkish ceremonies also illustrated the challenges Qajar rulers faced in exerting power in the provinces and winning the loyalty of provincial elites. Qajar statesmen viewed gifts and bribes, at least at a discursive level, in different terms, with the former clearly understood as an acceptable practice. Gifts and honors, like the khil‘at, presented to society were part of Qajar rulers' strategy of presenting themselves as just and legitimate. Finally, the article considers the use of gifts to influence diplomacy and ease relations between Iranians and foreign envoys, as well as the ways in which an inadequate gift could cause offense.


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1 For more on the “mythical” versus “historical” halves of the Shāhnāmah, see Ehsan Yarshater, “Iranian National History,” in Ehsan Yarshater, ed., The Cambridge History of Iran, Vol. 3(1): The Seleucid, Parthian and Sasanian Periods (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983), 359–478. See also the Introduction to Dick Davis's translation, Abolqasem Ferdowsi, Shahnameh: The Persian Book of Kings, Dick Davis, trans. (New York: Viking, 2006), xiii–xxxvii.

2 Abu al-Qasim Firdawsi, Shāhnāmah, Djalal Khaleghi-Motlagh, ed. (New York: Bibliotheca Persica, 1987), vol. VII, 276.

3 See Ibid., 278. For a translation of this and the preceding sections, see Arthur George Warner and Edmond Warner, trans., The Shahnama of Firdausi (London: K. Paul, Trench, Trübner & Co. Ltd., 1905), vol. VII, 359–60.

4 I use “the Persianate world” to mean approximately what Marshall Hodgson referred to as the “Persianate zone”: a region where “local languages of high culture … depended upon Persian wholly or in part for their prime literary inspiration,” and thus where the Shāhnāmah would have been read or recited. See Marshall G. S. Hodgson, The Venture of Islam, Volume 2: The Expansion of Islam in the Middle Periods (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1974), 293. In recent years, scholars have questioned whether the term “Persianate” can be used to define a region beyond the framework of language. See, for example, Arjomand, Said Amir, “Defining Persianate Studies,” Journal of Persianate Studies 1, 1 (2008): 14; Richard Eaton, “The Persian Cosmopolis (900–1900) and the Sanskrit Cosmopolis (400–1400)” (paper presented at “The Persianate World: A Conceptual Inquiry,” Yale University, 9–11 May 2014); Abbas Amanat, “Introduction,” in Abbas Amanat and Assef Ashraf, eds., The Persianate World: Towards a Conceptual Framework (forthcoming ca. 2016).

5 The Shāhnāmah was written four centuries after Kasrā's reign, and obviously should not be read as a literal account of historical events during the Sāsānian era. In fact, in their translation of the epic poem, Arthur and Edmond Warner use the scene of the gathered noblemen to warn of the unreliability of the Shāhnāmah as a historical source, overlooking its usefulness for understanding political and cultural practices in the Persianate world: “The historical reminiscences put into the mouths of dwellers beyond the Oxus and even the Jaxartes are of course valueless.” See Warner and Warner, The Shahnama of Firdausi, 360, n. 1. Further evidence of the significance of the Shāhnāmah in the political culture of Qajar Iran is provided by the fact that Fatḥ ‘Alī Shah (r. 1797–1834) commissioned his court poet to write an epic poem of his own reign, the Shāhanshāhnāmah, purposefully modeled on Firdawsi's epic.

6 The most comprehensive survey of the role of gifts in Iranian history is the entry on “Gift-giving” in Encyclopaedia Iranica. See Multiple Authors, “Gift-giving,” Encyclopaedia Iranica, X/6, 604–17, at: (accessed 29 Mar. 2015), and the associated bibliographies. The entry on the Qajar period, by Willem Floor, is available at: (accessed 4 Sept. 2014). For a useful collection of articles and essays on the role of gifts in pre-Islamic Iran, see the proceedings from a 1986 conference published as: Pierre Briant and Clarisse Herrenschmidt, eds., Le Tribut dans l'Empire perse: Actes de la Table ronde de Paris, 12–13 décembre 1986 (Paris: Peeters, 1989). Ann K. S. Lambton presents an overview of the pīshkish from the eleventh to nineteenth centuries: Pīshkash: Present or Tribute?,” Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 57, 1 (1994): 145–58. For a philological and civilizational perspective on the meaning of “gifts,” see Rosenthal, Franz, “Gifts and Bribes: The Muslim View,” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 108, 2 (1964): 135–44.

7 For a study of gift exchange in twentieth-century Iran, see Betteridge, Anne H., “Gift Exchange in Iran: The Locus of Self-Identity in Social Interaction,” Anthropological Quarterly 58, 4 (1985): 190202. Further afield, see Sinem Arcak, “Gifts in Motion: Ottoman-Safavid Cultural Exchange, 1501–1618” (PhD diss., University of Minnesota, 2012); Linda Komaroff and Sheila Blair, eds., Gifts of the Sultan: The Arts of Giving at the Islamic Courts (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2011). For essays exploring the meaning and value attached to cloth in South Asia and the Islamic world, see C. A. Bayly, “The Origins of Swadeshi (Home Industry): Cloth and Indian Society, 1700–1830,” in Arjun Appadurai, ed., The Social Life of Things: Commodities in Cultural Perspective (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986), 285–321; Jamal Elias, “The Sufi Robe (khirqa) as a Vehicle of Spiritual Authority,” in Stewart Gordon, ed., Robes and Honor: The Medieval World of Investiture (New York: Palgrave, 2001), 275–89; Maskiell, Michelle and Mayor, Adrienne, “Killer Khilats, Part 1: Legends of Poisoned ‘Robes of Honour’ in India,” Folklore 112, 1 (2001): 2345; Maskiell, Michelle and Mayor, Adrienne, “Killer Khilats, Part 2: Imperial Collecting of Poison Dress Legends in India,” Folklore 112, 2 (2001): 163–82.

8 Marcel Mauss, The Gift: The Form and Reason for Exchange in Archaic Societies, W. D. Halls, trans. (New York: W. W. Norton, 2000), 3. See also Bronislaw Malinowski, Crime and Custom in Savage Society (London: K. Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co., 1926); Claude Lévi-Strauss, Les Structures Élémentaires de La Parenté (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1949); Pierre Bourdieu, Esquisse d'une théorie de la pratique (Paris: Droz 1972); James G. Carrier, Gifts and Commodities: Exchange and Western Capitalism since 1700 (New York: Routledge, 1995), 8–10; David Graeber, Toward an Anthropological Theory of Value: The False Coin of Our Own Dreams (New York: Palgrave, 2001). For a useful survey of the anthropological and sociological literature on gift giving, see Natalie Zemon Davis, The Gift in Sixteenth-Century France (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2000), 3–10; Arjun Appadurai, “Introduction: Commodities and the Politics of Value,” in A. Appadurai, ed., The Social Life of Things: Commodities in Cultural Perspective (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986), 3–63.

9 Anthony Cutler has made a similar argument in Significant Gifts: Patterns of Exchange in Late Antique, Byzantine, and Early Islamic Diplomacy,” Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 38, 1 (Winter 2008): 79101, 81. My thanks to the anonymous CSSH reviewer who brought this to my attention.

10 For discussions of the problems associated with pursuing the political and economic significance of food, animals, and disease, respectively, see: Warren Belasco, “Introduction: Food History as a Field,” in Paul Freedman, Joyce E. Chaplin, and Ken Albala, eds., Food in Time and Place: The American Historical Association Companion to Food History (Oakland: University of California Press, 2014), 1–20; Mikhail, Alan, “Unleashing the Beast: Animals, Energy, and the Economy of Labor in Ottoman Egypt,” American Historical Review 118, 2 (2013): 317–48, 317–18; Timothy Mitchell, Rule of Experts: Egypt, Techno-Politics, Modernity (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002), 18–52.

11 George N. Curzon, Persia and the Persian Question (London: Longmans, Green & Co, 1892), vol. I, 438. Ann Lambton has asserted in a similar vein: “The giving of gifts, though not peculiar to Persian society, is particularly common in that society”; “Pīshkash,” 145.

12 For more on the notion of “uniformities,” see C. A. Bayly, The Birth of the Modern World, 1780–1914: Global Connections and Comparisons (Malden, Mass.: Blackwell, 2004), 1–14, 41–44.

13 The area of territory that was at least nominally under Qajar control prior to 1813 and 1828 and the conclusion of the Russo-Persian wars includes, in their entirety or at least in part, the modern nation-states of Iran, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iraq, Turkmenistan, and Afghanistan, totaling close to 700,000 square miles.

14 For more on how imperial projects like those personified by Curzon deploy the discourse of exceptionalism to turn cultural differences into hierarchies, see Ann Laura Stoler and Carole McGranahan, “Introduction: Refiguring Imperial Terrains,” in Ann Laura Stoler, Carole McGranahan, and Peter C. Perdue, eds., Imperial Formations (Santa Fe: School for Advanced Research Press, 2007), 11–13.

15 For example, see Riza Quli Khan Hidayat, Tārīkh-i Rawżat al-Ṣafā-yi Nāṣirī, Jamshid Kiyanfar, ed. (Tehran: Asatir, 2001), vol. IX, 7310.

16 The gold-sheathed sword was sent by Fatḥ ‘Alī Shah to Hājī Qāsim Khān Sartīp in 1244 AH/1828–9 AD. See Farmān'hā va Raqam'hā-yi Dawrah-yi Qājār (Jild-i avval: 1211–60 A.H.) (Tehran: Mu'assasah-yi Pazhūhish va Muṭāla‘āt-i Farhangī, 1992), 83–84.

17 For more, see the discussion on terminology in the following section.

18 Examples of studies of gift-exchange in other historical times and places include Davis, The Gift in Sixteenth-Century France; Cutler, Anthony, “Gifts and Gift Exchange as Aspects of the Byzantine, Arab, and Related Economies,” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 55 (2001): 247–78; Cutler, “Significant Gifts”; Cecily J. Hilsdale, Byzantine Art and Diplomacy in an Age of Decline (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014).

19 For a recent study of the sacred, saintly, and messianic kingship that defined the Safavid and Mughal dynasties, see A. Azfar Moin, The Millennial Sovereign: Sacred Kingship and Sainthood in Islam (New York: Columbia University Press, 2012).

20 For the reference to gifts comprising nearly half of the early Qajar state's revenue, see “Notes for a Memorandum on the Revenues of Persia,” 1811, f. 7, IOR/L/PS/9/67/5, Secret Letters and Enclosures from Persia, Iraq, Syria, etc. (1781–1836), British Library. The economic history of Iran's eighteenth century remains relatively underexplored. For some studies, see Charles P. Issawi, An Economic History of the Middle East and North Africa (New York: Columbia University Press, 1982), 12–13; Ricks, Thomas M., “Towards a Social and Economic History of Eighteenth-Century Iran,” Iranian Studies 6, 2/3 (1973): 110–26; Willem M. Floor, A Fiscal History of Iran in the Safavid and Qajar Periods, 1500–1925 (New York: Bibliotheca Persica Press, 1998), 233–49; Rudi Matthee, Willem Floor, and Patrick Clawson, The Monetary History of Iran from the Safavids to the Qajars (London: I. B. Tauris, 2013), 137–78.

21 For a discussion of the megafauna exchanged between the Safavids, Ottomans, and Mughals, see Alan Mikhail, The Animal in Ottoman Egypt (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), 109–36. An early nineteenth-century example of megafauna, in this case a lion, being gifted to European dignitaries can be found in William Ouseley, Travels in Various Countries of the East: More Particularly Persia (London: Rodwell and Martin, 1823), vol. I, 187–88.

22 Here I have been influenced by John F. Haldon, The State and the Tributary Mode of Production (New York: Verso, 1993), 10, 67–68, 272.

23 For examples of the Qajars' depiction as autocratic and arbitrary, see Abrahamian, Ervand, “Oriental Despotism: The Case of Qajar Iran,” International Journal of Middle East Studies 5, 1 (1974): 331; Homa Katouzian, Iranian History and Politics: The Dialectic of State and Society (London: Routledge, 2003).

24 Mauss pointed out that gifts could “serve the purpose of buying peace,” but his discussion of this phenomenon was on those institutions related to “gift[s] made to men in the sight of gods or nature” so that “evil spirits” and “bad influences” would be avoided. In the Qajar case, the gifts were made in the sight of the state, whose evil spirits took the form of armed troops. See Mauss, The Gift, 15–17.

25 Karl Polanyi, The Great Transformation: The Political and Economic Origins of Our Time (Boston: Beacon Press, 2001), 279. On this point, see also Timothy Mitchell, “Society, Economy, and the State Effect,” in George Steinmetz, ed., State/Culture: State-Formation after the Cultural Turn (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1999), 76–77.

26 Edward G. Browne, A Year amongst the Persians (London: Adam and Charles Black, 1893), 68.

27 Ibid., 69.

28 Ibid.

29 See also Betteridge, “Gift Exchange in Iran,” 192.

30 Lambton, “Pīshkash,” 145.

31 For a useful introduction to the vast “manuals of statecraft” literature, see Muhammad Taqi Danishpazhuh, “An Annotated Bibliography on Government and Statecraft,” in Said Amir Arjomand, ed., Authority and Political Culture in Shi‘ism, Andrew Newman, trans. (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1988), 213–39. For a more recent survey, see Marlow, Louise, “Surveying Recent Literature on the Arabic and Persian Mirrors for Princes Genre,” History Compass 7, 2 (2009): 523–38.

32 The opening passage of The Prince, for example, prescribes gifts as an effective way to win the favor of rulers. See Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince, Luigi Ricci, trans. (London: Grant Richards, 1903), 1.

33 See, for example, Nasrin Askari, “The Medieval Reception of Firdausī's Shāhnāma: The Ardashīr Cycle as a Mirror for Princes” (PhD diss., University of Toronto, 2013); Abbas Amanat, “Divided Patrimony, Tree of Royal Power, and Fruit of Vengeance: Political Paradigms and Iranian Self-Image in the Story of Faridun in the Shahnama,” in Charles P. Melville, ed., Shahnama Studies I (Cambridge: Centre for Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies, University of Cambridge, 2006), 49–70.

34 A late twelfth- and early thirteenth-century Persian prose writer and courtier in South Asia. See the entries on “Fakr-e Modabber” in Encyclopaedia Iranica, and “Fakhr-i Mudabbir,” in the Encyclopedia of Islam, and their respective bibliographies. EIr, “Fakr-e Modabber,” Encyclopædia Iranica, IX/2, 164, online at: (accessed 27 Aug. 2014); C. E. Bosworth, “Fakhr-i Mudabbir.” Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition, Brill Online, 2013, at: (accessed 29 Mar. 2015); Blain Auer, “Fakhr-i Mudabbir,” Encyclopaedia of Islam, Three, Brill Online, 2015, at: (accessed 12 Mar. 2015).

35 Thirteenth-century Persian poet and prose writer. See Franklin Lewis, “Golestān-e Sa‘di,” Encyclopaedia Iranica, XI/1, 79–86; online at: (accessed online 27 Aug. 2014).

36 Ibid.

37 Sa‘di, Kulliyāt-i Sa‘dī, Muhammad Ali Furughi, ed. (Tehran: Ilmi, 1966), 132–33.

38 For the story on Ḥusayn, see Muhammad b. Mansur Mubarakshah, Ādāb al-Ḥarb wa'l-Shujā 'ah, Ahmad Suhayli-Khansari, ed. (Tehran: Eqbal, 1967), 28.

39 Ibid., 142.

40 For the full list, see ibid., 147–48.

41 Fath Ali Khan Saba, “Shāhanshāhnāmah,” 1810, f. 64 verso, IO Islamic 3442, Oriental Manuscripts, British Library. A reproduction of the image is available at: (accessed 27 Aug. 2014).

42 For more on “men of the pen” versus “men of the sword” in the Qajar period, see Lambton, Ann K. S., “Persian Society under the Qajars,” Journal of The Royal Central Asian Society 48, 2 (1961): 123–39. For a critique of the distinction between them, see Christoph Werner, An Iranian Town in Transition: A Social and Economic History of the Elites of Tabriz, 1747–1848 (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2000), 8–9.

43 Abbas Amanat, Pivot of the Universe: Nasir Al-Din Shah Qajar and the Iranian Monarchy, 1831–1896 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997), 27.

44 His published writings can be found in Mirza Abu'l-Qasim Qa'im-Maqam, Munshāʼāt-i Qāʼim-Maqām, Jahangir Qa'im-Maqami, ed. (Tehran: Kitābkhānah-i Ibn Sīnā, 1958); Mirza Abu'l-Qasim Qa'im-Maqam, Nāmah'hā-yi Parākandah-yi Qāʼim-Maqām-i Farāhānī, Jahangir Qa'im-Maqami, ed., 2 vols. (Tehran: Bunyad-i Farhang-i Iran, 1978); Mirza Buzurg Qa'im Maqam Farahani, Jihādīyyah, Jahangir Qa'im-Maqami, ed. (Tehran: Shirkat-i Ufsit, 1974).

45 Mirza Abu'l-Qasim Qa'im-Maqam, Dīvān-i Ash‘ār-i Mīrzā Abū'l-Qāsim Qā'im-Maqām Farāhānī: Bih Inẓimām-i Masnavī-yi Jalāyirnāmah, Badr al-Din Yaghma'i, ed. (Tehran: Sharq, 1987), 16.

46 John Malcolm, Sketches of Persia (London: J. Murray, 1845), 87.

47 Lambton, “Pīshkash,” 157.

48 Roy Mottahedeh has demonstrated that even in early Islamic societies, a reciprocal relationship marked by benefits, favors, and gifts between rulers and the ruled tied the two sides to one another: Loyalty and Leadership in an Early Islamic Society (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1980), 72–73.

49 “Notes for a Memorandum on the Revenues of Persia,” IOR/L/PS/9/67/5, f. 7.

50 Ibid., ff. 6–10.

51 “Statement of the Fixed Revenue of Persia, 1811,” 8 Aug. 1811, IOR/L/PS/9/67/6, Secret Letters and Enclosures from Persia, Iraq, Syria, etc. (1781–1836), India Office Records and Private Papers, British Library. During the first few decades of the nineteenth century, one tūmān equaled roughly half a pound sterling. See Sir Robert Ker Porter, Travels in Georgia, Persia, Armenia, Ancient Babylonia: During the Years 1817, 1818, 1819, and 1820 (London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown, 1821), vol. I, 250–51; Frederic Shoberl, Persia: Containing a Brief Description of the Country and an Account of Its Government, Laws, and Religion, and of the Character, Manners and Customs, Arts, Amusements &c. of Its Inhabitants (Philadelphia: John Grigg, 1828), 107; Rawlinson, H. C., “Notes on a Journey from Tabríz, Through Persian Kurdistán, to the Ruins of Takhti-Soleïmán, and from Thence by Zenján and Ṭárom, to Gílán, in October and November, 1838; With a Memoir on the Site of the Atropatenian Ecbatana,” Journal of the Royal Geographical Society of London 10 (1840): 164, 6.

52 “Notes for a Memorandum on the Revenues of Persia,” IOR/L/PS/9/67/5, ff. 6–10.

53 See Mirza Ali Khan Qadimi, “Majmū‘ah-yi Murāsalāt va Farmān'hā va Makātīb-i Dawrah-yi Qājār,” n.d., ff. 60 and 66, MS 8556, Majlis Library, Tehran.

54 Vladimir Minorsky, Tadhkirat al-Mulūk: A Manual of Ṣafavid Administration (London: Luzac, 1943), 47. See also Rafiʻa Jabiri Ansari, Dastūr al-Mulūk-i Mīrzā Rafī‘ā, Muhammad Ismail Marchinkowski, ed. (Tehran: Markaz-i Asnād va Tārīkh-i Dīplumāsi, 2006), 271.

55 See “Kitābchah-yi Qubūż-i Ajnās-i Pīshkish bih Nāṣir al-Dīn Shāh,” n.d., MS 11596, Majlis Library, Tehran.

56 James Justinian Morier, A Journey Through Persia, Armenia, and Asia Minor, to Constantinople, in the Years 1808 and 1809 (London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, Brown, and Green, 1812), 236.

57 The Amīn al-Dawlah of Isfahan was ‘Abdullah Khān Ṣadr-i Isfahānī, who served as governor of the province from 1806–1824 and oversaw the recuperation and growth of Isfahan's economy after its collapse during the eighteenth century. For more on him, see Ahmad Azud al-Dawlah, Tārīkh-i ʻAżudī, Abd al-Husayn Nava'i, ed. (Tehran: Ilm, 2007), 71–76, 115–19; Muhammad Hasan Khan Itimad al-Saltanah, Ṣadr al-Tavārīkh: Sharḥ Ḥāl-i Ṣadr A‘ẓam'hā-yi Pādshāhān-i Qājār, Muhammad Mushiri, ed. (Tehran: Ruzbihan, 1978), 31, 105, 131–32, 140; Mahdi Bamdad, Sharḥ-i Ḥāl-i Rijāl-i Īrān dar Qarn-i 12, 13, 14 Hijrī (Tehran: Zavvar, 2008), vol. II, 278–81; Karim Sulaymani, Alqāb-i Rijāl-i Dawrah-yi Qājāriyyah (Tehran: Kitābkhānah-i Millī-i Īrān, 2000), 43, 144.

58 See, for example, “Notes for a Memorandum on the Revenues of Persia,” IOR/L/PS/9/67/5, f. 7.

59 The description of the Nawrūz procession appears in Ouseley, Travels, vol. III, 338–39.

60 James Baillie Fraser, Narrative of a Journey into Khorasan in the Years 1821 and 1822 (London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, Brown, and Green, 1825), 214–15.

61 Werner, Iranian Town in Transition, 148.

62 James Justinian Morier, A Second Journey through Persia, Armenia, and Asia Minor, to Constantinople, between the Years 1810 and 1816 (London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown, 1818), 94–95.

63 Hidayat, Tārīkh-i Rawżat al-Ṣafā-yi Nāṣirī, vol. IX, 7923–27. See also Hasan Fasa'i, Fārsnāmah-yi Nāṣirī, Mansur Rastgar Fasa'i, ed. (Tehran: Amir Kabir, 1988), vol. I, 740–41.

64 A copy of the farmān was published in Asili, Susan, “Dah Farmān az ‘Aṣr-i Fatḥ ‘Alī Shāh,” Tārīkh 3 (2002): 91110, 103–4.

65 Āqā Muḥammad Khān was the founder of the Qajar dynasty. He began consolidating political power in 1779, after escaping from captivity. By 1796, he had conquered most of the former Safavid domains and crowned himself shah. For more, see Gavin Hambly, “Āghā Muḥammad Khān and the Establishment of the Qājār Dynasty,” in Peter Avery, Gavin Hambly, and Charles Melville, eds., The Cambridge History of Iran, vol. 7 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), 104–43.

66 Hidayat, Tārīkh-i Rawżat al-Ṣafā-yi Nāṣirī, vol. IX, 7310.

67 Mirza Fazlullah Shirazi Khavari, Tārīkh-i Ẕu'l-Qarnayn, Nasir Afsharfar, ed. (Tehran: Kitābkhānah, Mūzih va Markaz-i Asnād-i Majlis-i Shūrā-yi Islāmī, 2001), 163.

68 For more on the significance of Isfahan in Qajar Iran, see Heidi Walcher, In the Shadow of the King: Zill Al-Sultan and Isfahan under the Qajars (London: I. B. Tauris, 2008), 1–55.

69 The “sun throne” was later renamed, in honor of Ṭāvūs Khānum, takht-i ṭāvūs (the Peacock Throne), not to be confused with the Peacock Throne that Nadir Shah plundered from Mughal India in 1739, and which disappeared following his death.

70 A few letters written by Fatḥ ‘Alī Shah to Ṭāvūs Khānum survive in the National Archives in Tehran. In the letters, the shah expresses love for his wife, asks about his children, and notes that he is sending some presents along with the letters. See “Nāmah'hā-yi Fatḥ ‘Alī Shāh bih hamsarash Tāj al-Dawlah,” in Majmū‘ah-yi Buyūtāt-i Salṭanatī, 1304 AH/1886 CE, 295/7986, National Archives of Iran (Kitābkhānah-yi Millī-yi Īrān), Tehran. For more on Ṭāvūs Khānum, see Azud al-Dawlah, Tārīkh-i ʻAżudī, 19–27, 71–76, passim.

71 Lambton, “Pīshkash,” 157.

72 Mirza Abu'l-Qasim Qa'im-Maqam, “Munshā’āt-i Qā'im-Maqām Farāhānī,” n.d., f. 9 recto and verso, MS 782, Majlis Library, Tehran; Qa'im-Maqam, Nāmah'hā-yi Parākandah-yi Qāʼim-Maqām-i Farāhānī, vol. II, 130–31.

73 Jennifer M. Scarce, “The Arts of the Eighteenth to Twentieth Centuries,” in Peter Avery, Gavin Hambly, and Charles Melville, eds., The Cambridge History of Iran, vol. 7 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), 890–958; Scarce, Jennifer M., “The Architecture and Decoration of the Gulistan Palace: The Aims and Achievements of Fath ‘Ali Shah (1797–1834) and Nasir Al-Din Shah (1848–1896),” Iranian Studies 34, 1–4 (2001): 103–16; Yahya Zuka, Tārīkhchah-yi Sākhtimān'hā-yi Arg-i Salṭanatī-i Tihrān (Tehran: Anjuman-i Ās̱ār-i Milli, 1971).

74 Mahmud Mirza Qajar, Tārīkh-i Sāḥibqirānī: Ḥavadis-i Tārīkh-i Silsilah-yi Qājār (1190–1248 A.H.), Nadirah Jalali, ed. (Tehran: Majlis, 2010), 125–26; Hidayat, Tārīkh-i Rawżat al-Ṣafā-yi Nāṣirī, vol. IX, 7474–76.

75 Hamid Algar has argued that in the nineteenth century there was an “uneasy and fitful coalition” between Qajar rulers and the Shī‘ī religious establishment, with the latter serving as a voice for the concerns of the masses. See Hamid Algar, Religion and State in Iran, 1785–1906: The Role of the Ulama in the Qajar Period (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1969). For critiques of Algar, see Abbas Amanat, Resurrection and Renewal: The Making of the Babi Movement in Iran, 1844–1850 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1989); Said Amir Arjomand, The Shadow of God and the Hidden Imam: Religion, Political Order, and Societal Change in Shi'ite Iran from the Beginning to 1890 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984); Cole, Juan, “Shi'i Clerics in Iraq and Iran, 1722–1780: The Akhbari-Usuli Conflict Reconsidered,” Iranian Studies 18, 1 (1985): 334.

76 A mujtahid is a person qualified to exercise ijitihād, or independent judgment in a legal or theological question.

77 See Lambton, Ann K. S., “A Nineteenth Century View of Jihād,” Studia Islamica, 32 (1970): 181–92.

78 Scholars have analyzed the formal and ornate characteristics of Persian and Arabic imperial diplomatic correspondence (tarrasul) to give greater meaning to the contents of these letters. See, for example, Mitchell, Colin, “Safavid Imperial Tarassul and the Persian Inshā’ Tradition,” Studia Iranica 26, 2 (1997): 173209; Melvin-Koushki, Matthew, “The Delicate Art of Aggression: Uzun Hasan's Fathnama to Qaytbay of 1469,” Iranian Studies 44, 2 (2011): 193214; Allouche, Adel, “Tegüder's Ultimatum to Qalawun,” International Journal of Middle East Studies 22, 4 (1990): 437–46. A similar methodology could be applied to farmāns, though the scholarship on that remains virtually non-existent.

79 One kharvār is equivalent to slightly less than 300 kilograms, or about 640 pounds. See Rawlinson, “Notes on a Journey from Tabríz,” 14n; Ann K. S. Lambton, Landlord and Peasant in Persia: A Study of Land Tenure and Land Revenue Administration (London: Oxford University Press, 1953), 406–9. Etymologically, the term is derived from the load that a donkey (khar) can carry.

80 Farmān'hā va Raqam'hā-yi Dawrah-yi Qājār, 65–66.

81 Hidayat, Tārīkh-i Rawżat al-Ṣafā-yi Nāṣirī, vol. IX, 7480–84; Muhammad Sipihr, Nāsikh al-Tavārīkh: Tārīkh-i Qājāriyyah, Jamshid Kiyanfar, ed. (Tehran: Asatir, 1998), vol. I, 102–4; Mahmud Mirza Qajar, Tārīkh-i Sāḥibqirānī, 126–30.

82 Hidayat, Tārīkh-i Rawżat al-Ṣafā-yi Nāṣirī, vol. IX, 7514–16.

83 An account of the conquest of Khurāsan can be found in Muhammad Saru'i, Tārīkh-i Muḥammadī: Aḥsan al-Tavārīkh, Ghulam Reza Tabataba'i Majd, ed. (Tehran: Muʼassasah-i Intishārāt-i Amīr Kabīr, 1992), 281–83.

84 For more on the language and structure of farmāns, see Busse, Heribert, “Persische Diplomatik im Überblick: Ergebnisse und Probleme,” Der Islam 37 (1961): 202–45; H. Busse, “Farmān,” in Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition (Brill Online, 2013), at: (accessed 1 Jan. 2016); and Bert G. Fragner, “Farmān,” in Encyclopaedia Iranica, online edition, 1999, at: (accessed 1 Jan. 2016).

85 The office of the mullā-bāshī is peculiar to Shī‘ism and developed in the early eighteenth century, though its exact function changed over time. At the turn of the nineteenth century, the mullā-bāshī served as the “chaplain of the Royal Household” (i.e., the Qajars) and represented the institutionalization of religious authority within the Qajar household. See Arjomand, Said Amir, “The Office of Mulla-Bashi in Shi'ite Iran,” Studia Islamica, 57 (1983): 135–46, 144. For more on the evolution of the office, see Vladimir Minorsky, Tadhkirat al-Mulūk: A Manual of Ṣafavid Administration (London: Luzac, 1943), 110–11; Said Amir Arjomand, “The Mujtahid of the Age and the Mullā-bāshī,” in Said Amir Arjomand, ed., Authority and Political Culture in Shi‘ism (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1988), 80–97.

86 Farmān'hā va Raqam'hā-yi Dawrah-yi Qājār, 65–66.

87 Arjomand, “The Mujtahid of the Age and the Mullā-Bāshī,” 48.

88 Farmān'hā va Raqam'hā-yi Dawrah-yi Qājār, 66.

89 Sipihr, Nāsikh al-Tavārīkh, vol. I, 103.

90 Ibid., vol. I, 106. Mīrzā Ṣāliḥ Shīrāzī traveled through Qum in 1812 and noted that he saw the new buildings being constructed. Mirza Salih Shirazi, “Rūznāmah-yi Mīrzā Ṣāliḥ Shīrāzī,” n.d., f. 25 verso, MS Ouseley 159, Bodleian Library, Oxford.

91 Qummī died in 1815, so the letter must have been sent prior to that. For more on the life of Qummī, see Muhammad Muhsin Tihrani, Ṭabaqāt A‘lām al-Shī‘ah (Najaf: al-Maṭba‘ah al-‘Ilmīyah, 1954), vol. II, 52–54.

92 For copies of the letter, see Danishpazhuh, Muhammad Taqi, “Nāmah-yi Fatḥ ‘Alī Shāh Qājār bih Mīrzā Abū'l-Qāsim Muḥaqqiq Gīlānī-Qummī,” Vaḥīd 53 (May 1968): 411–12; Tabataba'i, Hossein Modarressi, “Panj Nāmah az Fatḥ ‘Alī Shāh Qājār bih Mīrzā-yi Qummī,” Barrisī'hā-yi Tārīkhī 10, 4 (1975): 245–76. See also Abbas Amanat, “In Between the Madrasa and the Marketplace: The Designation of Clerical Leadership in Modern Shi‘ism,” in Said Amir Arjomand, ed., Authority and Political Culture in Shi‘ism (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1988), 98–132.

93 Qa'im-Maqam, Munshāʼāt-i Qāʼim-Maqām, 175.

94 Ibid., 175–77.

95 For khil‘at production in Qajar Iran, see Willem M. Floor, The Persian Textile Industry: In Historical Perspective 1500–1925 (Paris: Société d'histoire de l'Orient, 1999), 95–96; Jennifer M. Scarce, “Vesture and Dress, Fashion, Function, and Impact,” in Carol Bier, ed., Woven from the Soul, Spun from the Heart: Textile Arts of Safavid and Qajar Iran, 16th–19th Centuries (Washington, D.C.: Textile Museum, 1987), 33–56.

96 Morier, Journey Through Persia, 35–37.

97 Morier, Second Journey Through Persia, 69.

98 Farmān'hā va Raqam'hā-yi Dawrah-yi Qājār, 95–96.

99 Ibid., 70–71.

100 Bayly, “The Origins of Swadeshi (Home Industry): Cloth and Indian Society, 1700–1830,” 285; Elias, “The Sufi Robe.”

101 Maskiell and Mayor, “Killer Khilats, Part 1”; and “Killer Khilats, Part 2.”

102 Riyahi, Muhammad Amin, “Guẕārishnāmah'hā-yi Amīr Khān Sardār,” Barrisī'hā-yi Tārīkhī 13, 1 (1978): 1358, 49–50.

103 Letter from Horace Sebastian, 28 Jan. 1808, 271/9 f. 360, Archives des Affaires Étrangères, Paris, France.

104 Laurence Lockhart, The Fall of the Safavi Dynasty and the Afghan Occupation of Persia (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1958), 294.

105 Ouseley, Travels, vol. III, 153.

106 Ibid.

107 Similar examples can be found in the diaries of nineteenth-century Iranians who traveled within Iran. See, for example, Farzin Vejdani, “Eat, Pray, Petition: The Daily Life and Travels of a Nineteenth-Century Iranian Cleric,” unpublished MS, 2013.

108 Ouseley, Travels, vol. III, 211.

109 Robert Ker Porter, “Letter no. 41, addressed to Mirza Abu'l-Hasan Khan,” 31 July 1819, MSS Eur D527, British Library.

110 Malcolm, Sketches of Persia, 51–52.

111 Morier, Journey Through Persia, vol. I, 45.

112 For the series of letters sent between the British and local Qajar rulers, see “Letter from Colonel Stannus to the Prince of Shirauz,” 9 Feb. 1827, FO 248/52, f. 112, National Archives of the UK (TNA): Public Record Office (PRO); “Political Dispatch no. 8,” FO 248/52, ff. 86v and 87; Colonel Stannus, “Letter to Zekee Khān, Minister of Fars,” 16 Feb.1827, FO 248/52, f. 115r.

113 Political Dispatch no. 8, FO 248/52, f. 89r, TNA.

114 “Savād-i mursalah-yi Sipahsālār-i Mamlakat-i Fārs Anūshīrvān Mīrzā bih ‘ālījāh Kirnil Istānus,” Apr. 1827, FO 248/52, f. 61, TNA.

115 For a useful overview of the Order of the Sun and Lion, as well as other medals and honors, during the Qajar period, see Mushiri, Muhammad, “Nishān'hā va Midāl'hā-yi Īrān az Āghāz-i Salṭanat Qājāriyyah tā Imrūz,” Barrisī'hā-yi Tārīkhī 6, 6 (1972): 185220; Mushiri, Muhammad, “Nishān'hā va Midāl'hā-yi Īrān dar Dawrah-yi Qājār,” Barrisī'hā-yi Tārīkhī 9, 1 (1974): 175240; Piemontese, Angelo M., “The Statutes of the Qājār Orders of Knighthood,” East and West 19, 3/4 (1969): 431–73; Rabino, H. L., “Nishān'hā-yi Dawrah-yi Qājār,” Qa'im-Maqami, Jahangir, trans., Yaghmā 18, 6 (1965): 318–23. See also Afsaneh Najmabadi, Women with Mustaches and Men without Beards: Gender and Sexual Anxieties of Iranian Modernity (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005), 77–78.

116 John Malcolm, The History of Persia from the Most Early Period to the Present Time (London: John Murray, 1815), vol. II, 563; Jonas Hanway, An Historical Account of the British Trade Over the Caspian Sea … to which Are Added, the Revolutions of Persia during the Present Century, with the Particular History of the Great Usurper, Nadir Kouli (London, 1753), vol. I, 293. In the Safavid context, the image of a lion may have also been adopted for its association with the first Shī‘ī Imam, ‘Alī ibn Abī Ṭālib. One of ‘Alī's numerous titles included Asadullah (the Lion of God). I thank the anonymous CSSH reviewer who brought this possible connection to my attention.

117 Edhem Eldem, Pride and Privilege: A History of Ottoman Orders, Medals and Decorations (Istanbul: Ottoman Bank Archives and Research Centre, 2004). Denis Wright suggests that the Order of the Lion and Sun was modeled on the French Légion d'Honneur. See Wright, Denis, “Sir John Malcolm and the Order of the Lion and Sun,” Iran 17 (1979): 135–41, 136.

118 For some examples of the Order being given to dignitaries, see letter from Gore Ouseley, 1 June 1812, Wellesley papers vol. XII, Add.MS 37285 ff. 280 and 299, British Library; and Political Dispatch no. 6, 14 May 1814, FO 60/9, ff. 60, 61, 62, TNA.

119 Natchkebia, Irène, “Some Details of the General Yermolov's Embassy in Persia (1817),” Iran and the Caucasus 16, 2 (2012): 205–16, 213.

120 Farmān'hā va Raqam'hā-yi Dawrah-yi Qājār, 110–11.

121 Mitchell, “Society, Economy, and the State Effect,” 77.

The Politics of Gift Exchange in Early Qajar Iran, 1785–1834

  • Assef Ashraf (a1)


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