A Survey of Notable Qajar Memoirs

In her analysis of the diaries written by a number of Qajar notables and princes, the author suggests that although all of them are devoid of significant references to major political events of the time, they represent an invaluable historiographical source. Clearly, not all these diaries are of the same quality or historical significance. Some are simply records of hunting trips, nightly entertainments or routine daily individual encounters. Some, particularly those published after the death of their writers, have been either poorly edited or deliberately altered or doctored. However, in the tradition-bound Iranian society of the time, where acquisition and exercise of power essentially depended on interpersonal relationships, these diaries, believes the author, do provide a more or less accurate description of the royal court and its inner workings.

The author has basically concentrated on the vacillating relationship between the Shah, Qajar princes, courtiers and various notables, family relationships colored by ever-changing patterns of alliances in the royal court, the rivalry among the royal wives and their role in perpetual political intrigues, and the sale of limited and desirable government positions as a leverage for access to political power.

These diaries further confirm, according to the author, that the Qajar shahs were never quite free to exercise their power at will. Given the disperse nature of authority and competing bases of legitimacy, they were often quite restricted in their use of naked power.

Mansoureh Ettehadieh
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