Modernity, the Press and the Shaping of Public Opinion in Constitutional Iran

In recent years, a growing number of historians and sociologists have begun to re-appraise the Iranian encounter with modernity in its early stages. These approaches have ranged from an examination of the ‘discourses of modernity’ as represented in the writings of a range of Iranian intellectuals and reformers, including writers, diplomats, merchants and travelers in the mid-19th century, to the more imaginative study of how concepts such as ‘nation’ and ‘homeland’ begin to be rethought and redefined from the late 18th century onwards. While such studies certainly make a valuable contribution to our understanding of the early attitudes towards modernity, they do not always impart the full picture. That is, they do not necessarily allow us an insight into the broader context where such reformulations were discussed, give us a sense of how pervasive they were, or more importantly, how the wider community may have perceived, understood and absorbed them.

This paper tries to address this lacuna by focusing on the public conversation that came about in the aftermath of the constitutional revolution, in particular between 1907 and 1908, a time which saw the flourishing of independent and critical newspapers. By examining the more popular and renowned newspapers published at this time and focusing on the social and political messages conveyed in their articles as well as the ‘open letters’ that appeared in their pages, this paper will explore the role that the press may have played in the process of negotiating and defining new concepts and in shaping public opinion in what was widely considered to be a new era.

Negin Nabavi
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