Project Group B: Prey and Statehood, Project B3

Nomadism and the State: the Qâjâr Dynasty in 19th Century Iran


The project focuses on the problem of the establishment of governmental structures in 19th century Iran and the resulting power relations between nomads and the state. After the downfall of the Safâvid dynasty in 1722 the 18th century saw a tribal resurgence in Iran with several nomadic groups competing for power. It was only at the end of the 18th century that the Qâjârs from Astarâbâd (reigned 1796–1926), themselves of nomadic origin, succeeded in putting an end to this situation by establishing a state with Tehran as its capital. The political centre of the Qâjârs before the rise to power was Astarâbâd/Gurgân in the northeast of Iran. The political, social, economic and ecological conditions of that region, the nomadic tribes in this area and the political role of Astarâbâd in this time are therefore important areas to look into for determining the reasons for the uprising of the Qâjârs and the events that finally lead to the establishment of their dynastic rule.

Another important aspect concerns the relation between the state and nomadic groups after the establishment of the Qâjâr state. In this case a selection of nomadic groups not only in the northeastern part of Iran, but also in the whole country will be considered. The integration of nomadic groups into the state and/or exclusion of nomadic groups by the state and the eventually resulting tensions from this are to be analysed. This aspect is neatly related to the paradigms of taxation and recruitment. However, the relation between nomads and the state is to be considered not so much as a static power relation between the powerful state and dependent nomadic groups but as a dynamic interaction between – at least partly – mighty and independent tribes and a state that had to rely heavily on indirect rule especially in these tribal areas.

The available sources are varied and manifold. They include Persian chronicles and history works, travel reports written mostly by European travellers, political reports and letters of British civil servants and Persian governmental documents like rulings and decrees, letters to the governors and tax-lists as well as lists concerning the recruiting of soldiers.


Prof. Dr. Irene Schneider

Allies or Enemies? The Military Relations between the Yamût-Turkmen and the Nascent Qâjâr State in Late 18th and Early 19th Century Iran. In: Mitteilungen des SFB "Differenz und Integration" 5 (2003), 171–199.

Religious and State Jurisdiction in Nâsir al-Dîn Shâh's Time. In: Proceedings of the Conference of Religion and Society in Qajar Iran. In print.

State, Society and Power Relations – a Study in the late 19th Century Petitioning System of Iran. Berlin (Iranica). In preparation.

Kinderverkauf und Schuldknechtschaft: Untersuchungen zur frühen Phase des islamischen Rechts. Stuttgart 1999.

Das Bild des Richters in der adab al-qâdî-Literatur. Frankfurt am Main 1990.

Esther Ohanecian, M.A.

The Relation Between the State and Iranian Nomads in Documents of the Late 19th and Early 20th Centuries: List of Documents." = Materialien des SFB "Differenz und Integration" V/2005.

Doris Mir Ghaffari, M.A.

Europäische Reisende im Iran des 19. Jahrhunderts. Eine Bibliographie = Materialien des SFB "Differenz und Integration" 3 (2003).