The Sources of Historiography of the Iranian Press

This article reviews the sources of historiography of the press in the Persian-speaking world and attempts to classify these sources in terms of their content and analytical value. According to the author, the history of journalism is closely bound with the social, cultural and legal history of the area and informed by a number of factors, including the prevailing communication network, technical developments, linguistic properties and economic conditions. From the perspective of this broad approach, the author suggests, an authoritative history of the press--either in Iran or in the larger domain of Persian language and Iranian culture--has yet to be written. Whatever is now available in this field can only be characterized as the raw material appropriate for the writing of such a history.

The historiography of the press in the Iranian world may be classified into several distinct categories, e.g., the history of the Persian-language journals and the history of journalism in the Iranian world. Comprehensive research in each of these categories must overcome a number of obstacles including the absence of complete, systematic and organized private or public archives; inordinate reluctance of the trustees or owners of the existing archives to make them available to researchers; and recurrent political upheavals in Iran since the reign of Nasser al-din Shah which has usually resulted in the denunciation of the previous dynasty or political regime and thus induced a certain degree of self-censorship in researchers.

In the main part of the article, the author analyzes, in some detail, the value of a number of main sources of the historiography of the Iranian press including general, topical, and specialized indices, monographs and reference works. Despite the many shortcomings that the author finds in these sources, he believes that, compared to published works on the history of the press in Turkey, Pakistan and some Arab countries, the accomplishments of Iranian researchers in this field have been remarkably more serious rivaling those of their counterparts in India and some of the former republics of the old Soviet Union. In certain areas, however, much is yet to be done: Many of the old journals and periodicals that deserve to be the subject of monographs continue to be neglected; except for Kerman and Yazd, the press of no other Iranian province have been the subject of serious research and analysis; the specialized journals have also been virtually overlooked; the history of the publications of political parties have, with the exception of the leftist parties, also been neglected; and the journals published by religious, ethnic or linguistic minorities do not fare much better. The increasing number of memoirs published by journalists and editors, however, should be considered as a fresh and valuable primary source in the field of the historiography of the Iranian press and may in the long run pave the way for the emergence of a more comprehensive literature in the field.

Nassereddin Parvin
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