Untersuchung zu Petitionen an Nāsir al-Dīn Shāh (Ende 19. Jh.)
News from Dec 15, 2006
Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag 2006 (Iranica 11)
XII, 226 S., 18 Tafeln.
Making petitions to the ruler was a common practice in the history of the Middle East. Despite its social and political importance, the institution of mazālim, the so called "Investigation of Complaints", has still not been subjected to adequate investigation, neither its normative regulations and regional settings, nor the petitions themselves, as a source for political, economic, social and administrative history. The petitioning system in pre-modern and modern Iran is no exception. In contrast to royal decrees or official historiography, these petitions reflect complaints of people from all social strata, men and women, farmers, religious people and state officials, urban and rural population, including nomads. The petitions thus express the grass-root perspective, the perspective of common people, their desires and grievances about tax collectors and governors, about the malfunctioning of the legal system and the royal administration.
This book is based on a sample of petitions which were submitted to Nāsir al-Dīn Shāh between 1301/1883 and 1303/1886. It contains the texts of a selection of these petitions pertaining to the year 1301/1883–1884 as well as their classification and an analysis of the role and functioning of this institution. After the introduction with a description of the collection (Chapter I), the political and legal system of the late 14th/19th century Iran is described in Chapter II. In Chapter III the procedure and ways of submission of petitions and the geographical distribution of the petitions are analysed, as well as the contents of the petitions and the social profile of the petitioners. In Chapter IV the role of the petitioning system as a judicial institution and political instrument in the late Qājār state is discussed. In addition to the prevalent perception of the petitioning system as a kind of parallel judicial system or an instrument of the Shāh to control the powerful governors of the provinces, it is argued that the petitions were used by the population to safeguard their alleged rights of participation in the political process. Chapter V contains a selection of petitions in Persian and their précis in English. In the appendix the petitions are reproduced in facsimile.
The work will interest historians of the Middle East, scholars and students of Iranian studies and comparative history.