Modernity and Constitutionalism in the Ottoman Empire and Iran

In recent years, much scholarly attention has been paid to the Iranian Constitutional Revolution of 1905-11, especially as the opening of consular archives sheds light on the role of Western powers in those events. At the same time, much less attention has been paid to the development of constitutionalism in the late Ottoman period. Despite two divergent historiographies, a comparative study of the Ottoman and Iranian constitutional movements is just beginning to get some attention. By the late 19th-century, numerous Iranians (most of Azeri background) had settled in Ottoman cities as traders and merchants. They were joined by Iranian bureaucrats and reformists who spent time in Istanbul and were exposed to Ottoman reformist trends. Among them was the future prime minister and important modernizer Amir Kabir.

The first Ottoman constitution they witnessed was the culmination of modern reformist principles of state building, demand for equal rights by Ottoman ethnic and religious minorities and a response to European pressures to carry out legal and political reforms among the empire’s non-Muslim subjects. The content of the Ottoman constitution and the elections to the parliament was discussed in several issues and the paper began informing the Iranian readers about the benefits of a constitutional type of government. Despite its shortcomings and short life (one year), the first Ottoman constitution had a major impact on political developments in the empire by inspiring not only the Young Turks who engineered the 1908 revolution but also the Young Iranians who came into contact with Ottoman political thinkers in Istanbul and played a major role in the constitutional revolution in Iran.

Fariba Zarinehbaf
Current Issue: 
Past Issue