Historians have long objectified Qajar Iran as little more than a square on the vast chessboard of the “Great Game” over the course of the 19th century. As social and economic historians have begun to assert the historical agency of the Qajars, they have also stressed the low level of integration within the empire, and the importance of accounting for local or regional institutions and contingencies. To more thoroughly re-assess the social, political, and economic history of Qajar Iran and its relations with neighbors beyond the eastern frontiers requires greater attention to the varied experiences of provincial communities and local elites acting nearly autonomously from the center. This panel will explore the intersection of the global and the local within Iran’s engagement with the Great Game through the experiences of frontier communities and the activities of local elites.
The first paper on this panel will explore the question of imperial knowledge, and the networks utilized by British and Iranian officials along the frontier zones to advance political and economic control over remote corners of the Qajar Empire and link them to imperial networks of global reach. After exploring the international context of imperial competition, a second paper will situate the issue of daughter-selling in Quchan, Khurasan within a Great Game framework to highlight the ways in which understanding imperial competition across frontiers can be used to reassess a controversial element of modern Iranian social history. The third paper on the panel will then discuss local economic structures in the frontier zone of Narmashir, demonstrating how a family of local notables in Bam was able to leverage their responsibilities in patrolling frontier zones in Baluchistan to gain control over lucrative henna producing lands nearby. Together, these papers will demonstrate the utility of a new approach to Qajar imperial history emphasizing the low level of integration within the Qajar Empire and links between competing networks of imperial control and powerful local actors.