Taken for Wonder: Nineteenth-Century Travel Accounts from Iran to Europe

Taken for Wonder: Nineteenth-Century Travel Accounts from Iran to Europe by Naghmeh Sohrabi

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Accounts of travel to far-flung places have deservedly gripped the imagination of readers for centuries. Yet travelogues can reveal much more than the customs of a foreign land; they can also serve as a window into the culture and concerns of their place of origin. Drawing on a series of travel narratives by Iranian visitors to Europe in the nineteenth century, Taken for Wonder illustrates how these writings reflect the complicated political agendas of diplomats, merchants, kings, and others during the Qajar Dynasty. Using texts that correspond to four monarchic reigns in this period, the book shifts the traditional framework of analysis from the act of travel to that of writing travel. Hayratnamah (The Book of Wonder), an Iranian ambassadors account of his visit to the court of King George III, provides the first example. Sohrabis reading reveals a narrative calculated to reinforce the grandeur and stability of the Qajars to its Persian readers rather than merely recount the lifestyle of the English court. Similarly, the political motives at work in Mirza Fattah Khan Garmrudis accounts of his European journey are explored in light of Britains 1837 occupation of Iran. A subsequent chapter considers the ways Nasir al-Din Shah, the longest reigning Qajar monarch, viewed his European travelogues as a tool for domestic politics and international diplomacy. The study concludes with two travel accounts by non-government officials, demonstrating how the genre became a mode for critiquing the Qajar Dynasty and instigating political reform at the close of the nineteenth century.
Publication Date:
19 / 04 / 2012

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