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The Rise and Fall of the Tujjār Councils of Representatives in Iran, 1884–85

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In July 1884 Nāsir al-Dīn Shāh approved the establishment of councils of representatives of the big merchants (majālis-i wukalā-yi tujjār) in the main commercial centers of Iran. Within three to four months, the tujjār elected their councils in eighteen cities and towns in the country. These councils were to supervise commercial activities in Iran, encourage investments in new projects by big local merchants, and above all limit the involvement and interference of both the provincial governors and the local religious leaders in business matters. The establishment of the councils prompted hostility and resistance by both governors and ‘ulamā’ from the very beginning. Events in Tabrīz in November-December 1884 struck a decisive blow to the councils. The institution at that town disbanded in late December, and several weeks later most of the other councils followed suit. In light of these developments, the shah, in February or March 1885, nullified his instructions concerning the establishment of the councils. This article analyzes the conditions and circumstances that prompted the shah and the tujjār to take a step that was without precedent in nineteenth-century Iran or elsewhere in the Middle East. It also studies in detail the events that brought about the end of a promising and significant development. En juillet 1884 Nāsir al-Dīn Shāh approuva l'établissement des conseils représentant les grands marchands (majālis-i wukalā-yi tujjār) dans les principaux centres commerciaux de l'Iran. Ces conseils devaient surveiller les activités commerciales en Iran, encourager les grands marchands locaux à investir dans des projets nouveaux, et tout d'abord restreindre l'influence et les interventions des gouverneurs provinciaux et des autorités religieuses locales dans leurs affaires. Cette initiative provoqua aussitôt l'hostilité et l'opposition des gouverneurs et des ‘Ulamā’.

Cette contribution analyse les conditions et les circonstances qui poussèrent le Schah et les tujjār à cette démarche sans précédent dans l'Iran du XIXième siècle et ailleurs dans le Moyen-Orient à cette époque et détaille les événements qui menèrent à l'échec de ce développement prometteur et important.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Middle Eastern History and Ezri Center for Iran and Persian Gulf Studies, University of Haifa;, Email:


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