PRE-20TH CENTURY HISTORY: Britain and the Opening Up of South-West Persia 1880-1914: A Study in Imperialism and Economic Dependence

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PRE-20TH CENTURY HISTORY Britain and the Opening Up of South-West Persia 1880-1914: A Study in Imperialism and Economic Dependence, Shahbaz Shahnavaz. London, UK and New York: RoutledgeCurzon, 2005. 187 pages. Appends, to p. 224. Notes to p. 263. Bibl. to p. 284. Index to p. 290. GBP65.

In eight chapters, the author analyzes British imperialism in Khuzestan and the latter's subsequent economic "dependence." Chapter 1 provides historical background on the province, in particular about the ethnic composition of its population, the rise of the Shaykh of Mohammarah and the Iranian refusal of foreign nations' use of the Karun. Chapter 2 details British policy as represente by Ambassador Henry Drummond-Wolff, who tried to open up Iran for more British investment and influence by having the Shah agree to provide nominally better protection for property rights and to allow modern banking to be established. Chapter 3 describes how Drummond-Wolff coerced the Shah to agree to the opening of the Karan River and Russia's negative reaction, which was only assuaged by granting it the exclusive right to build railways in Iran. Drummond-Wolff was also able to get royal agreement to the establishment of the Imperial Bank of Persia (now HSBC).

Chapter 4 assesses the extreme poverty of the population of Khuzestan and the nature of its trade prior to 1890, which was limited and mainly barter, and the Ottoman reaction to try and have merchants favor the Basra-Baghdad over the MohammarahKarun route. Further, the limited agricultural development of Khuzestan and the barriers constraining its extension (land tenure, taxation, share-cropping, water, insecurity, manpower) is discussed. Chapter 5 focuses on the patterns of trade in Southern Persia up to 1889 and shows an almost 20-fold increase in trade between India and the Persian Gulf since 1800. Chapter 6 discusses the development of trade in Khuzestan after 1890. Chapter 7 outlines the structural changes that took place in Khuzestan, such as: an increase of its population by 150% (1880-1920), increased sedentarization, growth of large settled communities, major investments in public works, greater access to modern (banking, postal) services, establishment of the oil industry resulting in major capital investment and an influx of foreign skilled labor, all of which had an upward effect of wages and prices. The last chapter discusses the consolidation of British power in Khuzestan followed by the book's conclusions.

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