What Iran Faces Today the Growth of Persia Term Paper

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Persian Contraction From 1700 to 2000

Persia represented an important link between East and West. It held the Middle position and in geopolitical terms, this position meant a lot as the Industrial Age began to get underway in the modern era. Persian territory was viewed with envious eyes by other nations that saw the strategic location Persia occupied. The decadence of the Ottoman Empire, a series of wars, power plays, globalization, cultural changes and influences, and diaspora have all impacted Persia and accounted for its contraction between 1700 and 2000. This paper will analyze these factors and show how in these three hundred years, changes in the way of the world, such as the influence of technology and industry, had a direct effect on the shape of Persia and its geographical location.

Persia in the 18th Century

The Suffavean dynasty was founded in the 16th century and it lasted for roughly two centuries, when the Afghans invaded Persia and took possession of it 1722. While the Afghans only ruled for less than a decade, they brought such tyranny to Persia that the people were very upset. Nadir Shah overthrew the Afghans and ruled for a decade but following his death, disorder took hold. This was the beginning of nearly half a century of instability and chaos in Persia as revolution followed revolution. The Kadjar dynasty finally put Persia back in order for a time. Persia then proceeded to be engaged in conflict with Russia, which took the Caucuses, as well as in conflict with Britain. Military rule was the order of the day at places like Shiraz.[footnoteRef:1] Civil order had broken down and Persia was weakened as a whole as a result. Indeed, as David Morgan notes, "the eighteenth century was not a happy period for Persia."[footnoteRef:2] The major nations of the world all had sights set on the Middle East as it was a major central location between East and West and with the advent of the Industrial Revolution fast approaching, oil wars would began, with various geopolitical power plays going into affect all around and in Persia. [1: Christopher Werner, "Taming the Tribal Native: Court culture and politics in eighteenth century Shiraz," Court Cultures in the Muslim World: Seventh to Nineteenth Centuries, edited by Albrecht Fuess and Jan-Peter Hartung (NY: Routledge, n.d.), 223.] [2: David Morgan, Medieval Persia: 1040-1797 (London: Longman, n.d.), 152.]

As Hassan Bashir notes, Iran came to the point where it could enter into the "age of modernization" if it wanted to do so.[footnoteRef:3] Qanun, for instance, was a newspaper published in London that promoted "unity, justice, progress" and advocated social reform.[footnoteRef:4] That this paper was published abroad and not in Persia proper indicates the extent to which external factors were bearing on Persia and causing it to constrict. The globalization of trade that was effected by the Industrial Revolution of the mid-19th century and the expansion of oil wars had brought Persia directly into the cross-hairs of major Easter and Western powers. Sloganeering, progress, reform, democracy -- all of this was supported by Western countries seeking to undermine powers in the Middle East and to break apart and splinter what remained of dynasties and empires so that it could install its own colonial outposts and control the movements of the state (as well as the resources in the ground beneath the feet of the state). [3: Hassan Bashir, "Qanun and the Modernisation of Political Thought in Iran," Global Media Journal, vol. 8, no. 14 (Spring 2009), 1.] [4: Hassan Bashir, "Qanun and the Modernisation of Political Thought in Iran," Global Media Journal, vol. 8, no. 14 (Spring 2009), 1.]

The Expansion of Foreign Powers and Their Impact on Persia

Persians were suspicious of outsiders as Persian "voyagers" often saw how "the world is a prison for a believer and a paradise for an unbeliever" and that Europe was becoming increasingly mesmerized by Persian society and what was happening in Persia, as though it meant to have some sway in the region.[footnoteRef:5] Indeed with the rise of technology like the printing press, the spread of European Protestant Evangelicalism, and the advent of Industrialization, Persia faced an insurmountable wall of odds that in due to time would cause it to shrink within itself as a flood of Western seismic shifts and fluctuations came to bear on the region.[footnoteRef:6] As Green notes, Stanhope's iron handpress revolutionized the way that book production was organized. The printing press was about to be industrialized, which would mean more manuscripts and more ideas could spread more easily across borders, proliferating propaganda, not just from one government or group of individuals but from many. The conflict of ideas and cultures was inevitable, and as always the dominant culture would prevail. [5: Mohammad Tavakoli-Targhi, "Eroticizing Europe," Society and Culture in Qajar Iran, Studies in Honor of Hafez Farmayan, edited by Elton J. Daniel (Costa Mesa, CA: Mazda Publishers, 2002), 316.] [6: Nile Green, "Persian Print and the Stanhope Revolution: Industrialization, Evangelicalism, and the Birth of Printing in Early Qajar Iran," Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East, vol. 30, no. 3 (2010), 473.]

This was essentially a step towards the conflict of ideation, of how cultures and territories projected themselves, the ideas they wanted to spread, the objectives they wanted to achieve, the persons and leaders they wanted to undermine. The globalization of printing presses was soon at hand and the London Missionary Society was quick to assert that the press was "an instrument of immense value and we hope the moral benefits diffused through its medium among the inhabitants of this land will be very extensive and permanent."[footnoteRef:7] In other words, the press would be used to spread British Protestantism around the world, even as far as the Middle East. [7: Nile Green, "Persian Print and the Stanhope Revolution: Industrialization, Evangelicalism, and the Birth of Printing in Early Qajar Iran," Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East, vol. 30, no. 3 (2010), 477.]

Persia had stretched into Delhi under Nadir Shah in the 18th century before shrinking back due to the empire's inability to consolidate its gains and maintain internal order and structure in the face of the modernizing world, where Empire building was underway by Britain and France. Now the printing press would allow the English to take charge in India and spread its influence to Persia's neighbors, influencing not only the Indians but those in Pakistan and Afghanistan as well. Even China would feel the threat of the English invasion and would move to take Tibet so as to have a buffer zone between the English in India and their own mainland to the east. Persia, however, had no real buffer zone.

The Power of the Press

Moreover, Persia had not taken advantage of the industrialized use of the printing press to spread its own ideas about faith and religions, society and development within its cultural framework and was exposed to a flood of material from outside cultural that would ultimately play a part in its destiny and its contraction during this period. The evangelicals from London alone were out-printing Persian society for the people in the Middle East it meant to influence. Thus "by the time the first Arabic and Persian books were printed in Egypt and Iran about 1820, the Bible Society alone had printed tens of thousands of Arabic and Persian Bible portions."[footnoteRef:8] In short, Persian society was at risk of losing its identity and cultural stronghold to foreign missions, representing a different religion as well as a different country with its own national interests at stake. Those interests could readily be seen in India just next door, where Britain was already exploiting the nation's natural resources and reshaping the region to its own liking and desire. [8: Nile Green, "Persian Print and the Stanhope Revolution: Industrialization, Evangelicalism, and the Birth of Printing in Early Qajar Iran," Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East, vol. 30, no. 3 (2010), 478.]

The Persian language was actually Britain's means of exerting influence and control over India: indeed, the English "sought mastery of Persian as the prime language of command and means of rule over India" beginning in the late 1700s onward.[footnoteRef:9] This was a business/nationalist venture that saw Britain's East India Company successfully "appropriating Indian languages to serve as a crucial component in their construction of a system of rule."[footnoteRef:10] Persian was the language of Iran and had been used by the other countries with which it had come into contact, such as in India. But with Britain now taking command of these languages and using them to influence the local indigenous populations (printing British propaganda in the Persian language, for instance) the English were able to drive a wedge between the local indigenous groups and the culture that had supplied them the very language that the Imperialists were now commandeering thanks to their progress with the industrialized printing machines. [9: Michael Fisher, "Teaching Persian as an Imperial Language in…

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