عنوان مقاله [English]
This study investigated the British Consulate in Shiraz (in Fars Province) in the interval 1903-1925/1321-1344 AH. Iran is located in an area where European states had colonial objectives in the early nineteenth century. The strong economic-political rivalries between these European countries in that period caused them to expand their spheres of influence using tools including establishment of consulates. Therefore, it is important to demonstrate the role and the position of these consulates in changing the political attitude of Britain toward Iran and to show the guiding role of the Consulates in this relation. Study of practical measures taken and reports sent by the Consulates to the British government in London and to the British Raj reveals the important political-commercial objectives they followed and reported. The main purpose and question in the present research is to investigate the objectives and functions of the British Consulate in Shiraz. Although it is obvious that the British government established the Consulate in Shiraz, as one of its most important centers of influence, to promote its colonial objectives in this city, one of the main purposes of this research is to identify the colonial methods and the strategy the British government adopted for expanding its policy in the Fars region.
This research addressed the rivalries between colonial states, especially Britain, and the establishment of the British Consulate in Shiraz in Iran in the framework of the theory of colonization. Therefore, the study was fundamental in purpose and analytical and descriptive in methodology. Obviously, it mainly employed a library- and document-based method to collect information and used first-hand historical sources, travelogues, the works of chroniclers, published correspondence of secret agents of foreign countries, and the Fars Weekly as its sources.
The Consulate in Shiraz was inaugurated by General George Graham and supervised by European officers (Lorimer, 2009:270; Rabino (1984:139). Up to the year 1925 /1344 AH, it had nine Consuls or Vice-consuls with the ranks of general, colonel, and captain and some with the titles of Major and Lieutenant (Rabino, ibid; The Discovery of English Tricks or Duplicity and Falsehood, based on British Secret Documents on Iran, Kianfar, Einollah and Estakhri, Parvin, 1984:133).
When the British came to power in Fars Province, one of the publications with a high circulation named the Fars Weekly was published from 1916-1919/ 1335-1338 AH under the management of Mirza Fazlollah Banan, the secretary and translator of the Consulate. On the front page of the weekly was printed “This newspaper publishes the official news of the South Persia Rifles.” All official notifications of the civil and military representatives of the British Government and of the East India Company in Fars were printed in this weekly (the Fars weekly, 1916-1919/1335-1338 AH). During this period, trade was as important for the British government as the establishment of consulates and the appointment of consuls (Watson, 1961:99). The most important objective of the British government was to create order and security along the trade routes with the purpose of expanding trade. This policy inevitably influenced the situation in Fars. There were important trade routes in Fars that connected the trade areas of central Iran to India and to the southern margins of the Persian Gulf. The most famous one of these was the Bushehr-Shiraz road (Safiri, 1985:30). Shiraz also benefited greatly from this increase in trade activity both in terms of the connecting roads and with respect to consumer goods (Curzon, 2008:2/122-123).
According to the report by Knox D’Arcy, the Vice-Consul in Shiraz Consulate from 1908 to 1912, there were 14 British Companies that engaged in trade in Fars (The Blue Book, 1984:1622-6/7). Moreover, trade documents of the British Consulate in Shiraz during 1913-1014 regarding trade benefits led to a substantial amount of correspondence between the Consulates in Shiraz and Bushehr and the governments in Delhi and London. In general, one basic issue was followed in all this correspondence: to drive out non-British trade from Iran (Kianfar, Einollah and Estakhri, Parvin, ibid, 1984:165).
The Consuls also had general oversight of the financial affairs of Fars Province. From 1911/1329 AH onward, the provincial government in Fars became more dependent on yearly British financial aid to run its foreign affairs, and the British Consul became the honorary person in charge of supplies in Fars Province (Wright, 1979: 121-122). The Europeans in Shiraz were the heads of government offices in Shiraz and dictated without consulting with the Governor of Fars. Daryabeigi, the military commander, obeyed the Consul in the hope of becoming the ruler of the Southern Ports in the Persian Gulf. The telegraph offices, also supervised by the Consul, reported the daily events (Mokhber-ol-saltaneh, 1984:318-324).
Consulates were one of the organizations that the British established in line with colonial rivalries to gain political-economic benefits. Therefore, as a vast Province in southern Iran with sensitive geographical position and an important position in world trade, Fars was the focus of attention for European Powers and became an arena of colonial rivalries. Shiraz attracted Britain’s attention because it was the trading center of southern Iran and played an active role in domestic and foreign trade. There were many British nationals in Shiraz. They took control of purchase and sale of various commodities with the establishment of the Consulate, trading houses and trading companies and extended their influence in this region. This consulate had extensive functions because of the weak central government, tactless local rulers, rivalries between the clans and tribes, and lack of suitable administrative organizations in the Province. The Consuls had general oversight of the telegraph offices, the Imperial Bank of Persia, the financial offices, the representatives of trading companies, the military and law and order affairs, and the communication of warnings issued by the British government regarding their interests. The Consulates also built infirmaries, collected manuscripts and antiques, carried out geographical, political, and economic mapping, became familiarized with the cultural-social affairs and cultures, and acquired information regarding military and financial resources. The Consuls gave consular support to those who took sanctuary and to religious minorities and provided medical services to the public to win people over on the one hand and followed the policy of sowing discord among the nomadic and tribal leaders on the other hand. They acted as kings without crowns, took measures and engaged in undiplomatic behavior (not only to appoint or dismiss rulers but also to meddle in all general and specific affairs in Fars Province), and dictated their wishes. The measures taken by Britain in Fars were mostly based on economic and commercial considerations, and their social-cultural and service provision activities were aimed at acquiring popularity, prestige, and influence.
The value of this research lies in its functional aspects that can be useful for scientific-academic circles, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the National Security Commission, the Strategic, Security, and Economic Centers and, finally, for public enlightenment.
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