Encyclopaedia Iranica Online

(62,556 words)

Relations with Iran.

A version of this article is available in print

Volume X, Fascicle 2, pp. 126-187

FRANCE i. Introduction

Compared to the long-standing history of Persian civilization, France emerged as a powerful entity endowed with its own distinctive culture only in the 13th century C.E., i.e. the great century of Christianity. Strongly marked by French influence, this century also coincided with the Mongol invasions that brought havoc to the vast Persian cultural area, then encompassing large tracts of Arab, Caucasian, Turkish, and Indian lands. Such a considerable time-lag and difference between respective cultural influences was naturally reflected in contacts and reciprocal curiosity. As elsewhere in Europe, Persia was early perceived by the French mainly through legends and biblical anecdotes, such as King Cyrus giving asylum in Persia to persecuted Jews, stories from the Book of Esther, the legend of the Persian Magi coming to Bethlehem, etc.

As a result of Mongol-Christian contacts, Persia was visited by many European missionaries, merchants, adventurers, etc. Their travelogues, along with their stories about imaginary voyages, provided eagerly sought information about the Orient (res orientales) and its wonders (mirabilia) comparable to those found in the Arabic and Persian ʿajāʿeb al-maḵlūqāt (q.v.) genre of writing. Another result of these contacts was the description of Europe provided by Rašīd-al-Dīn Fażl-Allāh (d. 718/1318) in the Tārīḵ-e Afranj (History of the Franks), part of his universal history (Jāmeʿ al-tawārīḵ,). While using the generic term of Afranja (Land of the Franks) for Europe, Rašīd-al-Dīn clearly mentions France as Afransa. His chronicle of the Franks, often cited or imitated, remained unique (see EUROPE). Detailed observations in Persian about Europe, and France in particular, appeared first in India, and there only from late 18th and early 19th centuries.

The Il-khans contemplated permanent relations with Christianity and especially a projected alliance with the Franks against the Mamluks. Christians remained, however, essentially attached to the missionary aspects of that alliance. The events of the Timurid era left an impression reflected in later French culture (Fourniau). Throughout the 15th and 16th centuries Franco-Persian relations were hampered by the long lasting policy, devised by Francis I, of a Franco-Ottoman alliance to counteract Charles V’s European hegemony. Whereas Italian cities and Spain entertained diplomatic relations with Persia, these were established by France only from 1626 and were soon to be placed under the aegis of French Catholic missionaries who kept interfering with the activities of variously commissioned merchants and diplomats.

Religious and political problems between Europe and Persia remained a major impediment to the establishment of Franco-Persian relations. There was a French presence in Persia, however, which fostered mutual cultural knowledge. French travelogues and writings on Persia, notwithstanding the religious affiliations of their authors, remain the most valuable French contribution to European knowledge of contemporary Persian culture. Persian language and literature were studied and made known. Precious Persian manuscripts enriched the French royal collections. By bringing back the text of the Avesta, Anquetil-Duperron (q.v.) paved the way for the development of philological and archaeological research on Persia.

Although permanent relations were established only in 1855, Franco-Persian contacts benefited from the sending of Persian students to France (see EDUCATION xxi); from French military cooperation initiated by the Gardane mission (q.v.); and from French interest in Persian art and culture, one of its most outstanding results being the granting to France of a monopoly for archaeological exploration in Persia in 1895 (see DÉLÉGATIONS ARCHÉOLOGIQUES FRANÇAISES i). French presence in Persia was also manifested by schools and institutions which, in spite of the officially secular nature of the French government after the French Revolution, maintained their links with missionary activities. In contrast to the general admiration 19th-century France enjoyed in Qajar Persia, a rather negative vision of the shah and his realm was expressed by French journalists and leading intellectuals from the time of Nāṣer-al-Dīn Shah’s visits to France (1873, 1878, 1889). On the other hand, the ideas of the French Enlightenment and Revolution, as well as Napoleonic prestige and rule, influenced modernist trends and constitutionalism in Persia.

From Qajar times onward a growing number of Persian subjects settled in France or in French-speaking countries, with a considerable increase after the Revolution of 1357 Š./1978-79. While France keeps endeavoring to further her political and economical interests in Persia, cultural contacts and intellectual curiosity remain a powerful stimulation to mutual knowledge and understanding.


V. Fourniau, “Quelques aspects du thème timouride dans la culture française du XVIe au XIXe siècle,” in M. Bernardini, ed., La civiltà timuride come fenomeno internazionale, Oriente Moderno, N.S. 15 (76) 2, Rome, 1996, I, pp. 283-304.

U. Monneret de Villard, Le leggende orientali sui magi evanglici, Vatican, 1952.

Rašīd-al-Dīn Fażl-Allāh, Tārīḵ-e Afranj, ed. and tr. K. Jahn as Histoire des Francs, Leiden, 1951.

N. Takmil-Homayun and A. Rouhbakhshan, “Farang et Farangi en Iran,” Luqmān 3/2, 1987, pp. 55-78.


The Pre-Safavid period. In the early Middle Ages, Persia was perceived by the French mostly through biblical, Greek, and Latin sources. During the Crusades (q.v.), which were sanctioned by the papacy and launched by the Franks, all Muslim countries, including Persia, were considered enemies of Christianity. The Mongol invasions, despite their calamitous effects, permitted the renewal of contacts between East and West, with France playing a leading part. Europe’s foremost motivation was to Christianize the Mongols, as it had earlier barbarian invaders. Dominican and Franciscan missionaries were sent to Il-khanid Persia. Missions and ecclesiastical sees were established at Solṭānīya, Marāḡa, Tabrīz, and Tiflis. The decline of Solṭānīya was followed by the rise of Naḵjavān, which remained an archbishopric until 1745. France also hoped to create an alliance with the Mongols to the rear and flank of the Turkish and Mamluk Muslim powers.

The majority of the letters exchanged between the Mongols and the Papacy, and with Western Christian sovereigns, contained demands for submission. Eljigidei (q.v.), a Mongol chief in Armenia and Persia, initiated diplomatic overtures in 1248 which were wrongly interpreted as an offer of alliance by Louis IX (Saint Louis). As a result, the Dominican André de Longjumeau, who had already brought a letter by Pope Innocent IV to Tabrīz in 1246, was sent by the French king to the Great Khan Güyük (q.v.), but he died before André and his companions reached the Mongol court. The regent, Güyük’s widow, dismissed André with gifts and a presumptuous letter to Saint Louis, who nonetheless dispatched the Franciscan William of Rubruck on a proselytizing mission to Sartāq b. Batū Khan in Crimea. William and his companions were sent to Batū Khan and to the Great Khan Möngke in Mongolia. Möngke’s letter, remitted to William (1254), again insisted upon submission (J. Richard, 1970, p. 202).

The contacts between the Mongols and the Christian world continued, notably through the Franks and the king of Armenia, Hetʿum I. Although the Franks of Acre favored a rapprochement with the Mamluks, they sent the Dominican David d’Ashby to the Il-khan Hūlāgū in 1260. Hūlāgū’s letter to Saint Louis (Marāḡa, 10 April 1262) combined the usual ultimatum with a proposed alliance (Meyvaert, pp. 249-50). It recalled the Il-khan’s intention to restore Jerusalem to the Pope, and asked Saint Louis to cooperate with his fleet against Egypt. The letter was conveyed by John the Hungarian with credentials to Saint Louis and not to Pope Urban IV. Saint Louis cautiously disregarded Hūlāgū’s proposals and sent John the Hungarian to the Pope, who encouraged Hūlāgū to become a Christian (J. Richard, 1979, p. 299). Hūlāgū proposed a perpetua confederacio to the Pope and the European kings. His successor, Abaqa (q.v.), sent a letter in Mongolian to Rome that could not be translated (1266-67). In another letter of 1268 (Tisserand, pp. 547-56), he proposed cooperation with the Crusaders but this was not put into effect for several distinct reasons as well the fact that he was then attacked in Khorasan (J. Richard, 1997, p. 63; Jackson, p. 62). Abaqa’s son, Arḡūn Khan (q.v.) sent an embassy to Pope Honorius IV in 1285 and a second one in 1287. The latter embassy was headed by the Nestorian prelate Rabbān Ṣawma, who returned the next year with letters from Pope Nicholas IV, Edward I of England, and Philip IV the Fair (Philippe le Bel) of France (Boyle, in Camb. Hist. Iran V, pp. 370-71; Budge, pp. 165-97). This resulted in Arḡūn’s plan for a concerted campaign which was brought to Philip the Fair in 1289 (Mostaert and Cleaves, p. 18) and to Edward I a year later by the Genoese merchant Buscarello de Ghizolfi (q.v.), the most active diplomatic agent of the Il-khans. The proposed date of the campaign, 1291, coincided with the fall of Acre and Arḡūn’s death. While Edward I and the Pope were planning another Crusade, the Il-khanid throne was occupied by petty rulers, Gayḵātū, followed by Bāydū (qq.v.). Converted to Islam, the next Il-khan, Ḡāzān (q.v.) maintained contacts with the Pope (1301) and with Edward I (1303) through diplomatic missions by Buscarello. Ḡāzān kept Hūlāgū’s promise to return Jerusalem to the Franks in exchange for their help against the Mamluks. But the Mamluks’ victories over the Franks and Ḡāzān in 1303 put an end to this tentative cooperation. Öljeitü (Ūljāytū) pursued Ḡāzān’s projects. In April 1305, he wrote letters to Philip the Fair (Mostaert and Cleaves, pp. 56-57), the Pope, and Edward I. His proposals for a joint campaign against the Mamluks were taken seriously by European powers. While the preparations for a Crusade dragged on, he launched the last unsuccessful Il-khanid campaign against the Mamluks (1312-13). This policy was at last reversed when his son and successor, Abū Saʿīd (q.v.) signed the Treaty of Aleppo (1322) with the Mamluks.

While cooperation against the Turks was thus temporarily set aside, Christian missionary activity, diplomacy, commerce and travel continued. After his victory over the Ottomans at Ankara (1402), Tamerlane (Tīmūr) sent Johannes, Archbishop of Solṭānīya to Venice, Genoa, Paris, and London. In his letters to Henry IV of England and Charles VI of France, he proposed treaties granting reciprocal privileges for merchants, although the authenticity of the letter from Tamerlane, now at the Bibliothèque nationale, has recently been questioned (Soudavar, pp. 256-60). However, a genuine document may have existed and there were favorable answers from Henry IV and Charles VI, but these were not followed by any concrete action. However, Henri III of Castile and Leon sent Ruy González de Clavijo (q.v.) to Tamerlane, the only positive result of his embassy being his famous travelogue. The growing power of the Ottomans alarmed the European powers, particularly the Venetians, who tried vainly to join forces with Uzun Ḥasan of the Aq Qoyunlu (q.v.) against them. Other European powers, including France, were at the time not involved with Persia.

The Safavid period. The advent of Shah Esmāʿīl (q.v.) in 1501 coincided with crucial world events that induced the Portuguese expansion in the Indian Ocean and the Persian Gulf. To further his aims, the shah sought, vainly as it turned out, to establish a precarious alliance against the Ottomans with the Portuguese, the Emperor Charles V, and King Ludvig II of Hungary. Whereas other European governments repeatedly insisted on their avowed desire to cooperate with Persia against the Ottomans, France remained aloof and Franco-Persian relations were hampered by the policy of capitulations, based on the treaty of 1536 between Francis I and Solaymān the Magnificent. French alliance with Turkey was also designed to curtail Charles V’s power. When Solaymān I invaded north-west Persia and took Tabrīz in 1547, he was accompanied by the French ambassador to the Porte, Gabriel de Luetz, Seigneur d’Aramon, whose advice enabled the Ottomans to force the Persians to surrender the citadel of Van (Chesneau, pp. 84-88). When the capitulations were renewed in May 1604, the French ambassador to the Porte, Savary de Brèves, wrote a memoir on how an alliance with Persia would be detrimental to Franco-Ottoman relations. Thus the Turkish alliance prevented Henri IV to respond to the overtures made towards him by Shah ʿAbbās I through envoys and correspondence (La Perse et la France, document no. 8, “Lettre adressée à Henri IV par Chah Abbas I”).

The first attempt to establish direct Franco-Persian relations was made under Louis XIII. A mission was solicited by the merchants of Marseille, although potential hostility from the Ottomans made them also somewhat nervous of direct transactions with Persia. Louis Deshayes de Courmenin, who had already served in missions to the Orient, was issued with instructions on 18 February 1626 to proceed to Constantinople, where the French ambassador de Césy was to inform the Porte that Louis XIII was sending a minister to Persia only in order to disrupt the friendly relations between Persia and a powerful Spain (suzerain of Portugal, 1580-1640). With the approval of de Césy and the Ottomans, Deshayes was to proceed to the Safavid court and convince Shah ʿAbbās of Louis XIII’s willingness to mediate between the Ottomans and Persia. The shah was to grant France exclusive rights of protecting the Catholic residents in Persia, facilities for establishing catholic missions, and privileges for French merchants, notably the monopoly of commerce through the Levant route. This difficult mission was rendered impossible by the Ottoman grand vizier and de Césy’s opposition (La Perse et la France, document no. 10, summary of “Relation du sieur Deshayes en Levant,” and no. 11, Letter from Deshayes reporting on the difficulties he had encountered in his mission).

Whereas Catholic missionaries settled in Persia were mostly Portuguese Augustinians, or Spanish or Italian Carmelites (q.v.), Richelieu and Father Joseph de Paris (F. Richard 1995, I, pp. 16-17) sent two French Capuchins (q.v.), fathers Gabriel de Paris and Pacifique de Provins to Persia where they arrived towards the end of 1628. Although the Capuchins had no official political status, Shah ʿAbbās sent Father Pacifique back to France to negotiate various projects, including the purchase of a printing press, but these were abandoned after the shah’s death. Pacifique’s negotiations and Gabriel’s activities at Isfahan resulted, however, in the establishment of the Capuchins in Persia. Through their intimate knowledge of Persian culture, French missionaries played an important part as informants for travelers, merchants, and diplomats. The most significant of the missionaries in this period was the Capuchin Raphaël du Mans, who resided in Isfahan from 1647 until his death in 1696. The prominent role he played as an informant to Colbert, Louis XIV’s famous minister, and as a translator and negotiator for the establishment of the Compagnie Française des Indes (see EAST INDIA COMPANY [THE FRENCH]) in Persia could not, however, save this mismanaged venture from failure. The creation in Paris of the Société des Missions Étrangères, increased missionary and related activities. A former French consul at Aleppo, François Picquet, who became a priest and the bishop of Babylon (Baghdad), was appointed to organize the bishopric of Isfahan. He submitted his credentials and Louis XIV’s presents to Shah Solaymān (1682). He was joined by two young priests of the Missions Étrangères, Jean-Baptiste Roch and François Sanson. At a time when Turco-Persian relations were tense, Picquet and his companions settled in Hamadān and were joined by a Theatine monk (later Mgr.) Louis-Marie Pidou de Saint Olon. After Picquet’s death (1685), Sanson, helped by another priest (and later Abbé) Martin Gaudereau, continued negotiations which resulted in the issue of a royal letter allowing the establishing of missions at New Julfa and Hamadān in 1692. Sanson brought the letter to Louis XIV at Versailles (1693). Msgr. Pidou, Picquet’s successor as Louis XIV’s representative and as Bishop of Babylon, was officially consecrated at Isfahan in May 1694. He disagreed with the daring proposals of Gaudereau who, after an attack on Bandar Kong by Arabs from Muscat (1695), continued to press for French intervention in the Persian Gulf. Other French missionaries later also believed that the seizure of Muscat by Louis XIV would ensure their security.

The War of the Spanish Succession (1701-14) and the projects to overthrow Muscat’s naval power overshadowed Franco-Persian relations which were renewed through the semi-official mission of Jean Billon de Canserilles, an enterprising merchant of Marseille, to the Safavid court in 1700. Billon recommended trade to Marseille via the Levant route. He was soon followed by Jean-Baptiste Fabre, a native of Marseille, whose mission of 1705 ended abruptly with his death at Erevan on 17th August 1706. The mission was taken over for a time by his adventurous mistress Marie Petit (Lockhart, in Camb. Hist. Iran VI, pp. 405-6; La Perse et la France, documents nos. 75-77). Another native of Marseille, Pierre-Victor Michel, was then sent by the Marquis de Ferriol, the French ambassador to the Porte, as a replacement (La Perse et la France, document. no. 72 “Mémoire du sieur Michel sur son voyage en Perse”). After dealing with Marie Petit’s withdrawal and in spite of opposition from the English and Dutch East India Companies, Michel managed to obtain from Shah Solṭān Ḥosayn a treaty of capitulation in 1708 (ibid, document no. 73, “Lettre de Michel,” and no. 74, “Mémoire de Chah Kouli Khan,” on the details of the negotiations). This first official treaty between France and Persia, worked out by Michel and the mostáawfī-e ḵāṣṣa, granted protection rights to the Christian missions and facilities for trade. Monetary clauses and an additional letter promising the dispatch of French warships to fight the Omanis were most advantageous for Persia. War in France and travel difficulties twice delayed the presentation of the ratified treaty at Isfahan by Mgr. Galliczon (1712) and Mgr. Pidou. Irritated by the proselytizing activities of the missionaries, the Armenian clergy had obtained the cancellation of their privileges which had to be therefore re-negotiated.

Despite renewed privileges granted to Saint-Malo merchants, no French ship appeared in the Persian Gulf and the Persian government began to doubt the authenticity of the letters remitted by missionaries in Louis XIV’s name. Moḥammad-Reżā Beg, the kalāntar (mayor) of Erevan, was sent on embassy to France. The French ambassador to the Porte, des Alleurs, assisted by his dragoman Etienne Padery, managed to send this unruly and temperamental envoy to Marseille (October 1714). He reached Paris in February 1715 after giving much trouble to his escort, François Pidou de Saint-Olon, Mgr. Pidou’s brother; and his interpreters, Padery and Gaudereau (La Perse et la France, documents nos. 89-100 describing the multifarious aspects of the envoy’s journey and reception). The Persian envoy was received with great pomp and ceremony at Versailles by Louis XIV on 19 February 1715 and negotiations began. Although Michel’s treaty of 1708 was still upheld in theory, the new treaty of 13 August 1715 modified it considerably by including more favorable provisions for French trade (Hurewitz, I, pp. 56-58). However, with the fall of the Safavid dynasty shortly afterwards in 1722, the advantages were not enforced and there was no increase in French trade with Persia (Savory, pp. 123-24). Muscat was not officially mentioned, although the envoy was much encouraged by Padery, Richard and Gaudereau’s talk of a possible French intervention. Moḥammad-Reżā’s mission was marked throughout by lavish extravagance at the expense of the French government. He was soon dispatched through Russia to Erevan ,where he committed suicide (Herbette, pp. 61-113).

The fall of the Safavids and its aftermath. Louis XIV’s death (1715), shortly after the Persian embassy’s reception, coincided with the decline of the Safavids. Once again, France tried to further its political and commercial links with Persia through the enforcement of the renewed treaty. While Billon kept trying to obtain an official mission, Richard’s mission to the Persian court (1717), commissioned by the Pope, was a failure. The creation of the second Compagnie des Indes (1719-69) again privileged the Ocean route. Two consuls were sent as its representatives: the Chevalier Ange de Gardane, Seigneur de Sainte-Croix, accompanied by his brother François to Isfahan, and the Chevalier Padery to Shiraz. Both of them obtained vast company premises which were to prove useless. Gardane was the mainstay of French diplomacy in Persia, where he remained with his brother till 1730. Padery, theoretically Gardane’s subordinate, had been instructed to negotiate directly with the shah on Muscat (La Perse et la France, document no. 106). He squabbled constantly with Gardane who finally managed to obtain his dismissal (August 1721). Regardless of this Padery continued the negotiations and, shortly before the Afghan invasion, obtained from the shah the ratification of the Treaty of 1715 and the promise to send a Persian ambassador to France. He also tried in vain to foster the French Company’s interests at Bandar-e ʿAbbās and Surat, returning to France in 1724 (La Perse et la France, documents nos. 105-9).

French endeavors to establish relations with Persia remained cautious and limited. However, France played an important part in post-Safavid external policies through Marquis de Bonnac, its ambassador to the Porte (Lockhart, 1938, pp. 11-12, 76-77) who was an active mediator between Russia, Turkey and Persia. The scientist Tourtechot Granger and the orientalist Jean Otter were among his informants on Nāder Shah’s reign. The Capuchins, however, as Christian missionaries, were opposed to Otter’s lay mission, which turned out to be a failure (Gharavi, p. 37). In 1751, the physician and naturalist Simon de Vierville was sent to Persia, with the pretext of a scientific mission, to report on the political and economical conditions there. On his way to Persia, he openly converted to Islam (as Moḥammad-Reżā Ḥakīm), although the genuineness of his conversion remains debatable. He served as a physician to the Ottoman governor at Dīārbakr, before going to Isfahan, where he became (at the end of 1754) personal physician to Āzād Khan Afḡān (q.v.). He followed the latter who was defeated by Moḥammad Ḥasan Khan Qājār in Azerbaijan (1757). The last trace of him is a letter of his written near Marāḡa on 1 May 1757, and his end remains mysterious (Gharavi, p. 72). He collected Oriental manuscripts, and gathered scientific and political information which he sent to Constantinople and to France from Aleppo, Dīārbakr, Baghdad, Isfahan (Gharavi, pp. 38-73).

France had not completely relinquished her commercial involvement in the Persian Gulf. Through Claude Pyrault and his successor Jean-François-Xavier Rousseau, French consuls in Baghdad, contacts were established at Shiraz with Karīm Khan Zand who, in 1770, ceded to the French Ḵārg Island, which had been abandoned by the Dutch in 1766 (Perry, pp. 268-70). This cession did not, however, interest the French government. A journey to Persia by de Ferrières-Sauvebšuf in 1784 had no political result. Two eminent naturalists, Guillaume-Antoine Olivier and Jean-Guillaume Bruguières, who had been commissioned by the French republic to arrange a Turco-Persian alliance against Russia, reported and described the dire and volatile conditions of Persia during their stay in 1796 (Amini, p. 31). French observers traveling through the Middle East and the Persian Gulf at this period were carefully watched by the British (Lorimer, Gazetteer I/1, pp. 154-55).

Cultural links between France and Persia, although gradually developing throughout this period, suffered at times because of ruptures in diplomatic and commercial relations. In the Safavid period and its aftermath, Franco-Persian relations remained mostly under the control of the French minister to the Porte. The internal economic and religious situation in both realms and rivalry between merchants, diplomats and missionaries (variously commissioned), hampered many projects. The persistent intricate connections between diplomatic and missionary activities remained a major drawback. After the reign of Louis XIV, France’s dwindling interest in Persian affairs in general (despite her presence in the Persian Gulf) was reflected in her modest role in Persia’s foreign relations.


Official documents and correspondence are kept at various archives including the Ministère des affaires étrangères (Paris and Nantes); Archives nationales (Paris); Archives du Séminaire des missions étrangères (Paris); Propaganda Fide (Rome). See also manuscripts (particularly in the Bibliothèque nationale de France) and bibliographies given in works listed below (mainly those by Lockhart, Kroell, F. Richard, J. Richard, and Touzard).

I. Amini, Napoléon et la Perse, Paris, 1995.

J.-P. Babelon, "La Correspondance des souverains mongols et des rois de France,” in P. Labal, ed., Le siècle de Saint Louis, Paris, 1970, pp. 240 ff.

Marquis de Bonnac, Mémoire historique sur l’Ambassade de France à Constantinople, Paris, 1894.

J. A. Boyle, "Dynastic and Political History of the Īl-Khans,” in Camb. Hist. Iran V, pp. 303-421.

Idem, “The Il-Khans of Persia and the Christian West,” History Today 23, 1973, pp. 554-63.

E. A. W. Budge, The Monks of Kûblâi Khan Emperor of China, London, 1928.

J.-B. Chabot, Histoire de Mar Jabalaha III et du moine Rabban Çauma, ambassadeur du roi Argoun en Occident (1287), Paris, 1895.

E. Charrière, Négociations de la France dans le Levant II, Paris, 1850.

J. Chesneau, Le voyage de Monsieur d’ Armon en Levant escript par Nobel Homme Jean Chesneau, l’un des secrétaires dudit Seigneur Ambassadeur, ed. C. Schefer, Paris, 1887.

L. A. de La Mamye-Clairac, Histoire de Perse depuis le commencement de ce siècle, Paris, 1750.

A. Dehérain, “Les rapports entre la France et la Perse du XVIIIe siècle au XXe siècle,” in Histoire des colonies françaises III, Paris, 1931.

Comte de Ferrières-Sauvebšuf, Voyages faits en Turquie, en Perse et en Arabie, depuis 1782 jusqu’ à 1789, 2 vols., Paris, 1807.

M. Gharavi, "Un médecin des Lumières: Simon de Vierville et son voyage en Perse,” in Moyen Orient et Océan Indien 8, 1994, pp. 35-155.

J. Hadidi, “Les premières rencontres entre l’Iran et la France,” Luqmān 13/2, 1997, pp. 7-26.

M. Herbette, Une Ambassade persane sous Louis XIV d’après des documents inédits, Paris, 1907.

J. C. Hurewitz, ed. and tr., The Middle East and North Africa in World Politics, A Documentary Record, New Haven, Conn., 1956.

P. Jackson, "Abaqa,” EIr. I/1, pp. 61-63.

A. Kroell, “Billon de Canserille et les relations franco-persanes au début du XVIIIe siècle,” in Le Monde iranien et l’Islam 2, Paris, 1974, pp. 127-156.

Idem, Louis XIV, la Perse et Mascate, Paris, 1977.

Idem, Nouvelles d’Ispahan, Paris, 1979.

L. Lockhart, Nadir Shah, London, 1938.

Idem, The Fall of the Ṣafavī Dynasty and the Afghan Occupation of Persia, Cambridge, 1958.

Idem, "European Contacts with Persia, 1350-1736,” in Camb. Hist. Iran VI, 1986, pp. 373-409.

K. E. Lupprian, Die Beziehungen der Päpste zu islamischen und mongolischen Herrschern im 13 Jahrhundert, Rome, 1981.

P. Meyvaert, "An Unknown L:etter of Hulagu, Il-Khan of Persia, to King Louis IX of France,” Viator 11, 1980, pp. 245-260.

H. Moranvillé, Mémoire sur Tamerlan et sa cour par un dominicain en 1403, Bibliothèque de l’École des Chartes 55, Paris, 1894, pp. 433-464.

L. Mosheim, Historia Tartarorum ecclesiastica, Helmstedt, 1741.

A. Mostaert and F. W. Cleaves, Les lettres de 1289 et 1305 des ilkhan Arγun et Öljeitü à Philippe le Bel, Cambridge, Mass., 1962.

G.-A. Olivier, Voyage dans l’ Empire othoman, l’Egypte et la Perse, 6 vols, Paris, 1801-7.

B. von Palombini, Bündniswerben abendländischer Mächte um Persien 1453-1600, Wiesbaden, 1968.

J. Paviot, "Buscarello de Ghisolfi, marchand gênois, intermédiaire entre la Perse mongole et la Chrétienté latine,” in Storia dei Genovesi, Genoa, 1991, pp. 107-17.

J. Otter, Voyage en Turquie et en Perse, Paris, 1748. J. R. Perry, Karim Khan Zand: A History of Iran, 1747-1779, Chicago, 1979.

A. Remusat, Mémoires sur les relations politiques des princes chrétiens et particulièrement des rois de France avec les empereurs mongols, Paris, 1824.

La Perse et La France: Relation diplomatiques et culturelles du XVIIe au XIXe siècle, Paris, 1972 (catalogue of exhibition at Musée Cernuschi).

F. Richard, “Les privilèges accordés aux religieux catholiques par les Safavides: quelque documents inédits,” Dabireh 6, 1989, pp. 167-82.

Idem, “L’apport des missionnaires européens à la connaissance de l’Iran en Europe et de l’Europe en Iran,” in J. Calmard, ed., Études safavides, Paris and Tehran, 1993, pp. 251-66.

Idem, Raphaël du Mans missionnaire en Perse au XVIIe siècle, 2 vols, Paris, 1995.

J. Richard, "The Mongols and the Franks,” Journal of Asian History 3, 1969, pp. 45-57; repr. in idem, Orient et Occident.

Idem, “La politique orientale de saint Louis: La croisade de 1248,” in Actes des colloques de Royaumont et de Paris (21-27 mai 1970), Paris, 1970, pp. 197-207; repr. in idem, Relation entre l’Orient et l’Occident.

Idem, Orient et Occident au Moyen Age: contacts et relations XIIe-XVe s., London, 1976 (Variorum reprint).

Idem, "Chrétiens et Mongols au concile : la Papauté et les Mongols de Perse dans la seconde moitié du XIIIe siècle,” in 1274, Année charnière: mutations et continuités, Colloques internationaux du Centre national de la recherche scientifique 558, Paris, 1977, pp. 31-44; repr. in idem, Croisés.

Idem, "Les Mongols et l’Occident,” in 1274, Année charnière: mutations et continuités, Colloques internationaux du Centre national de la recherche scientifique 558, Paris, 1977, pp. 85-96; repr. in idem, Croisés.

Idem, "Sur les pas de Plancarpin et de Rubrouck: la lettre de Saint Louis à Sartaq,” Journal des Savants (Paris), 1977, pp. 49-61; repr. in idem, Croisés. Idem, Les relation entre l’Orient et l’Occident au Moyen Age: Études et documents, London, 1977 (Variorum reprint).

Idem, "Une ambassade mongole à Paris en 1262,” Journal des Savants (Paris), 1979, pp. 295-303; repr. in idem, Croisés. Idem, Croisés, missionnaires et voyageurs: Les perspectives orientales du monde latin médiéval, London, 1983 (Variorum reprint).

Idem, "D’Älğigidäi à Ḡazan: La continuité d’une politique franque chez les Mongols d’Iran,” in D. Aigle, ed., L’Iran face à la domination Mongole, Paris and Tehran, 1997, pp. 57-69.

S. de Sacy, "Mémoire sur une correspondance inédite de Tamerlan avec Charles VI,” in Mémoires de l’ Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres 6, 1822.

R. Savory, Iran Under The Safavids, Cambridge, 1980.

A. Soudavar, "The Concepts of ‘al-Aqdamo Asahh’ and ‘Yaqin-e Sābeq’ and the Problem of Semi-Fakes,” Stud. Ir. 28, 1999, pp. 255-73.

J. Thieury, Documents pour servir à l’ histoire entre la France et la Perse, suivis des traités de commerce entre ces deux pays, Evreux, France, 1866.

E. Tisserant, "Une lettre de l’Il-khan de Perse Abaga adressée en 1268 au pape Clément IV,” Le Muséon 59, 1946, pp. 547-66.

G. Tongas, L’ambassadeur Louis Deshayes de Cormenin (1600-1632), Paris, 1937.

A.-M. Touzard, "Les relations franco-ottomano-persanes (1704-1725) à la lumière de la mission de Padery,” Ph.D. diss., École pratique des hautes études, IVe section, Paris, 1992.

Idem, “Images de la Perse: Thématique des titres des récits de voyages français en Perse, publiés entre 1600 et 1730,” Studia Iranica 26, 1997, pp. 47-110.


After more than sixty years of half-hearted diplomatic maneuverings, permanent relations were finally established between the France and Persia in 1855. They remained mutually strong and balanced until 1871, becoming thereafter low-keyed and lukewarm while purely cultural links continued to develop regardless.

1789 TO 1849

Despite the hostility of Catherine the Great of Russia towards both Persia and the French Revolution, the ascendancy of the Qajars in Persia and the changes brought about by the French revolutionary government in 1789 did not at once lead to any closer ties between the two countries, except for the scientific mission of the physicians Jean-Guillaume Bruguières and Guillaume-Antoine Olivier (Amini, pp. 20-21, p. 31). In 1804, Fatḥ-ʿAlī Shah hoped Napoleon might help him recover Georgia, while the latter thought closer ties with Persia might facilitate the defeat of Russia and open the way to India. Preliminary contacts in Constantinople were followed by an exchange of letters between the two states (Voogd, p. 249). In September 1805 and June 1806, the French envoy Pierre Amédée Jaubert and the army officer Antoine Alexandre Romieu presented letters from Napoleon in Tehran; and the favorable Persian response to these was delivered to Napoleon through Mīrzā Moḥammad-Reżā Qazvīnī in March 1807. An exchange of ministers followed. Claude-Mathieu de Gardane (Hurewitz, I, pp. 186-88; see GARDANE MISSION) and ʿAskar Khan Afšār, who was initiated into Freemasonry in Paris soon afterwards (Wright, 1985, p. 170), were appointed ministers plenipotentiary in April and August 1807 respectively. The Treaty of Finkenstein, a political alliance against England and Russia, in line with an envisaged commercial treaty, was signed on 4 May 1807 (de Clerq, II, pp. 201-3, tr. in Hurewitz, I, pp. 184-85). But Napoleon’s volte-face in signing a peace treaty with Russia at Tilsit (7 July 1807) and the delay in conveying instructions to Gardane, who had arrived at Tehran in December 1807, combined with some adroit diplomacy by the British in Persia rendered the Finkenstein treaty ineffective (Savory, p. 39). Gardane negotiated a commercial treaty, but this was regarded as unfavorable by the French authorities, and their subsequent inaction encouraged Fatḥ-ʿAlī Shah to turn to the British as allies instead (AMAE, CP Perse, vol.10; Hedāyat, Rawżat al-ṣafā IX, pp. 454-55). With the announcement of the arrival of Sir Harford Jones in February 1809, Gardane, who was later blamed for this debacle, left Tehran, and Joseph Marie Jouannin, and later Félix Lajard, as French chargé d’affaires, had to face British intrigues (AMAE, CP Perse, vol. 11; Voogd, p. 259). In February 1810, ʿAskar Khan Afšār was recalled from Paris; Georges Outrey, his interpreter in France, was assigned to accompany him to Tehran as a future chargé d’affaires in the capital (AMAE, Personnel, 1ère série, 247) but Fatḥ-ʿAlī Shah refused to receive him (AMAE, CP Perse, vol. 13, p. 188). In 1811, official relations were broken off. For a while French contacts with Persia were through informal channels via intermediaries without diplomatic status, including the Armenian Dāwūd Khan Malekšāh Naẓar (Mīr Dāwūd-Żādūr or Mir Dawoud-Zadour de Melik Chah-Nazar), who was born in Isfahan and served both the Persian and the French courts between 1802 and 1818 (Abdolhamd and Pakdaman II, p. 379; AMAE, CP Perse, vol. 15, p. 121, p. 247, Afšār, pp. 5577-5610), the French officers instructing ʿAbbās Mīrzā’s (q.v.) troops in Tabrīz (AMAE, M and D Perse, 3), and Madame de La Marinière, the French tutor at the court (AMAE, ADP Perse, 12; CP Perse vol. 20, p. 229).

The Restoration (1815-30) began with some low level and inconsequential diplomatic activities: Mīrzā Abu’l-Ḥasan Khan Īlčī (q.v.) stayed briefly in Paris in 1819 on his way to England, and Debassyns de Richemond, on his way to India, passed through Persia and made some commercial proposals to the Persian government in 1825 (AMAE, CP Perse, vol. 16, p. 269), to no effect. During the reigns of Moḥammad Shah (1834-48) and Louis-Philippe (1830-48), negotiations were renewed by the Persians, whose relations with the British had deteriorated because of the expedition to Herat (1837-38). Mīrzā Ḥosayn Khan Ājūdān-bāšī (q.v.) Nezām-al-Dawla, sent to European courts in August 1838, was granted a formal audience by Louis-Philippe (Ḥosayn Khan, p. 129, pp. 341-45). The French agreed to supply Persia with weapons and army instructors to replace the British, and a loan was negotiated with the Parisian banker Dollfus to cover the costs (Ḥosayn Khan’s letter to the Duc de Dalmatie, AMAE, CP Perse, vol. 24, p. 28). In September 1839, Mīrzā Ḥosayn Khan left Paris taking with him a glassblower, a gunsmith, and nine French officers and “sous-officiers” under the command of Henry Boissier (AMAE, CP Perse, vol. 19, p. 48) and the promise of a permanent French mission in Tehran. In October, the Comte de Sercey was entrusted with this mission, conceived of as a mixture of ceremonial and fact-finding duties with no specific political aims. He was to report on the situation of the Christians and the possibility of opening the Persian market to French products. Another French agent, the archaeologist Paul Émile Botta (AMAE, CP Perse, vol. 24, p. 56) was sent to Būšehr. But in Tehran the Russians were reluctant to share their influence and Moḥammad Shah was preoccupied with the question of Solaymānīya. Kāmrān Mīrzā gave the Sercey mission a cool reception in Tabrīz. Later the mission was received by Moḥammad Shah in Isfahan in April 1840. He in turn made no effort to retain it, refusing to accept the nomination of Botta, and failing to arrange for the regular payment of the French officers. Sercey therefore left Persia, but cultural ties remained strong between France and Persia. Persian princes were sent to France to study the main manufacturing industries (Mīrzā Abu’l-Ḥasan Khan’s letter to Comte de Sartiges, AMAE, CP Perse, vol. 21, p. 7). Eugène Boré, sent by the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres, obtained farmāns (15 Rabīʿ I 1256/17 May 1840, AMAE, CP Perse, vol. 20, p. 176) authorizing him, and later the Lazarists, to open French schools. Pascal Coste and Eugène Flandin (q.v.), commissioned by the Académie des Beaux-Arts with preparing a survey of historical monuments in Persia, produced their famous reports of the archaeological riches of the country.

Relations were resumed in 1844, this time at the initiative of the French, with the aim of signing a commercial treaty with Persia and helping the case of the Lazarist missionaries who had been maltreated in Azerbaijan. Comte Étienne de Sartiges was sent to Persia as an envoy in August 1844 and succeeded in befriending the grand vizier, Ḥājī Mīrzā Āqāsī (q.v.). He arranged for the appointment of Ernest Cloquet (q.v.), who took up his position in 1846 as Moḥammad Shah’s personal physician (AMAE, ADP Perse, vol. 30, Ḥājī Mīrzā Āqāsī’s letter of 4 Šawwāl 1261/6 October 1845 to Guizot). The count also succeeded in obtaining decrees for the protection of the Lazarist schools founded to educate the Chaldeans of Azerbaijan. The negotiations about commerce, held in Tehran in 1847, culminated in July in a draft treaty, taken ceremoniously to Paris by Mīrzā Moḥammad-ʿAlī Khan, the ambassador extraordinary. In October the French government decided to appoint Sartiges as its envoy extraordinary to Persia, but in February 1848 Louis-Philippe was overthrown. Franco-Persian relations were not a priority for the new Republican government and Sartiges’ position in Tehran became less secure. An incremental series of blunders followed: the commercial treaty and the gifts for Persian officials were sent back with much delay, and Alphonse Dano, secretary to the delegation, did not arrived in Tehran until September 1848. The French condolences on the death of Moḥammad Shah were only presented in April 1849, by which time the Franco-Persian rapprochement of 1847 had already provoked the anti-French animosity of the Russian and English envoys. Mīrzā Taqī Khan, Amīr-(e) Kabīr (q.v.), Nāṣer-al-Dīn Shah’s famous grand vizier, distrusted the Republican regime and rejected the commercial treaty on the grounds that its terms were unfavorable to Persia (Amanat, pp. 104-10). Apart from Dr. Cloquet, the rest of the French employees, i.e. Jules Richard, Joseph-Pierre Ferrier, and Général Barthélémy Semino, were not paid regularly (AMAE, CP Perse, vol. 24, p. 368; Calmard, 1997, p. 21), and Sartiges left Persia in August 1849 having failed to reach a compromise solution.

1850 to 1871

The following two decades were a period of understanding and friendly exchanges between the two countries with the two legations, French and Persian, firmly established in Tehran and Paris. From 1850, Dāwūd Khan, the chief interpreter (motarjem-e awwal) at the Persian court, renewed contacts with the French in Constantinople (AMAE, CP Perse, vol. 24, p. 347). In 1852, the prime minister, Mīrzā Āqā Khan Nūrī Eʿtemād-al-Dawla (q.v.) was in need of a mediating power to help him revive the alliance with the English, and accepted the commercial treaty proposed by France in July 1855. The terms were similar to those of the 1848 treaty, but they did not include the political guarantees desired by Persia. A year later, Mīrzā Farroḵ Khan Ḡaffārī Amīn-al-Molk, later Amīn-al-Dawla (q.v.), the Persian delegate in Paris, finalized the alliance between France and Persia, signed a peace treaty with the English (Amanat, pp. 306-37) and, in October 1858, brought back a French military mission to Persia (SHAT, 7N, 1664). In January 1859, Ḥasan-ʿAlī Khan, Amīr(-e) Neẓām Garrūsī (q.v.) was appointed Persian minister to Paris. He was also responsible for arranging the education in Europe of over sixty Persian students, mostly graduates of Dār al-fonūn (q.v.; AMAE, CP Perse, vol. 34, p. 118; Maḥbūbī, Moʾassasāt I, pp. 320-53). After his resignation in 1867 he was followed by two chargés d’affaires, Mīrzā Yūsof Khan and then Naẓar Āqā Yamīn-al-Salṭana, a Chaldean originally from Urmia (Nāṭeq, 1996, p. 171) in December 1869. The Persian diplomatic representation in France was now quite substantial, with a military attaché as well as several consuls in Paris and the provinces. In Tehran, Mīrzā Saʿīd Khan, who held the ministry for foreign affairs for twenty-two years, issued directives and wrote policy guidelines (Amanat, p. 287) and generally did his best to handle the British and to safeguard the western frontiers against the Ottomans. He also sought French advice and assistance. Napoleon III, emperor from 1852, responded by ordering the establishment of a legation in Tehran in July 1854. Prosper Bourée (July 1854), Baron Pichon (August 1857), Arthur de Gobineau (January 1862), Jacques de Massignac (October 1864), and R. E. de Bonnières (March 1867) were the first ministers appointed to this post, regarded as a junior position in Paris. They were therefore in no great hurry to take up their posts, as is shown by the generous length of vacations and the gentle pace of return journeys of the four chargé d’affaires: Gobineau, Henry de Bellonet, Julien de Rochechouart and Comte de Maugny. Their instructions, too, were somewhat uninspiring, mainly advising restraint, for Tehran was considered an observation post with limited commercial interests. Although dissastified with such a minor assignment, these ministers laid the foundations of four important pillars of French influence in Persia before 1870: as protectors, teachers, court physicians, and military advisors. Unofficially, they assumed the protection of the Catholics, a cornerstone of French influence. In Tehran, Tabrīz (where the consulate was opened in 1866), and Isfahan, French envoys offered protection to Lazarist missionaries, the Chaldeans of Azerbaijan, and the Catholic Armenians.

On the other hand, the treaty of 1855, which turned out to be the last official attempt in the 19th century by the French government to arrive at a commercial understanding with Persia, included a most-favored-nation clause and recognized the legal status of French citizens and protégés in Persia for seventy years. In 1864, Jean-Baptiste Nicolas (d. in Tehran in 1875, AMAE, PA-AP, Ducrocq, vol. 36), was in charge of the Consulate in Rašt and particularly concerned with protecting French interests in the silkworm industry. Finally, the tradition of having a French court physician continued, and in 1858 Doctor Joseph Désiré Tholozan, of the Corps de Santé of the French army, succeeded to the position following Dr. Cloquet’s death in 1855. The French army enjoyed a short-lived renewal of prestige and, between 1858 and 1867, the twelve members of Commandant Victor Brongniart’s military mission served directly under the commander of the Persian army. Joseph-Philippe Ferrier, adjutant in Boissier’s military mission of 1839 extended his contract directly with the Persian government in 1846 and left Persia in 1851. Helped by his pro-British sympathies, he had an eventful time in Persia and wrote much on his travels in Persia and Afghanistan (Hambly, pp. vii-xxii). Général Buhler was employed directly by the Persian government from 1852 until his death in 1884; and Capitaine Michel Rous continued his innovative contributions to the creation of a modern arms factory (Maḥbūbī, Moʾassasāt I, pp. 92-93, 204-5, 272; SHAT, 7N, 1664), and French officers continued teaching in the Tehran Military College. All this came to an end with the French defeat at Sedan in 1870, the substitution of the Republic for the Empire, and the capitulation of Paris. The events shocked the Persians, and although relations were not cut off, the trust and the confidence had gone.

1871 to 1918

From 1871 to 1918, Franco-Persian relations were officially maintained, but in a low-key. A vanquished France had little attraction for Persia, where Anglo-Russian rivalries were stronger than ever. Nonetheless, Naẓar Āqā Yamīn-al-Salṭana, named minister plenipotentiary in August 1873, headed a full legation, composed of several attachés. In 1903, there were thirteen Persian consuls or vice-consuls resident in France (two in Paris and in Bastia, and one in Bayonne, Béziers, Bordeaux, Le Havre, Lille, Lyon, Marseille, Nice, and Rouen). Naẓar Āqā was replaced by Ṣamad Khan Momtāz-al-Salṭana (Bāmdād, Rejāl II, p. 181) in 1905. The liberal tendencies of Momtāz-al-Salṭana brought him close to the Republican authorities; and his brother, Mīrzā Esmāʿīl Khan Momtāz-al-Dawla, head of the Majles when it was shelled in 1908, was granted asylum by the French Legation in Tehran. The cordial relationship established between France and Persia by Naẓar Āqā and SÂamad Khan, who were both liked by the French authorities, was further reinforced by the state visits of the two Qajar kings, Nāṣer-al-Dīn Shah and Moẓaffar-al-Dīn Shah, to France and by Persian participation in the Great Exhibitions of 1878 and 1900. In Persia, with the notable exception of René de Balloy (1881-98) and Raymond Lecomte (1908-19), French envoys were in office for too short a time to leave any lasting imprint. Within forty years, ten ministers (R-E. de Bonnières, Alexandre Mellinet in 1872; Arthur Tricou in 1879; Fernand Souhart, Ernest Bourgarel in 1900; Albert Defrance in 1902; Eugène Descos in 1905; Maximilien de la Martinière in 1907; besides Balloy and Lecomte) took it in turn with nine chargé d’affaires to head the French Legation. The vice-consulates of Būšehr, opened in 1879, and Rašt, which operated only intermittently, saw the appointment of six vice-consuls, including Ramire Vadala and Jules Sempé. The latter served during the time of the Jangalī movement (1914-21). In Shiraz, Mīrzā Ḥosayn Khan was the consular agent in 1906. The consuls in Tabrīz were Louis Ernest Crampon, Louis Charles Marie Emerat, Emile Charles Bernay, Pierre Abel Bergeron, and Alphonse Nicolas (1906-16), who was born in Persia and spoke Persian fluently (Nāṭeq, 1996, pp. 106-7). He was replaced by Lucien Saugon in May 1916. The French chief physicians in the service of the Qajars—Joseph Tholozan, who resided in Persia from 1858 until his death in 1897; Jean-Baptiste Feuvrier (q.v., 1889); and Jean Étienne Justin Schneider (1896) in Tehran, and R. Coppin in Tabrīz (1901-9)—provided France with an informal but significant source of influence at court. The extension of the Legation’s residence in Tehran in 1882 showed a desire for enhancement of prestige, contrary to the instructions of the French ministers of foreign affairs, who insisted that French political and economic interests in Persia should remain modest. From the 1890s, the French sought cooperation with the Russians; in the 1900s, the prospects of a future triple alliance which would include Britain meant that the French were also keen not to annoy the British by thwarting their ambitions in Persia (AMAE, NS Perse, vol. 38, p. 16). Despite the creation of a society in 1909, “the Franco-Persian Union,” which aimed to study all questions relating to Franco-Persian Relations (Ghaffari, pp. 35, 334-35; Bast, p. 104), France still maintained that her official policy towards Persia merely followed those of her allies. The French response to repeated Persian demands for agricultural, financial, and legal advisers was limited to recommending Fabius Lafont (1907) and Eugène Bizot (1908-10), followed by Gustave Demorgny (Ḡaffārī, pp. 61-67). This policy was maintained during the World War I, despite Lecomte’s efforts in 1915 (Bast, pp. 91-95), the Franco-British desire to counter the Triple Alliance, and the Persian wish, in 1917, that France should support the evacuation of Russian and British troops from Persia. In September 1917 the French sent a mobile hospital (“l’Ambulance”) to Russia to treat the injured Russian troops fighting the Turks. The headquarters at Tiflis sent this hospital to Urmia and after the departure of the Russians, the French unit remained behind and provided humanitarian and military support (Hellot-Bellier, 1996, pp. 68-72) to help the Christian militia, which had emerged in 1918 as a local movement. This decision, taken in Tiflis and not by the French legation in Tehran, was criticized by both the Persian and French governments and resulted in unwelcome repercussions: the French members of the hospital were humiliated and fighting broke out between the Christian militia and the Azerbaijan Democratic Party (AMAE, Asie 1918-40, vol. 23, pp. 35, 47).

A few Frenchmen acted on their own and undertook private economic projects: Tholozan sought a shipping concession on the Kārūn River, but this was finally granted to Britain (AMAE, CP Perse, vol. 38, p. 133); Barral and Rambaud planned to establish sugar refineries in Gīlān in 1878; gas-lighting in Tehran was carried out by Boital in 1881 (AMAE, CP Perse, vol. 38, p. 163), Buhler, Vauvilliers, and Pontèves-Sabran provided surveys for road building; Coppin opened pharmacies in Tabrīz and Tehran; and Deville was in charge of the customs at Kermānšāh. In 1912 the “Syndicat Franco-Iranien” founded in 1912 in Paris and represented in Tehran by Georges P. Bertrand started to exploit coal and minerals in the south of the Caspian Sea (AMAE, NS Perse, vol. 60, 8 April 1914) and the trading house of Gilbert and Pfeiffer planned to export supplies of cigarette paper. The Marseille and Lyon chambers of commerce also wanted to engage in commercial activities in Persia, but only the trading houses of Bonnet and Terrail-Payen of Lyon managed to maintain their business in Rašt and trade in the manufacture and export of silk (Ḡaffārī, p. 35; AMAE, NS Perse, vol. 48, Descos’ letter). Raindre gave the Société d’Études du Transpersan a new impetus, and Banque Privée participated in financing the Jolfā-Tabrīz Russian railway line (AMAE, NS Perse, vol. 38, p. 256).

In spite of these commercial activities, and taking into account the important French exports of weapons and alcohol, in 1914 France ranked fifth as a trade partner for Persia. This confirmed the opinion of Louis Marin, a member of parliament, who in 1911 entitled his pamphlet “The Unacceptable Shrinking of Our Influence in Persia.” By contrast, cultural, educational, and archaeological contributions of France showed great dynamism and progress, as is illustrated in the their separate entries (see DÉLÉGATIONS ARCHÉOLOGIQUES FRANÇAISES i and france xiib). Moreover, the protection given by the French authorities to Greek, Swiss, and Italian citizens, and to the Swedish officers of the Gendarmerie in 1911, was official, in contrast to the tacit protection given to Catholics in Persia. On the whole, therefore, Franco-Persian relations remained in accordance with the guarded stance maintained by France in deference to the wishes of Britain and Russia, which expected her to maintain a reserved attitude (“l’attitude réservée que l’Angleterre et la Russie nous demandaient d’observer”; AMAE, Note rédigée au Ministère français des Affaires Étrangères, NS Perse, vol. 17, pp. 234-38).


General note on the archives and abbreviations used here: The major archival sources are those of Persian and French ministries of foreign affairs. Some of the archives of the Persian Ministry of Foreign Affairs have been published. The information gathered from the archives of the Ministère des affaires étrangères (AMAE) are derived from the 46 volumes of the series Correspondance Politique (CP), sub-series Perse (1554-1918); the 11 volumes of the series Mémoires et Documents (M and D), sub-series Perse (1707-1870); the 94 cartons containing the series Affaires Diverses Politiques (ADP), sub-series Perse (1839-1896); the 5 volumes of the series Correspondance Politique des Consuls (CPC), sub-series Perse (1866-1896); the 62 volumes of the New Series (NS), sub-series Perse (1896-1918); the 20 volumes of the series Asie 1918-1940, sub-series Perse-Iran (for 1918); the 14 volumes of the administrative series C (1894-1918); the files of the French envoys to Persia of the series Personnel, 1st and 2nd series; the files of the series Papiers d’Agents-Archives Privées (PA-AP), Bellan, Berthelot, Bonin, Ducrocq, Goût, Pichon, Tricou; and the 2 volumes of the Maison de la Presse. On military matters there are the archives of the Service historique de l’Armée de terre (SHAT), the archives of the Ministère de la Marine and those of the Val de Grâce. As for trade relations, the archives already mentioned may be supplemented by the Archives nationales (F12). The unpublished letters of the Lazarists and Filles de la Charité are in the archives of the Congrégation de la Mission. The following periodicals may also be consulted: Annales de la Congrégation de la Mission, Paris. Bulletin de l’Alliance française, Paris. Bulletin de l’Alliance Israelite universelle, Paris. Bulletin de l’Union Franco-Persane, Paris. Bulletin du Comité de l’Asie Française, Paris. Les Missions catholiques, Lyon.

Sources published in Persian: Ī. Afšār, “‘Fard-nāma-ye Pārīs’ ba zabān-e pārsī,” in Ī. Afšār and K. Eṣfahānīān, eds., Nāmvāra-ye Doktor Maḥmūd Afšār IX, Tehran, 1375 Š./1996, pp. 5577-5610.

Maḥmūd Khan ʿAlāʾ-al-Molk, Goḏārešhā-ye sīāsī-e ʿAlāʾ-al-Molk,Tehran, 1347 Š./1968.

K. Bayāt, Īrān wa jang-e jahānī āwwal: asnād-e wezārat-e dāḵela, Tehran, 1369 Š./1990.

A-Ḥ. Ḡaffārī, Tārīḵ-e rawābeṭ-e Īrān wa Farānsa az terūr-e Nāṣer-al-Dīn Šāh tā jang-e jahānī-e awwal, Tehran, 1368 Š./1989.

Ḥosayn Khan Neẓām-al-Dawla, Šarḥ-e maʾmūrīyat-e ājūdān-bāšī Ḥosayn Ḵān Neẓām-al-Dawla ba enżemām-e matn-e Safar-nāma-ye ʿAbd-al-Fattāḥ Garmrūdī, ed. M. Mošīrī, 2nd ed. Tehran, 2536=1356 Š./1977.

M.-Ḥ. Kāvūsī and H. Aḥmadī, eds., Asnād-ī az rawābeṭ-e Īrān o Farānsa, Tehran, 1376 Š./1997.

Majd-al-Eslām Kermānī, “Moḥaṣṣelīn-e Īrān dar zamān-e Nāṣer-al-Dīn Šāh,” Āmūzeš wa parvareš 24/1, 1328 Š./1949, pp. 34-43.

Ḥ. Maḥbūbī-Ardakānī, “Doktor Kelowka (Dr. Cloquet),” Yaḡmā 21, 1347 Š./1968, pp. 365-68.

ʿA. H. Mahdawī, Tārīḵ-e rawābeṭ-e ḵārejī-e Īrān,Tehran, 1349 Š./1970.

H. Nāṭeq, Īrān dar rāh-yābī-e farhangī 1834-1848, Paris, 1988.

Idem, Kār-nāma-ye farhangī-e farangī dar Īrān, Paris, 1375 Š./1996.

Ḥosayn b. ʿAbd-Allāh Sarābī, Maḵzan al-waqāyeʾ (Safar-nāma-ye Farroḵ Ḵān Amīn-al-Dawla), ed. K. Eṣfahānīān and Q. Rowšanī, 2nd printing, Tehran, 1361 Š./1982.

Sources published in other languages: A. Abdolhamd and N. Pakdaman, Bibliographie française de civilisation iranienne, 3 vols., Tehran, 1972-74.

M. Afschar, La politique européenne en Perse: quelques pages de l’histoire diplomatique, Berlin 1921, 2nd ed., Tehran, 1973.

A. Amanat, Pivot of the Universe: Nasir al-Din Shah Qajar and the Iranian Monarchy, 1831-1896, Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1997.

I. Amini, Napoléon et la Perse, Paris, 1995.

B. Bahrami, Les relations politiques de la Perse avec les grandes puissances à l’époque Qajar, Montreux, Switzerland, 1953.

O. Bast, Les Allemands en Perse pendant la première guerre mondiale, Travaux et mémoires de l’Institut d’études iraniennes 2, Paris, 1997.

F. Boital, Nāṣer-al-dīn Shah et la Perse: la légende et l’histoire, Paris, 1878.

E. Boré, Correspondance et mémoires d’un voyageur en Orient, Paris, 1840.

V. Brard, Questions extérieures: France et Perse, Paris, 1905.

J. Calmard, “L’Iran sous Nāṣer-al-dīn Shah et les derniers Qajars,” Le monde iranien et l’Islam 4, 1976-77, pp. 165-94.

J. Calmard, M. Ettehadieh, and S. Sadeq, Le général Semino en Iran Qajar et la guerre de Hérat (1820-1850), Tehran, 1997.

P. Caujole, Les tribulations d’une ambulance française en Perse, Paris, 1922.

A. J. H. and J. de Clerq, eds., Recueil des traités de la France, 23 vols, Paris, 1864-1907.

P. X. Coste, Mémoires d’un artiste: notes et souvenirs de voyages (1817-1877), 2 vols., Marseille, 1878.

H. Dehérain, “Lettres inédites de membres de la mission Gardane en Perse,” Revue de la Société de l’histoire des colonies françaises 16, 1923, pp. 249-82.

G. Demorgny, La question persane et la guerre, Paris, 1916.

M. Dieulafoy, La Perse ouverte, Versailles, 1885.

E. Driault, La politique orientale de Napoléon: les mission de Sébastiani et de Gardane 1806-1808, Paris, 1904.

M. Farnoud, “Rapports entre l’Iran et l’Europe: les conseillers européens en Iran au XIXe siècle,” Thèse du 3e cycle, Université de Picardie, 1982.

J. P. Ferrier, Voyage en Perse dans l’Afghanistan, la Beloutchistan et la Turkestan, 2 vols., Paris, 1860 (see also under Hambly).

P. Gaffarel, “La mission du général Gardane sous Napoléon Ier,” Revue des cours littéraires de la France et de l’Europe 33, 16 February 1878.

A. de Gardane, Mission du général Gardane en Perse, Paris, 1865.

P.-A. L. de Gardane, Journal d’un voyage dans la Turquie d’Asie et la Perse fait en 1807 et 1808, Paris, 1809.

N. Gasfield, “Au front de Perse pendant la Grande Guerre,” Revue d’histoire de la guerre mondiale, July 1924.

A. H. Ghaffari, “Les Relations franco-persane dans la contexte de la politique extérieure de la Troisième République à la veille de la Première Guerre Mondiale (1896-1915),” Thèse de 3e cycle, Université de Paris I, 1968.

D. Ghaimmaghami, “Relations militaires franco-iraniennes au XIX siècle,” Ph.D. diss., Université de la Sorbonne, Paris, 1968.

L. Graux and H. Daragon, S. M. Mozaffar-ed-Din Shah in Shah en France (1900-1902-1905), Paris, 1905.

G. Hambly, “Introduction,” in J. P. Ferrier, Caravan Journeys and Wanderings in Persia, Afghanistan, Turkistan, and Beloochistan, repr. Karachi, 1976, pp. vii.-xxii.

F. Hellot-Bellier, “L’ambulance française d’Urmia (1917-1918) ou le ressac de la Grande Guerre en Perse,” Stud. Ir. 25, 1996, pp. 45-82.

Idem, “Chronique de massacres annoncés: les Assyro-chaldéens de Perse, la Perse et les puissances européennes, 1896-1919,” Ph.D. diss., Université de la Sorbonne Nouvelle, Paris, 1998.

X. Hommaire de Hell, Voyage en Turquie et en Perse éxécuté par ordre du gouvernement français pendant les années 1846, 1847, et 1848, 2 vols., Paris 1856.

J. C. Hurewitz, ed. and tr., The Middle East and North Africa in World Politics: A Documentary Record, 2 vols., 2nd. ed., New Haven and London, 1975-79.

P. A. Jaubert, Voyage en Arménie et en Perse, fait dans les années 1805 et 1806, Paris, 1821.

Capitaine Lebrun-Renaud, La Perse politique et militaire au XIXème siècle: histoire de la dynastie des Qajar, Paris, 1894.

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Idem, Recul inacceptable de notre influence en Perse, Paris, 1911.

A. Matinedaftary, La suppression des capitulations en Perse, Paris, 1930.

Mir Davoud-Zadour de Melik Schahnazar, Détails sur la situation actuelle du royaume de Perse, Paris, 1816.

D. Méthy, “L’action des grandes puissances dans la région d’Urmia et les Assyro-Chaldéens: 1917-1918,” Studia Kurdica 1-5, 1988, pp. 77-100.

J. de Morgan, La Délégation en Perse du Ministère de l’instruction publique 1897-1902, Paris, 1902.

Nazar-Aga (Naẓar Āqā), “Du mouvement civilisateur en Perse,” Revue orientale et américaine 8, 1862, pp. 119-32.

M. A. Nicolas, “Note sur l’enseignement en Perse,” JA 5, 1862, pp. 472-81.

B. Nikitine, La Perse que j’ai connue 1909-1919, Paris, 1941.

E. Orsolle, Le Caucase et la Perse, Paris, 1885. E. Outrey, La Perse, Paris, 1880.

H. Pakdaman, Djamal ed Din Assad Abadi, dit Afghani, Paris, 1969.

E. Pakravan, ʿĀbbās Mirzā: un prince réformateur, 2 vols., Tehran, 1958-60.

Guy Pedroncini, Les négociations secrètes pendant la Grande Guerre, Paris, 1969.

Perse et la France: relations diplomatiques et culturelles du XVIIe au XIXe siècle, Paris, 1972 (catalogue of an exhibition at Musée Cernuschi).

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J. R. Quarré de Verneuil, Napoléon Ier et la Perse, Paris, 1905.

Y. Richard, “Sources françaises pour l’histoire de l’Iran (entre 1918 et 1921),” Luqmān 1, 1993-94, pp. 97-115.

R. M. Savory, “The British and French Diplomacy in Iran 1800-1810,” Iran 10, 1972, pp. 31-44.

J. E. J. Schneider, La médecine persane: les médecins français en Perse, Paris, 1911.

Comte de Sercey, Une ambassade extraordinaire la Perse 1839-1840, Paris, 1928.

A. A. Siassi, La Perse au contact de l’Occident: étude historique et sociale, Paris, 1931.

C. de Voogd, “Les Français en Perse (1805-1809),” Stud. Ir. 10, 1981, pp. 247-68.

L.-C. Watelin, Le scandale de la Délégation en Perse, Paris, 1902.

D. Wright, The English Amongst the Persians, London, 1977.

Idem, The Persians Amongst the English, London, 1985.

E. Zavie, D’Archangelsk au Golfe persique: aventure de cinquante Français en Iran, Paris, 1929.


During the First World War, France, unlike England, Russia, Germany, and the Ottoman Empire, had no direct strategic interests in Persia. France did, however, become involved with Persia in two ways: First, through diplomatic moves which helped to neutralize German schemes in the region (Bast, pp. 101-12); and second, through a military-humanitarian initiative involving the dispatch of a mobile hospital to Urmia and training the Christian militia after the departure of Russian soldiers. The crushing defeat of the Assyro-Chaldean resistance in Azerbaijan made a strong impact on France. In spite of the official separation of church and state, the French government still regarded itself as the protector of Christian minorities and had supported several French speaking schools in the Urmia region. The financial difficulties of the missions and the mass migration of the Christians to Iraq and the Caucasus had led to the closure of the majority of the Catholic institutions.


After the collapse of the Russian Empire, the plan by the Allies to divide various Muslim regions into zones of influence underwent important changes, mostly in favor of the new British strategic interests in Palestine and Iraq. Although in theory neutral, Persia was in effect under British domination, given the presence of the South Persia Rifles on her soil and the Persian Cossack Brigade (q.v.) being on the payroll of the British Legation. This hegemony displeased Paris, especially since Persia was adjacent to “la bande de Mossoul,” the zone allotted to France under the Sykes-Picot Agreement in 1916.

For the first time since Napoleon, France had ambitions in Persia: the departure of Russians and Germans gave her the opportunity to develop her cultural and commercial interests. French diplomats, notably Charles Bonin (1918-20) emphasized the fact that France had no colonial record in Persia and could therefore exert a sustainable influence against the Bolshevik menace. Bonin, an archivist by training and passionately interested in archaeology and languages, was also a seasoned diplomat. He prepared for his mission meticulously and drew up an ambitious list of objectives (Archives du Ministère des affaires étrangères, Paris, Série Asie 1918-1940, Perse-Iran 24, fols. 101 sq.; Richard, p. 100). He noted that French influence in Persia was fast disappearing and that, for instance, not a single reference was made to the French Legation or French diplomats in Norman Shuster’s The Strangling of Persia, the account of his appointment as financial advisor in Persia in 1911. At the time, France had fewer diplomats in Persia than did Belgium.

The projects considered to enhance French presence in Persia included founding a French bank in Tehran; setting up a French high-school; increasing the number of French teachers in Dār al-fonūn (q.v.) and the School of Law (see FACULTIES OF THE UNIVERSITY OF TEHRAN iii); setting up a school of agriculture (see FACULTIES OF THE UNIVERSITY OF TEHRAN i); starting a stud farm to be managed by the government; adding a commercial section to the French Legation; setting up an international wireless service (to broadcast news to counter Russian and German propaganda); strengthening the archaeological mission (see DÉLÉGATIONS ARCHÉOLOGIQUES FRANÇAISES); publishing a French language newspaper; and increasing the number of French consulates (Richard, p. 100). There were also two other more overtly political projects: The first project included bringing in financial advisors—the French mention, for example, Eugène Bizot, who had, however, in Shuster’s sardonic words, “displayed a masterly inactivity in making any financial reforms during his two years at Teheran. He returned to his Government post at Paris greatly improved in health, but the Persian finances continued to stumble and stagger as before” (Shuster, p. 28). The second project concerned sending a French military mission to train the Persian army. Bonin’s firm belief in France’s mission civilizatrice was accompanied by his awareness of the economic possibilities: “We must profit from our rivals’ mistakes, their weaknesses and their withdrawals, and through this window of opportunity make our entry into Central Asia and claim the market for our commerce, a market in which we could succeed if our products were not systematically boycotted by England, which has always refused to let us establish a foothold in Persia.” (Archives du Ministère des affaires étrangères, Série Asie 1918-1940, Perse-Iran 24, fols. 101 sq.; Richard, p. 101).

Before the publication of the Anglo-Persian Agreement of 1919 (q.v.), which the French diplomats called l’Arrangement in order to underline its lack of legitimacy, the Quai d’Orsay had already noted that the British were determined to prevent any outside interference in their dealings with Persia. Stephen Pichon, the French foreign minister, interpreted the British refusal to let ʿAlīqolī Khan Anṣārī Mošāwer-al-Mamālek participate in the Congress of Versailles as part of London’s plan to settle the Persian question on its own with the shah’s government and impose its views on Tehran. “The English politics in Persia,” he wrote on March 21, 1919, “will soon lead to the establishment of a de facto protectorate” (Archives du Ministère des affaires étrangères, Perse-Iran 32, folio 79). Even Woṯūq-al-Dawla, the prime minister at the time, asked the French to intervene to preserve the right of Persia, not recognized by the agreement, to choose its foreign advisers. In harmony with the outrage expressed in the major Western capitals, Woṯūq-al-Dawla is said to have tried, once the agreement had been signed, to convince Bonin to obtain its cancellation with the help of his American colleague. The openly hostile attitude of the French minister plenipotentiary led to protests from London. The reports by the French diplomats preserved in the French archives thus offer a new perspective on this problematic episode in modern Persian history and the role of its protagonists (Archives du Ministère des affaires étrangères, Perse-Iran 33, fols. 9, 10 September, 1919, fol. 33, 14 September 1919; Perse-Iran 34, fol. 12, May 1920).

The prevailing sense of resignation felt by the French diplomats faced with the British predominance did not, however, prevent them from attaching a great deal of importance to all resistance movements and from distancing themselves from the British, especially when the Russian officers who still commanded the Cossack Brigade were discharged. The way Paris viewed the coup d’état of 21 February 1921 is most revealing. Henri Hoppenot, the new chargé d’affaires, produced evidence to show that his British colleagues were unaware of General Ironside’s involvement (Richard, p. 110). At first, the French diplomats thought that the conspirators, amongst whom there were many officers trained in France, were genuinely anti-British and that France’s day in Persia had finally arrived. The attitude of Reżā Khan, who categorically refused British interference in the organization of the army and, in June 1923, sent 46 officer students to French military schools (Cronin, pp. 130-31), shows that this illusion was not altogether absurd. However, London and Paris, preoccupied with setting up their protectorates in the Near-East at the San Remo Conference (May 1920), had agreed not to dispute the prevailing British hegemony in Persia.


Before Germany returned to the scene, France played the traditional role of the third power between Russia and England. Persians were not indifferent to Clemenceau’s military prestige and France’s victory in the war against Germany. France was highly praised by Reżā Shah in a speech addressed to Persian cadets leaving for military training in France. Both the quality and the organization of the French army and the patriotism of the nation were applauded (Elwell-Sutton, p. 44). From 1922, the Ministry of War was authorized by the parliament to send cadet officers to France for further training, a program which lasted for a decade (see ARMY v). French officers were also recruited to train Persians at the Military Academy in Tehran (Dāneškada-ye afsarī), where Reżā Shah insisted that his officers consider these instructors as subordinates in their service (Zangana, pp. 184-87). In a more general way, France was the adopted model in the formation of Persian secondary education, with the dābīrestān modeled on the French lycée, and for the curriculum of the various Faculties of the University of Tehran (qq.v.), where French advisors and professors took an active part, most notably in the faculties of Medicine and Fine Arts.

From 1933 to 1938, the recruitment of a French mission made it possible for Persian officers to be trained in Tehran by French military instructors led by Colonel Caldairou. The French tried to use this opportunity to expand their exports of military equipment, but without much success. The sensitiveness of Persians, and especially of Reżā Shah himself, who insisted that a general should head the mission, made it almost impossible for the military instructors to function. In 1935 Caldairou was sent back and Franco-Persian relations began to deteriorate as a result of the shah’s indignation over some satirical articles in French newspapers. Nevertheless, in September 1935, five new officers including General Gendre, were sent to Tehran. Despite many difficulties, France intended to maintain her position in Persia because of her problems in Syria, and she wanted to thwart German influence, constantly at work in all the regions, notably for export of military equipment.

The diplomatic difficulties brought about by the French press (the Germans experienced similar problems which also led to a break in diplomatic relations) were compounded by the election of a socialist government, the Popular Front, in 1936. For Reżā Shah, it was as if Stalin had installed an agent in the Hôtel Matignon, and all French actions were now treated with suspicion. It was also thought that strikes and workers’ demands had completely disrupted the French economy, and that it was pointless to place commercial orders which could not be filled. Persia refused to take part in the Paris International Exposition of 1937. The mounting xenophobia of the Pahlavi regime left its mark on the Crown Prince, Moḥammad-Reżā, who, on his return from Switzerland, turned against his French military instructors and obtained their dismissal. The last one left Tehran when diplomatic relations were finally broken off in 1938 on the pretext of the publication of satirical articles in France about Reżā Shah.

Diplomatic relations were re-established in March 1939 at the time of the wedding ceremony of the crown prince with Princess Fawzīa of Egypt. France sent two distinguished representatives, the Orientalist Louis Massignon and General Maxime Weygand, who presented several Persian officials with medals and decorations from his government. The French Legation, whose diplomatic personnel had stayed on but kept a low profile, was now allowed to renew its activities openly.


The events of 1940 and the establishment of the Vichy government had boosted Reżā Shah’s confidence. On Nowrūz 1941 he declared, “The French have at last understood, like us and after us, that in order to be strong there must be an authoritarian government,” (Jean Helleu, Report, end of March 1941). Henri Pétain, a soldier like him, had purged France of its hostile newspapers. Wasn’t Pétain’s enemy, Charles de Gaulle, plotting with the English against his own country? But the subsequent Anglo-Soviet occupation of Persia and the shah’s abdication led to a ban on the use of coded telegrams and diplomatic bags by Vichy diplomats, as demanded by the Allied forces. Later, Persia demanded the closure of the French Legation as stipulated in the Tripartite Treaty signed by Persia, Great Britain, and the USSR (29 January 1942). Jacques Coiffard, the French chargé d’affaires, sent a strong protest against these restrictions and attacked the prime minister, Moḥammad-ʿAlī Forūḡī (q.v.) in the Persian press. This created much indignation among Persians and relations were broken off between the two countries and Coiffard was expelled (dismissed by Vichy, he joined the Free French Forces fighting in Lebanon). France was no longer represented in Persia, despite the fact that by the end of 1941 a Free France committee was established in Tehran, run by the engineer Henri Goblot (author of Les qanats: une technique d’acquisition de l’eau, Paris, 1979) with the help of André Godard (q.v.; director-general of the Archaeological Service), to which the French minister plenipotentiary, Jean Helleu, was attached. But the committee had no resources. In 1942, Godard, although working for the Persian government, was recognized as plenipotentiary by Persia, and was invested with diplomatic powers by the French provisional government in London. Godard handled Gaulist propaganda but also helped the French schools, which were experiencing financial difficulties after the departure of the Pétainist diplomats.

Moḥammad-Reżā Shah, resenting the distrust shown by the British towards him, was greatly impressed when de Gaulle, on his way to Moscow in November 1944, stopped over in Tehran to assure the young monarch of the importance France attached to the continuity of imperial legitimacy while Persia was still occupied by the English and Russians.

In conformity with the attitude adopted in the 19th century, France had given up playing the leading role in Persia, and the volume of trade between the two countries never reached the level of trade between Germany and Persia. The new reign, however, appeared potentially promising. The young shah had been educated in the French-speaking part of Switzerland (at Rosey) and always chose French governesses for his children. The ideological and political language of the Persian nationalists, including Moḥammad Moṣaddeq himself, and indeed the political elite in general, was French. Many of the prime ministers who followed Moṣaddeq were fluent in French, including Manūčehr Eqbāl (q.v.), ʿAlī Amīnī, Amīr ʿAbbās Hoveydā (q.v.), Šāpūr Baḵtīār, and Mahdī Bāzargān. Napoleon, as the man who had defied Great Britain, was regarded as a hero. The much more recent example of the French Resistance against Fascism also had its appeal. On the other hand France’s military actions as a colonial power against independence movements in Indochina and Algeria, and her role in the Suez crisis of 1956, tarnished her image among the people.

At the same time, through its position as a permanent founder member of the United Nations Security Council, France regained some international prestige. But French diplomacy did not play an important role in Persia either during the Azerbaijan crisis in 1946 (see AZERBAIJAN v), or during the crisis of nationalization of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, when on the whole it sided with Britain and refused to break the oil embargo. After the downfall of Moṣaddeq, the Compagnie Française des Pétroles received only 6 percent of the share of the market in the consortium set up in 1954. President Pompidou’s lukewarm response to the shah’s invitation to the Persepolis celebrations in 1971, to which he sent Jacques Chaban-Delmas, demonstrates the reservations felt by the French concerning what they perceived as the shah’s grandiose politics, based on dubious assumptions and over-reliance on Washington. Nonetheless, exploiting the sudden, dramatic increase in Persian purchasing power after the oil crisis, the French succeeded in selling their nuclear technology to Persia. The French company Framatome was entrusted with building five nuclear power plants in complex negotiations culminating in a contract in 1975, which also provided for Persian participation in Eurodif, a company designed to finance the creation of nuclear subsidiaries in several European countries and to supply them with enriched uranium. Later, despite President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing’s efforts at mediation between the oil producing countries, the industrialized nations, and the underdeveloped countries adversely affected by the oil boom of 1973, French foreign policy showed no particular initiative towards Persia.

The revocation of the Eurodif contract by the Baḵtīār government in January 1979, subsequently endorsed by the Islamic Republic, plunged Franco-Persian relations into disarray. France, having lost an investment and a venue for its enriched uranium, considered herself the injured party and demanded international arbitration before being obliged to repay, with interest, the investment made by the shah in Eurodif (about one billion dollars in gross) and it was France, rather than Persia, which was required to indemnify financial losses incurred by companies when the contract was abrogated in 1979. The exact terms of the final settlement, reached in 1991, have remained secret.


The unexpected arrival of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini (Āyat-Allāh Rūḥ-Allāh Ḵomeynī) in France on 6 October 1978, and his stay in the village of Neauphle-le-Chateau, some twenty kilometers from Paris, until 31 January 1979, brought a new dramatic twist to Franco-Persian relations. The universal fascination with this patriarchal figure prevented the possibility of his expulsion or the exertion of any direct pressure on him by the host government. The shah himself, thinking that the popularity of the ayatollah would ebb once he was removed from Najaf, asked France to keep him there. Soon the United States became convinced of the inevitability of the shah’s fall, and the decision taken at the Guadeloupe Conference (January 1979) to establish informal contacts with Khomeini and to prepare for the departure of the shah, merely confirmed the policy already adopted by President Carter (see CARTER ADMINISTRATION). The French showed no initiative here, and in spite of the sympathy felt by Persians towards France for having hosted Khomeini and harbored the opponents of the Pahlavi regime, no privileges were accorded to France by the new regime, which denounced the West in general for collaborating with the shah and siding with the Americans.

Even before the victory of the revolution, Paris had become a haven for a community of Persians (see FRANCE xvii). After 1979, in successive waves, monarchists, then liberal nationalists, Marxists, and liberal Muslims sought exile in France, aggravating the existing tension between the two countries. Šāpūr Baḵtīār, who had acquired French citizenship long before the revolution (after his marriage to a French national and his participation in the Resistance), was among the first whose extradition was demanded. The first attempt to assassinate him failed (21 July 1980) and led to a ten year jail sentence for a Lebanese terrorist, Anis Naccache. After a wave of terrorist attacks attributed to the Islamic Republic, Baḵtīār was assassinated on 6 August 1991, and the culprits were never arrested. With the passage of time, monarchist political groups and leftists in Paris have gradually become less active, and the number of political publications in Persian decreased after the Iran-Iraq war. The Persian Cultural Center, which was closed by the police after the waves of terrorism, reopened in 1996.

In addition to the traditional alliance with Arab countries and contracts signed with Iraq by Jacques Chirac in 1975, French Socialists had close links with the more secular and liberal opponents of the shah, the leftist groups hostile to the staunchly pro-Khomeini Islamic Republican Party (IRP), communists, liberal nationalists (the first to be discarded from power), and leftist Muslims. The innate distaste of the secular French socialists for a clerical regime seeking its legitimacy in religion was reciprocated by the antipathy of the Persian Islamic rulers for what they perceived as a rationalistic, Masonic, atheist ideology. Persian opposition leaders, especially the leaders of the People’s Mojahedin (Mojāhedīn-e ḵalq-e Īrān) and ex-president Abu’l-Ḥasan Banī Ṣadr, who secretly fled to France on 29 July 1981, found the French sharing their belief that the end of the “the dictatorship of the mollās” was at hand. President François Mitterrand, reacting to Israel’s bombing of the Tammuz nuclear plant (7 June 1981) in Iraq, decided to take sides. Almost all French citizens were evacuated from Persia (August 1981) and, at the demand of the regional Arab states, French aid to Iraq was intensified. Mirage F1 planes, ordered back in 1977, were now delivered to Iraq. In October 1983, Mitterand lent Iraq five Super-Étendard bombers carrying Exocet missiles in order to destroy Persian oil export installations. In response, the Islamic Republic tried to force France to change course by deploying two weapons which brought with them much notoriety for the regime in the west: its support for hostage taking in Lebanon and terrorist attacks on the French soil. An arrangement seems to have been negotiated during the legislative election of 1986 in France, won by the Gaullists: French hostages were liberated, and the headquarters of the People’s Mojahedin were moved to Iraq.

Despite clearly taking sides with Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war, France managed also to sell arms to Persia through indirect channels and tried to safeguard its interests there. Faced with terrorist attacks on her own soil, hostage taking in Lebanon, and under pressure to repay Persia’s loans to Eurodif, France began a “war of embassies” with Persia in 1987. Paris demanded that Waḥīd Gorjī, a translator at the Persian embassy with no diplomatic status, who was suspected of collaboration with a terrorist group, appear before judicial authorities. The refusal by Tehran and the counter-accusations of espionage against the French Consul, Paul Torri, led to a dramatic break in diplomatic relations on 17 July 1987, accompanied by Persian threats to French vessels in the Persian Gulf. The diplomats of the two countries were confined to their embassies until December, and full diplomatic relations were resumed only in June 1988, at the very time when France was participating, along with the United States, in admonitory naval operations along the Persian coast. At this final stage in the war with Iraq, Paris was particularly important to the Islamic Republic because of its influence in the UN Security Council. The terms of the cease-fire demanded by Resolution 598 (voted on 20 July 1987) were not very favorable to Persia, as they did not designate Iraq as the aggressor. But Persia at last accepted the resolution (18 July 1988), putting an end to eight years of war. In the meantime, President Mitterrand was reelected, despite efforts by Tehran to help Chirac’s government by having French hostages liberated a few days before the election.

The revolution dealt an almost fatal blow to what was left of French culture in Persia. The departure of the royal family and the upper bourgeoisie, whose second language was French, the closure of French schools (see france xv), and the suspension and later closure of French cultural institutes were among contributory factors. The French newspaper, Le Journal de Téhéran, which claimed to be the oldest French daily newspaper outside France, founded in March 1934 (Barzīn, p. 409) by ʿAbbās Masʿūdī, publisher of the Ettelaδat (q.v.) group of newspapers,ceased publication. Only the French Institute of Research in Iran (IFRI), despite being officially closed, remained active, publishing books and hosting researchers (see FRANCE xiii).Finally, a biannual cultural review in French, Luqmān, was founded in 1984 by the Iranian Universities Press (Markaz-e Našr-e Dānešgāhī). It has published several articles on the cultural history of the relationship between the two countries and has a Persian summary at the end of each issue.

The resumption of Franco-Persian relations in 1988, which began on a more subdued but perhaps also on a more solid basis, benefited from the excellent contacts between the then two foreign ministers, Roland Dumas and ʿAlī-Akbar Welāyatī. There was talk of an official visit to Tehran by François Mitterrand in the fall of 1991, but the assassination of Šāpūr Baḵtīār aborted any such happening. However, the French president’s wife, Danièle Mitterrand paid a semi-official visit to Tehran in the spring of 1991, when she participated in the reception of Kurdish refugees from Iraq.

Faced with the American policy of “dual containment” towards Iraq and Persia after the Persian Gulf War of 1990-91, the countries of the European Community, and particularly France, have sought to adopt an independent policy. An off-shore drilling contract with the American firm Conoco, canceled because of the economic embargo imposed by Washington, was taken over in July 1995 by the French company Total (Digard et al., p. 234). In 1996, France led the protest by a group of Western countries against the D’Amato Act, passed by the United States Congress, which contains the threat of serious sanctions against all companies, regardless of nationality, working with certain countries, including Persia. The European Union accounts for about half of Persia’s foreign trade, but France’s share remains negligible compared to that of Germany (Digard et al, p. 217).

After the election of Moḥammad Ḵātamī as president, European countries have tried to reestablish their former “critical dialogue” with Persia. The French minister of foreign affairs, Hubert Védrine, went to Tehran in August 1998 and officially invited Ḵātamī to visit France. In spite of a deterioration in the world economy in general, there seems to be a gradual improvement in the commercial relations between the two countries, and discussions are in progress regarding a new cultural agreement, including the possibility of reopening French classes in Persian institutions.


C. Barbier, “Hoppenot en Perse (1919-1921),” Revue d’Histoire diplomatique 105, 1991, pp. 193-216.

M. Barzīn, “Maṭbūʿāt-e farānsavī-zabān dar Īrān,” Āyanda 13, 1366 Š./1987, pp. 409-12.

O. Bast, Les Allemands en Perse pendant la première guerre mondiale d’après les sources diplomatiques françaises, Travaux et mémoires de l’Institut d’études iraniennes 2, Paris, 1997.

P. Caujole, Les tribulations d’une ambulance française en Perse, Paris, 1922.

S. Cronin, The Army and the Creation of the Pahlavi State in Iran, 1910-1926, London, 1997.

H. H. Cumming, Franco-British Rivalry in the Post-war Middle East: The Decline of French Influence 1914-1923, repr., Oxford, 1988.

J-P. Digard, B. Hourcade, and Y. Richard, L’Iran au XXe siècle, Paris, 1996.

M. R. Djalili, ed., Aspects de la politique étrangère de l’Iran et de la France, Tehran, 1976.

L. P. Elwell-Sutton,”Reza Shah the Great: Founder of the Pahlavi Dynasty,” in G. Lenczowski, ed., Iran Under the Pahlavis, Stanford, Calif., 1978, p. 44.

J. Garcon, “La France et le conflit Iran-Irak,” Politique étrangère 52, 1987, pp. 357-66.

M. Habibi, “La mission militaire française en Iran (1933-1938),” in M. Anasrassiadou, ed, Sociétés et cultures musulmanes d’hier et d’áujourd’hui: les chantiers de la recherche, Strasbourg, 30 juin-3 juillet 1994, Actes de la IXe réunion des chercheurs sur le monde arabe et musulman, Paris, 1996. pp. 420-423.

Dj. Ḥadidi, “La presse de langue française en Iran,” Luqmān 5/2, 1989, pp. 9-20.

F. Hellot, “L’ambulance française d’Urmia (1917-1918) ou le ressac de la grande guerre en Perse,” Stud. Ir. 25, 1996, pp. 45-82.

M. Khadjenouri, “L’évolution de la politique étrangère de l’Iran du début de la seconde guerre mondiale à nos jours,” Politique étrangère 15, 1976, pp. 127-48.

D. Lagarde, “France-Iran: deux volontés pour une politique,” Les Cahiers de l’Orient 8-9, 1987-88, pp. 47-58.

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The motives for Franco-Persian administrative and military contacts between the French Revolution of 1789 and the Persian Constitutional Revolution of 1906, their implementation and their impact on Persia will be examined here. Although in France after the Revolution there was interest in Persia, what actually led to a rapprochement between the two countries was political, economic, and military rivalries among European nations. This rapprochement is manifest, for example, in the bilingual Persian-French manuscript of the address from the National Convention to the French people (l’adresse de “la Convention Nationale au peuple français,” in 1792; La Perse et La France, document no. 113) or the official dispatch of Guillaume-Antoine Olivier to Persia (Lefebvre de Bécour, fols. 42-43). These efforts intensified during the reign of Napoleon but as Persian interests were not uppermost in the minds of the French and as England and Russia were deeply opposed to a French presence (Qāʾem-maqāmī, 1968, pp. 221, 226-28), France began to loosen its connections with Persia after Napoleon’s downfall; this loosening was particularly encouraged by the perceived absence of French economic interests in Persia (Driault, p. 330).

On the other hand, the Persian government, with little knowledge of Europe (ʿAbd-al-Razzāq Beg Donbolī, p. 142) and suffering from internal troubles, did not at first express any interest in France (Eʿtemād-al-Salṭana, Merʾāt al-boldān I, p. 853). As the government became increasingly aware of British and Russian ambitions, however, it sought an ally to counterbalance them. Until the establishment of the revolutionary Paris Commune following the fall of Napoleon III in 1871 (Farnoud, p. 149) France was the clear choice as ally. The French thus became privileged advisers at the Persian court (Gobineau, 1959, pp. 121, 211, 223; Ṣafāʾī, p. 89), and Nāṣer-al-Dīn Shah (1848-96) ordered his envoy in Paris, Farroḵ Khan Amīn-al-Dawla (q.v.), to accept all of Napoleon III’s recommendations (Esfaḥānīān and Rowšanī, eds., II, p. 143).

The interests and policies of the two countries often coincided so closely that three large French missions, composed mostly of soldiers and a few technicians, went to Persia during the 19th century, and a number of French citizens chose to work in Persia.

In the first phase of these relations France was more eager than Persia to forge a concord, and under the treaty of Finkenstein (4 March 1807) an alliance against Britain and Russia was formed; Napoleon I sent a mission with twenty-seven members to Persia under the leadership of General Claude-Mathieu de Gardane (q.v.). Napoleon ordered him “to instruct the Persian army in the European style, so that it will prove a worthy vanguard for the future French expedition” (Driault, p. 316). Apart from concluding various contracts with the Persian government and the investigation of different routes for an eventual French expedition to India, the mission undertook to initiate plans for a military school; to translate into Persian procedures for organizing a modern army; to teach the new sciences to young Persians; to build roads, fortresses, and arsenals; and to train soldiers (Calmard, pp. 22-23; Dehérain, pp. 569-72; Farnoud, pp. 159-60, 227-31; Ghaemmaghami, pp. 62-65; Qāʾem-maqāmī, 1947, pp. 15-26, 77; idem, 1968, pp. 190-97; Maḥbūbī, Moʾāssassāt I,pp. 56-90; Voogd, p. 265).

Napoleon’s alliance with the Russians in the treaty of Tilsit a few months later led to a change in policy toward Persia, much to the distress of many Persian leaders as well as members of the French mission. Its members remained in Persia only a little more than a year. Combined with difficulties provoked by the British, the shortness of their stay naturally did not lead to lasting benefits. Criticism of the mission’s effectiveness, sometimes even from French sources (Drouville, II, pp. 145-46), was thus partly justified; and yet there were some results. For example, the Persian court established the Order of Ḵoršīd ( the Sun) on the model of the Légion d’Honneur (Wright, p. 136; see DECORATIONS), and the presence of the mission helped in providing Persians with a better knowledge of 19th-century Europe.

After Gardane’s mission France turned its attention away from Persia, and Persian efforts to obtain aid from the French government were unsuccessful. Not until 1839 did Mīrzā Ḥosayn Khan Nezām-al-Dawla Ājūdān-bāšī (q.v.), the ambassador of Moḥammad Shah (1834-48), succeed in persuading the French government to send Edouard Comte de Sercey to Persia as minister plenipotentiary. Mīrzā Ḥosayn Khan also recruited about fifteen French soldiers and technicians. The French government did not oppose his efforts, but did not take part in the process of recruitment, thereby avoiding responsibility for the outcome (Farnoud, p. 239). The recruits were not specialists but mercenaries and opportunists who sought only riches (Boré, II, p. 404; Farnoud, p. 351; Pichon, pp. 105-6). In Persia, after more than a year of indecision, the government finally assigned responsibilities to them: Four military officers were sent to the provinces and the rest charged with training soldiers in the capital; the technicians also remained in Tehran. The somewhat irresponsible behavior of these Frenchmen, the apparent indifference of the Persian government, and obstacles set by the British and the Russians ensured that this mission, which remained less than four years in Persia, would be totally ineffective (Flandin, I, p. 498; Qāʾem-maqāmī, 1947, p. 61; Tārīk-e arteš p. 22).

Exigencies in the foreign policy of Napoleon III in general and the Crimean War in particular, encouraged him to turn his attention, albeit briefly, to Persia, where a permanent French embassy was opened in 1855. As a result, the Persians were able to recruit a third team of French experts, and the Persian ambassador in Paris, Mīrzā Farroḵ Khan Ḡaffārī, Amīn-al-Molk, later Amīn-al-Dawla (q.v.), used the opportunity to convince the commanders of the French army to choose the members of the mission themselves. Thirteen professional soldiers thus set off for Persia, where they were immediately enrolled in the army (1858; Esfaḥānīān and Rowšanī, eds., III, p. 327). One of them undertook to manufacture rifles, but he could not come to terms with the Persian government (Dehghan Nayeri, p. 183; Farnoud, pp. 260-65). Two others supplemented their army duties by teaching courses at Dār al-fonūn (q.v.) and published several books during this assignment. But the real task of the mission, like that of its predecessors, was to train soldiers. Even the one superior officer who had been recruited to undertake comprehensive military reforms and to reorganize the army became an instructor, like the rest (Esfaḥānīān and Rowšanī, eds., II, p. 177; Weqāyeʿ-e ettefāqīya, no. 430, 24 Ramażān 1275/27 April 1859, p. 3). Nevertheless, although the French minister of war reported that “Their efforts have generally failed” (Farnoud, p. 258), there is some evidence that their stay in Persia (an average of five and a half years) was not as useless as was claimed (Farnoud, pp. 256-60).

After this third mission, the last member of which left Persia in 1867, the Persian government made no further attempt to recruit French experts, except physicians for the shah, and even then only through the French government. Thenceforth the Persians concentrated on other European countries like Austria (Ādāmīyat, pp. 431-322; Farnoud, pp. 287-91).

Nevertheless, individual French citizens continued to settle in Persia, whether in the service of the Persian government or on their own (Bélanger, II, pp. 397-99; Curzon, Persian Question I, p. 581; Farnoud, pp. 232, 238, 250, 347, 360-61, 366-71, 411, 417, 437; Qāʾem-maqāmī, 1947, p. 198; idem, 1968, pp. 199-205; Lefebvre de Bécour, fol. 69). Apart from several soldiers, they included physicians, teachers, and even financial advisers. As for the last (Naṣīrī, III, p. 212; Teymūrī, p. 49), except for the participation of several French technicians in modernizing the Tehran mint (Farnoud, p. 352; Fehrest-e asnād, pp. 88, 120), there is no available evidence of a French presence in other economic spheres. The condition of the Persian army at the end of this period (Kosogovskiĭ, tr., pp. 100, 129, 238; Pavlovich et al., tr., p. 100; Richard, pp. 44-46) shows that French soldiers employed after the third mission (Ādāmīyat, pp. 286, 431; Fehrest-e asnād, p. 120) introduced little significant change, though information on this point is uncertain.

As for the results of these secular relations between the two countries, it can be said that the profound cultural influence of France in Persia between the two revolutions was unmatched by that of any other European country. The French language was widely used, owing to the presence of French schools (Lazarist, Alliance Israélite [q.v.], etc.) and the Dār al-fonūn; Persian aristocrats who had studied in France (in the 19th century this included the majority of young Persians sent to Europe, including more than 90 percent of those with diplomas in military science); and French residents in Persia, Belgians working in the customs service, newspapers published in French, and so on (Aubin, pp. 189-92; Destrée, pp. 1-374; Farnoud, pp. 384-421; Gahaffari, 1989, pp. 171-80; Maḥbūbī, Moʾassasāt, I, pp. 241, 253, 270, 320). The majority of terms related to the new sciences and administration were borrowed directly from French into Persian. For example, the regulations for the council of ministers, promulgated in 1289/1873, include the expression “the council of ministers (hayʾat-e wozarā,) which the Europeans (farangīhā) call the cabinet (kābīna),” (Tārīḵ-e bīdārī, ed. Saʿīdī Sīrjānī I, p. 149). It is not surprising then that Moḥammad-Ḥasan Khan Eʿtemād-al-Salṭana (q.v.) should have observed in 1305/1887 that “there are now four or five thousand people in Tehran with some knowledge of French” (Eʿtemād-al-Salṭana, Rūz-nāma-ye ḵāṭerāt, p. 524), and that the majority of books translated into Persian were of French origin (Balay and Cuypers, pp. 27-31; Browne, Lit. Hist. Persia IV, p. 458; Gūrān, p. 70).

Two major reasons can be cited for this profound French cultural influence in Persia. First, the French Revolution of 1789 encouraged Persian intellectuals to introduce to their compatriots the “French constitution,” though perhaps in a somewhat Islamic garb (Hairi, p. 32); and as Abu’l-Ḥasan Ḡaffārī points out, Montesquieu’s L’esprit des lois was the sacred book of Persian reformers (Ḡaffārī,1989, p. 15). The second was the noninterference of the French in Persian political and economic affairs, in contrast to the interventions of the British and Russians, which caused resentment among the Persians.

This profound cultural influence inspired the notion that French influence was equally profound in other domains, though, according to some sources, there were hardly any successful administrative or military reforms in 19th-century Persia, whether owing to French or any other influence (Sykes, History of Persia, II, p. 376). This view is certainly exaggerated. There was, for example, considerable progress in the practice of medicine and establishment of sanitary institutions by such Frenchmen as Doctor Joseph Désiré Tholozan (Farnoud, pp. 370-71). Nevertheless, even those who believe that the reforms were successful consider them to have been only superficial (Floor, p. 125). While awaiting more detailed examination of contemporary newspapers, travel accounts, chronicles, and archives of both France and Persia, as well as of other countries, it must be admitted that between the two revolutions mentioned above, France did not have a great influence on the Persian army and administration. Such influence must be sought in the period after the Constitutional Revolution in Persia.

The factors that originally hindered Franco-Persian contacts were varied and complex: British and Russian opposition and the obstacles they placed in the path toward reforms in Persia; French indifference after the reign of Napoleon I; Persian disappointment at this indifference, especially after 1871; the dubious legitimacy of the Persian government and its failure to persevere in reform on several fronts; difficulties posed by those whose interests were threatened by reform; rigid anti modernist traditions and customs; the fact that the experts were not Muslims; recruitment of advisers from foreign countries, and finally instability in the priorities for reform.


F. Ādāmīyat, Andīša-ye taraqqī wa ḥokūmat-e qānūn, Tehran, 1351 Š./1973.

E. Aubin, La Perse d’aujourd’hui: Iran, Mésopotamie, Paris, 1908.

C. Balay and M. Cuypers, Aux sources de la nouvelle persane, Paris, 1983.

Ch. Bélanger, Voyage aux Indes orientales par le nord de l’Europe, les provinces du Caucase, la Géorgie, l’Arménie et la Perse (1825-29), 7 vols, Paris, 1834-38.

E. Boré, Correspondances et mémoires d’un voyageur en Orient, 2 vols, Paris, 1840.

J. Calmard, “Les réformes militaires sous les Qâjâr (1794-1925),”in Y. Richard, ed., Entre l’Iran et l’Occident: adaptation et assimilation des idées et techniques occidentales en Iran,Paris, 1989, pp. 17-42.

H. Dehérain, “L’oeuvre scientifique française en Syrie et en Perse au 17ème siècle,” in G Hanotaux and A. Martineau, eds., Histoire des colonies françaises et de l’expansion de la France dans le monde III, Paris, 1932, pp. 255-308.

L. Dehghan Nayeri, “Histoire des relations économiques franco-iraniennes (1847-1914),” Ph.D. diss., Université de Paris-VII, 1981.

A. Destrée, Les fonctionnaires belges au Service de la Perse, 1898-1914, Acta Iranica 13, Teheran and Liège, 1976.

ʿAbd-al-Razzāq Beg Donbolī (Maftūn), Maʾāṯer al-solṭānīya, ed. Ḡ.-Ḥ. Ṣadrī-Afšār, Tehran, 1351 Š./1972.

E. Driault, La politique orientale de Napoléon, Sébastiani et Gardane, 1806-1808, Paris, 1904.

G. Drouville, G., Voyage en Perse pendant les années 1812 et 1813, 2 vols., St. Petersburg, 1819. 2nd. ed., Paris, 1825.

K. Eṣfahānīān and Q. Rowšanī, eds., Majmūʿa-ye asnād wa madārek-e Farroḵ Ḵān Amīn-al-Dawla, 3 vols., Tehran, 1346-57 Š./1967-78.

Moḥammad-Ḥasan Khan Eʿtemād-al-Salṭana, Merʾāt-al-boldān I, ed. ʿA. Navāʾī and M. H. Moḥaddeṯ, Tehran, 1367 Š./1988.

M. Farnoud, “Rapports entre l’Iran et l’Europe: les conseillers européens en Iran au XIXe siècle,” Thèse du 3e cycle, Université de Picardie, 1982.

Fehrest -e asnād-e qadīmī-e Wezārat-e omūr-e ḵāreja, Tehran, 1371 Š./1992.

E. Flandin, and P. Coste, Voyage en Perse, 2 vols. and atlas in 6 vols., Paris, 1851-54.

W. Floor, “Change and Development in the Judicial System of Qajar Iran (1800-1925),” in C. E. Bosworth and C. Hillenbrand, eds., Qajar Iran: Political, Social and Cultural Change, 1800-1925, Edinburgh, 1983, pp. 113-47.

A. de Gardane, ed., Mission du Général Gardane en Perse sous le premier empire: documents historiques publiés par son fils, Paris, 1865, pp. 43, 81-94.

P.-A. de Gardane, Journal d’un voyage dans la Turquie d’Asie et la Perse, fait en 1807 et 1808, Paris, 1809.

S. Ghaemmaghami, “Les relations diplomatiques franco-iraniennes au XIXe siècle,” Ph.D. diss., Université de Paris, 1958.

A. Ghaffari (A. Ḡaffārī), “Les relations franco-persanes (1896-1915),” Ph.D. diss., Université de Paris I, 1978.

Idem Tārīḵ-e rawābet-e Īrān wa Farānsa az terror-e Naṣer-al-Dīn Shah tā jang-e jahānī-ye awwal (1313-1333), Tehran, 1368 Š./1989.

A. de Gobineau, Correspondance entre le comte de Gobineau et le comte de Prokesch-Osten (1854-1876), 6th ed., Paris, 1933, pp. 157-58, 234, 247.

Idem, Les dépêches diplomatiques du comte de Gobineau en Perse, ed. A. D. Hytier, Geneva, 1959.

H. Gūrān, Kūšeš-hā-ye nāfarjām, Tehran, 1360 Š./1981.

A. H. Hairi, Shīʿism and Constitutionalism in Iran, Leiden, 1977.

V. A. Kosogovskiĭ, Iz tegeranskogo dnevnika polkovnika V. A. Kosogovskogo, ed. G. M. Petrov, Moscow, 1960; tr. A. Jalī as Ḵāṭerāt-e Kolonel Kāsākofeskī, 2nd ed., Tehran, 2535=1355 Š./1976.

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M. Pavlovich, V. Tarya, and S. Iranski, tr. M. Hūšyār as Seh maqāla dar bāra-ye enqelāb-e mašrūṭa-ye Īrān, 3rd ed., Tehran, 1357 Š./1978.

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Idem, “Relations militaires franco-iranienes au XIXe siècle,” Ph.D. diss., Université de Paris, 1968.

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C. de Voogd, “Les Français en Perse (1805-1809),” Stud. Ir. 10, 1981, pp. 247-68.

D. Wright, “Sir John Malcolm and the Order of the Lion and Sun,” Iran 17, 1979, pp.135-41.


The French Revolution inspired many generations of Persian commentators who described it directly or obliquely in terms of what they regarded as its salient characteristics such as sedition (fetna), corruption (fesād), a general disturbance by the populace (balwā-ye ʿāmm), insurrection (šūreš), the great revolution (enqelāb-e ʿaẓīm), and the great revolution (enqelāb-e kabīr; Rouhbakhshan, p. 24, p. 29; Tawakkolī-Ṭarqī, pp. 411-12). In later decades, some reformist writers cited the French Revolution as an illustration of a historical precedent in their endeavors to reform the state (dawlat), to empower the people (mellat), and to imagine a constitutionally-based Persia.

One of the earliest accounts of the French revolution is given in Mīr ʿAbd-al-Laṭīf Khan Šūštarī’s Toḥfat al-ʿālam (1799), which expressed alarm at Napoleon ’s invasion of Egypt (1798) and the prospect of a French expansion into India. This contemporary concern motivated Šūštarī’s synoptic account of modern European history, which included an account of the Reformation in England and what he regarded as the English success in demoting the status of the clergy and promoting those of philosophers and scientists. Šūštarī went on to observe that “the God-forsaken nation of France has gone beyond this stage ….” Recounting the situation that led to the French Revolution, he remarked, "Ten years ago the people became fed up with the oppression of the king and requested a parliament and an English way of governance. The king refused, and ordered the execution of many people, guilty and innocent alike. The masses revolted and killed the king and his wife and children. The tradition of local warlords (molūk al-ṭawāʾefī) became widespread and sedition and corruption ensued. This resulted in war and dispute between the French people and the British and other kingdoms, and immeasurable blood was shed amongst them.” Šūstarī’s account, like many later reports by the architects of the New Order (Neẓām-e Jadīd), terminated with a discussion of the rise and military achievements of Napoleon Bonaparte, “who is the exemplar of the epocy (yegana-ye rūzgār) in bravery and courage” (Šūštarī, p. 255-56).

Another important early Persian reflection on the French Revolution was the Masīr-e ṭalebī (1219/1804) of Mīrzā Abū Ṭaleb Khan Laknawī Eṣfahānī, who visited France in 1802. Reflecting on the military conflicts between France and England that took place during his travel to Europe, Mīrzā Abū Ṭāleb wrote, “When the monarch is sovereign but is not wise, the people suffer …. Thirteen years ago … the people of France became fed up with the king’s agents and began to protest. Their goal was to steer the kingdom’s form of governance (naqša-ye rīāsat) towards a British model. The King and the nobility procrastinated and ignored these pleadings. After two years of passive complaints, the French subjects assembled everywhere and prevented some governors from meddling in the affairs of the kingdom. At this juncture, the inattentive king and the nobility woke up from the slumber of ignorance and sought to appease the people by inviting them to the capital for consultation on the pattern of government. Strengthened by their solidarity, the rebellious mob (ahl-e balwā), went beyond their original demands and called for the establishment of a republic” (Abū Ṭāleb Khan, pp. 287-88). After enumerating the privileges that were to be taken away from the king, the nobility, and the military, Mīrzā Abū Ṭāleb reported, “The king refused to accept these demands and ordered the arrest and imprisonment of the mob. They resisted and many were killed. Then, the remaining subjects of the kingdom of France became united and declared an uprising. The courtiers, because of their extreme caution and love of ease, extricated themselves, their wives, children, and belongings from imminent danger and escaped to different places, particularly to England. The king was arrested. Most of the troops joined the rebels. Consequently, they grew in strength and in the year 1793 the king and his wife were executed and his son was imprisoned …. Thus, a great revolution (enqelāb-e ʿaẓīm-ī) occurred in France; the strong became weak, and the weak became strong. In accordance with the laws of the republic, the people elected representatives (ahl-e šūrā) from amongst themselves and appointed military chiefs to protect the borders.” As a model, according to Mīrzā Abū Ṭāleb, the French Revolution also made “the English, Spanish and German subjects … eager to rebel and prone to revolt” (Abū Ṭāleb Khan, pp. 288-89). Unlike Mīr ʿAbd-al-Lāṭīf Šūštarī, Mīrzā Abū Ṭāleb presented a more positive image of the French Revolution and the French people, whom he found less sensitive to adverse criticism than the British.

Mīrzā Ṣāleḥ, who was sent to study in England in 1815, provides yet another early perspective on the French Revolution. He viewed the French Revolution as a prelude to the rise of Napoleon Bonaparte. “In the year 1789,” he noted, “a general uprising occurred in France and (the people) became dissatisfied with their king, Louis XVI. First the members of the Estates General (mašwarat-ḵāna) reduced the power and influence of the king so that he was unable to make war or peace with other countries. They came to view him as obsolete, and the individuals who had been appointed and promoted by him to high positions were removed.” Their guiding principle, according to Mīrzā Ṣāleḥ, was the belief that “status and honor should be bestowed on capable and talented individuals and not upon any prattler who happens to be promoted by the king” (Mīrzā Ṣāleh Šīrāzī, p. 266-67).

In this and other early accounts, the interest in the French Revolution often converged with an interest in Napoleon, who was viewed as a natural ally against the Russians who were encroaching into the northern territories of Persia. Several accounts and biographies of Napoleon were translated or adapted into Persian and are preserved in manuscript form in the National Library (Ketāb-ḵāna-ye mellī Īrān). Other translated works focused on governmental structures, political conceptions, and the history of France. These reports and translations were important for the dissemination of knowledge about the French Revolution and popular and parliamentary forms of government. With the development of Persian journalism and a new genre of political pamphleteering in the 1860s and 1870s, the ideals of the Revolution were probed closely. Mīrzā Yūsof Khan Tabrīzī Mostašār-al-Dawla, Persia’s chargé d’affaires in Paris from 1866 to 1870, was notable amongst essayists who popularized the ideals of liberty and equality by regrounding them in Islamic textual traditions. In Yak kalama, written in Paris in 1287/1871, he viewed the Civil Code as the key to the progress and the order of Europe. Like the formulators of the French Civil Code who tried to reconcile Roman law, French common law, and the rights of man, Mostašār-al-Dawla grafted the Declaration of Rights on Islamic legal traditions. He argued that these rights are called “the rights of the people of France, but in reality they are the rights of Muslim people and all civilized societies” (Tabrīzī, pp. 64, 62-63).

In fashioning the Constitutional Revolution (1905-1909), Persian revolutionaries actively recalled the memories of the French Revolution. The principles which appeared in the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen were among the intensely debated issues in the National Consultative Assembly (Majles-e šūrā-ye mellī) established in 1906. Many of these principles were included in the Constitution of 1907 under the “Rights of the People of Persia” (ḥoqūq-e mellat-e Īrān). When Moḥammed-ʿAlī Shah refused to cooperate with the constitutionalists, he was reminded of the fate of Louis XVI. The revolutionary tribunal that ordered the hanging of anti-constitutionalists like Shaikh Fażl-Allāh Nūrī (d. 1909) was enthused by its French counterpart; so were the revolutionary institutions such as the Directory (Hayʾat-e modīra) and National Guard (Qošūn-e mellī). Ascertaining the similarities of the two revolutions, Zayn al-ʿĀbedīn Marāḡaʾī noted that “it seems that they were made from the same cast” (Marāḡaʾī, p. 561). Writing in 1906, Moḥammad-Amīn Rasūlzāda likewise observed that the patterns of the French Revolution were repeated in its Russian and Persian counterparts (Rasūlzāda, p. 35).

With the emergence of the Tudeh party and the development of a socialist political discourse, the enthusiasm for the French Revolution was condensed into and displaced by the memory of the Russian Revolution and its promise of social equality. The French Revolution was increasingly characterized as a capitalist revolution that brought to power the exploitative bourgeoisie (Malek, p. 72). Such a reading of the French Revolution became popular with Persian intellectuals of differing political persuasions, including Islamists such as ʿAlī Šarīʿatī (1973, p. 70; 1978, p. 260). For example, Moḥammad Ḵātamī, who became the president of the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1997, wrote of the French Revolution, “The point of departure for modern thought and praxis, which celebrated its final victory during the French Revolution was freedom (āzādī); but this freedom was not for all. It implied the freedom of a class that based its power not on land-ownership but on mobile wealth and free exchange and commerce” (dād o setad-e āzād; Ḵātamī, p. 252).

In recent years, a new interpretation of the French Revolution has appeared in political debates in Persia. To counter the ulema’s claim of being the guardians of the people, some Persian Shiʿite intellectuals, such as ʿAbd-al-Karīm Sorūš, have been echoing Kantian phraseology to propound ideas expressed in the literature of the Enlightenment. In “Jorʿat-e dānestan dašta bāš” (Be bold enough to learn), Sorūš argued that the notion of liberty during the French Revolution was not confined to legal and political freedom. “It meant much more than that; it meant liberty from sanctities” (wa ān āzādī az moqaddasāt būd; Sorūš, p. 36).


Abū Ṭāleb Khan, Masīr-e ṭālebī fī belād-e afranjī, ed. Ḥ. Ḵadīv Jam as Masīr-e ṭālebī yā safar-nāma-ye Mīrzā Abū Ṭāleb Ḵān, Tehran, 1363 Š./1984.

H. Algar, Mirza Malkum Khan: A Biographical Study in Iranian Modernism. Berkeley, Calif., 1973.

ʿA-A. Dehḵodā, “Do kalama ḵīānat,” Ṣur-e Esrāfīl (Tehran) 1/1, 30 May 1907.

“Ḡaflat tā kay,” Rūḥ al-qodos 17/1, 3Moḥarram 1326/6 February 1908.

R. Holtman, The Napoleonic Revolution, New York, 1967.

N. Keddie, “The French Revolution and the Middle East,” in J. Klaits and M. H. Haltzel, The Global Ramification of the French Revolution, Cambridge, 1994, pp. 140-57.

M. Ḵātamī, Az donyā-ye šahr tā šahr-e donyā: sayr-ī dar andīša-ye sīāsī-e ḡarb, Tehran, 1376/1997.

H. Malek, “Ḵoṣūṣīyāt-e mobārazāt-e ejtemāʿīdar šarāʾeṭ-e emrūzī-e Īrān,” Nāma-ye māhāna-ye mardom 1/5, 1326 Š./1947, repr. in Ḵ. Šākerī, Az sosīāl demokrāsī wa komūnīstī-e Īrān III, Stockholm, 1985, pp. 67-77.

Zayn al-ʿAbedīn Marāḡaʾī, Sīāḥat-nāma-ye Ebrāhīm Beg yā balā-ye taʿaṣṣob-e ū, ed. M-ʿA. Sepānlū, Tehran, 1364 Š./1985.

A.-M. Movassaghi, “La ‘grande’ Révolution vue par des étudiants iraniens,” Luqmān 5/2 1989, pp. 31-40.

M. A. Rasūlzāda, “Enqelāb dar Īrān,” Eršād, no. 145, 21 June 1906, repr. in idem, Gozārešhā-ye az enqelāb-e mašrūṭīyat-e Īrān, Tehran, 1377/1998, pp. 34-37.

A. Rouhbakhshan (Rūḥbaḵšān), “La Révolution Française dans quelques récits de voyage persans au début du XIXe siècle,” Luqmān 5/2, 1989, pp. 21-30; tr. as “Noḵostīn ašnāʾī-e Īrānīān bā enqelāb-e Farānsa,” Našr-e dāneš 9/4, 1367 Š./1989, pp. 4-11.

ʿA. Šarīʿatī, Ḵod-sāzī-e enqelābī, Tehran, 1352 Š./1973.

Idem, Bāzgašt, Tehran, 1357 Š./1978.

Mīrzā Ṣāleḥ Šīrāzī, Gozāreš-e safar-e Mīrzā Ṣāleḥ Šīrāzī Kāzerūnī, ed. H. Šahīdī, Tehran 1362 Š./1983.

ʿA.-K. Sorūš, “Jorʿat-e dānestān dašta bāš: barrasī-e maktab-e līberalīsm az āḡāz to kanūn,” Āʾīna-ye andīša 1, 1369/1990, pp. 34-41.

ʿAbd-al-Laṭīf Khan Šūštarī, Toḥfat al-ʿālam wa ḏayl al-toḥfa, ed. S. Mowaḥḥed, Tehran, 1363 Š./1984.

Mīrzā Yūsof Khan Tabrīzī, Resāla-ye mawsūm ba yak kalama, Paris, 20 Ḏu’l-qaʾda 1287/23 February, 1871.

M. Tawakkolī Ṭarqī (Tavakoli-Targhi), “Aṯar-e āgāhī az enqelāb-e Farānsa dar šakl-gīrī-e angāra-ye mašrūṭīyat dar Īrān,” Īrān-nāma 8, 1990, pp. 411-39.


The Diplomatic context and the French presence.The accession of the Safavids rekindled Persia’s political and religious conflict with the Turks, inducing Shah Esmāʿil to enter relations with the West. As a result the Persians became enemies of their co-religionists, the Turks, and the potential allies of the Christians. Meanwhile, modern nations were being established in Europe, and the formidable House of Austria was being consolidated. The threat from Austria provoked François I of France to form an alliance with the Ottoman Sultan Süleyman, whose rapidly expanding empire imperiled Italy and Germany. While the Italian cities and Spain entered into diplomatic relations with Persia at a very early date (Bacqué-Grammont, pp. 128-45), this was not true of France, despite an abortive attempt, namely the dispatch in 1626 of Louis Deshayes de Courmenin to the court of Shah ʿAbbās I (cf. J. F. X. Rousseau). The early 17th century also witnessed the great missionary upsurge in France (“L’éveil missionnaire de la France,” Guennou, p. 21). In 1626, the Capuchin Father Pacifique de Provins was sent to the Persian court to replace Deshayes (see CAPUCHINS IN PERSIA). Diplomatic relations between France and Persia were thus initiated by monks, leading to constant interaction between the new politico-diplomatic system and the traditional religious one. Meanwhile the French East India Company (Compagnie des Indes), for which Persia formed a kind of half-way house, as founded in 1664. But wars in Europe (1667, 1672), blunders, and bad luck thwarted all French endeavors. Franco-Persian relations did no therefore start until 1626, and completely changed after the fall of the Safavids (see FRANCE ii. Relations with Persia to 1789).

The French presence in Persia from 1601 to 1730 can thus be summarized as follows (detailed table, Touzard, pp. 50-52):

A – 1601-1620: early travelers phase, with Henri de Feynes.

B – 1626: pseudo-diplomatic phase, with Deshayes de Courmenin.

C – 1627-1664: religious phase, initiated by Father Pacifique de Provins, punctuated by three travelers: Tavernier, La Boullaye Le Gouz, Poullet.

D – 1664-1671: commercial phase, punctuated by two clergymen, Ange de saint-Joseph and Msgr. François Picquet.

E – 1672-169: religious phase.

F – 1698-1739: commercial and diplomatic phase, with Billon de Canserille and the appointment of consuls in Isfahan and Shiraz.

Social status, profession and destination of travelers. The data below is confined to those authors whose accounts were published in their own century.

A) In the 17th century, 14 monks: 6 between 1624 and 1664, i.e. 4 Capuchins, 1 Carmelite, 1 Jesuit; and 8 between 1664 and 1700: 1 Capuchin, 1 Carmelite, 4 Jesuits, 2 priests of foreign missions; 6 travelers: 1 at the beginning of the century and 5 between 1656 and 1667; 4 merchants between 1630 and 1672; 1 diplomat in 1626; 1 scholar in 1670.

B) In the 18th century, 6 monks: 1 Carmelite, 5 Jesuits; 1 merchant; 3 diplomats.

We can distinguish between, on the one had, those bound for Persia itself as their destination, who included 13 monks, 3 travelers, 4 merchants, and 4 diplomats; and, on the other hand, those who were bound for the Far East: 3 travelers and 1 merchant. Monks thus formed a clear majority: Capuchins in the 17th century, and Jesuits in the 18th. Travelers and merchants were almost exclusively present in the 17th century, especially between1664 and 1672, from which date their numbers appear to diminish. The only diplomat arriving in the 17th century failed in his mission, and the three arriving in the 18th century were only partially successful. Pétis de la Croix alone was sent on a scientific mission. Another noteworthy traveler, Joseph Pitton de Tournefort, went as far as Armenia and Georgia in 1700 (pp. 300-12).

Itineraries. Among the clerics, only two describe their outward itinerary: the Jesuits Pére Phillippe Avril (1685) and Pére Jacques Villotte (1730). Since the route to China via the Cape of Good Hope was dangerous and the route through Russia was trammeled by the “jalousie” of the Muscovites (Villotte, p. 3), Pére Villotte was instructed to open another route through Turkey, Persia, and Tartary (i.e. Central Asia). Six travelers mention their main stages only: Father Pacifique de Provins (1626), Philippe de la St. Trinité (1629), Alexandre de Rhodes (1648), Carré de Chambon (1671), Ange de Saint Joseph (1664), and Msgr. François Picquet (1682). The other tweleve do not mention them (cf. Arch. Miss. Etr., vol. 351 and 353).

After the great endeavor of reaching their destinations, the missionaries stayed in the places where their monastic orders had been established. They also promptly introduced themselves at the court in Isfahan to obtain raqams (edicts) for their missions. Their attempts to establish contacts with Persians were often hindered by the preponderant presence of their own co-religionist rivals, the Armenians. The surviving accounts by the diplomats limit themselves to a description of their mission. Deshayes de Courmenin’s travel account was written by his secretary. As for 18th-century accounts, they remain unpublished in the archives. Merchants and travelers, however, described their itineraries. The social status and profession of the authors hence played an important part in both the manner and matter and the content of their narrative. Tavernier, for example, was interested in currency and exchange rates, customs duties and local taxes, but disregarded the ruins of Troy.

The twelve travelers who described their journeys, some of whom, particularly Jean-Baptiste Tavernier, Gilles Fermanel (pp. 26-40), and Pére Jacques Villotte (pp. 641-47), provide a systematic account, which enables us to establish several typical itineraries.

1- From Paris to Isfahan. Travelers arrived in Persia by three routes.

Via Muscovy came, e.g. Pére Philippe Avril and Etienne Padery. Tavernier mentions the stages from Warsaw, via Lublin, Akerman, Kaffa, then the Black Sea as far as Trebizond. Some came from the opposite direction, from Šamāḵi to Moscow via Dband, Astrakhan, and the Volga as far as Saratov, whence the land route was resumed. Another route was via Egypt and Turkey, from Venice (Tavernier) via Alexandria, Cairo, Damietta, Jaffa, Jerusalem, Damascus and Baghdad; from Marseilles (Villotte) via Annaba (Bône), El Kala, Bizerta, Cape Bon, the Gulf of Sidra, Ios, Chios, Tenedos (Bozcaada), Abydos, Marmara and Constantinople.

The shortest but most dangerous route lay directly from France via Turkey, both because of political tensions between Persia and Turkey, and because of conflicts between French merchant companies. This was the most complicated and yet most frequented route.

The various possibilities were as follows: (a) by land: Deyshayes de Courmenin traveled through Strasbourg and the Black Forest, sailed down the Danube as far as Belgrade, then went by land to Sofia, Philippopolis, Adrianople, Silivri and Constantinople, and itinerary hardly accessible except in the company of an ambassador or envoy, because of possible diplomatic complications (Fermanel. p. 38). (b) By land and sea, like Tavernier, Fermanel, Poullet, and Jean Billon de Canserilles. They traveled via Venice, Ancona, Ragusa, and along the Dalmatian coast to Durazzo, then by land: Albanopolis, Monastir, Sofia, Philippopolis, Adrianople, and Constantinople. (c) By sea, like Jean de Thévenot, the easiest way according to Fermanel (p. 26), but dangerous owing to pirates often lying in wait between Crete and Morea. Possibilities included sailing from Venice to Morea, Cape Matapan, and the Archipelago; or from Marseilles, between Elba and Italy, past the Messina lighthouse or north of Sardinia and Sicily, or else south of Corsica towards Malta, which could also be reached via Livorno, Naples, the Straits of Messina and Syracuse. Travelers could then reach Constantinople, Smyrna or Aleppo. Five travelers landed at Constantinople. Four only passed it on their return trip: Daulier-Deslandes, Father Avril, Abbé Martin Gaudereau, Billon de Canserilles. Seven travelers, Tavernier, Father Ange de Saint-Joseph, La Boullaye Le Gouz, Jean Chardin, Ange de Gardane, and Villotte landed in Smyrna before sailing to Constantinople. Seven travelers, Henri de Feynes, Tavernier, Pétis de la Croix, Pacifique de Provins, Philippe de la St. Trinité, Avril, and Msgr. François Picquet landed at Aleppo, which was reached from Malta via the Archipelago or Larnaka, Payas, and Alexandria.

Isfahan could be reached: (a) from Constantinople via Izmit, Tosya, Amasya, Tokat, Erzerum, Hasan Kala, Echmiadzin, Yerevan and Tabriz; (b) from Smyrna via Durgut, Alašehir, Mucur, Tokat, and thence on the preceding route; and (c) from Aleppo, Tavernier mentions five different routes (book 2, ch. III, p. 129): (1) “the great desert route” used by the caravans once a year, via Anah, Kufa, Basra, Bandar Rig, Shiraz and Dez Gerd (“la route du grand desert,” Tavernier, vol. I, bk. 2, ch. iii, p. 129); (2) the road through Mesopotamia and Syria; (3) the one from Diārbakr and Van to Tabriz; (4) the shorter way t Tabriz, via Birecik, Urfa, Diārbakr, Cizre, and Salmās; and (5) passing through the “little desert” and Kangāvar (“le petit desert,” ibid., ch. v, p. 256).

2 – Via the Far East. Alexandre de Rhodes (1648) (p. 312), François Bernier (1667), and Carré de Chambon (1671) visited Persia from the opposite direction, as it were, since their first destination was the Far East. All three traveled from Surat to Bandar ʿAbbās.

3 – Inside Persia: Isfahan – Qazvin for Pacifique de Provins, who followed the court. From Šamāḵi to Isfahan for Jean-Baptiste de la Maze and Villotte, who also went from Isfahan to Tabriz, then Yerevan. Tavernier traveled from Kerman to Isfahan via Yazd, and from Mosul to Isfahan via Hamadan. La Boullaye Le Gouz went from Tabriz to Lār, via Kāšān and Isfahan. Philippe de la St. Trinité took a boat from Basra to India, Thévenot sailed down the Tigris from Mosul to Baghdad, and Chardin and Daulier-Deslandes went from Isfahan to Bandar Abbās via Shiraz and Lār.

Traveling conditions and means of transportation. Caravans served for Feynes (p. 16, 39-40), Tavernier (bk. I, ch. x, p. 96), Daulier-Deslandes (p. 16), Poullet (I, p. 43; II, p. 35), La Boullaye Le Gouz (vol. i, ch. 25, p. 60), Villotte. The caravanserais (Feynes, pp. 39-40), which were the usual stopping places between stages, were the objects of frequent and detailed descriptions. Thévenot drove a bargain with a Turk who took him to Mosul and Baghdad. Fermanel relied on Arab guides from Aleppo on. Carré de Chambon and Chardin traveled with a private escort. In his capacity as a chaplain, Father de la Maze was attached to the suite of an ambassador sent by the king of Poland to Shah Solṭān Ḥosayn (La Maze, vol. iii, p. 478). Horses, mules, and camels were the usual modes of transport for the caravans (Tavernier, bk i, ch. xi, p. 106), the camel-litter (kajāva) if need be (La Maze, p. 423; Chardin, vol. iii, p. 252; Thévenot, vol. iii, ch. xiv, p. 217). Wooden bridges (La Maze, pp. 414, 417, 422) or stone bridges, very well built (La Maze, pp. 405, 427, 443, 447; Pacifique de Provins, p. 392), fords (La Maze, vol. iii, pp. 413, 415, 422), floating bridges (Feynes, p. 30), or the kelek (rafts on goatskins) (Tavernier, vol. ii, ch. vii, p. 185), Feynes, (pp. 13-16, 30, 35), Thévenot I, p. 196) are mentioned as communication routes and structures in travelogues.

Portrayal and perception of Persia.On their way, the travelers described the geography of the country. La Maze (pp. 53-113), for example, wrote a little treatise on the geography of Gilān, including a map. Some narrated the history: the ancient history of Georgia (Chardin, vol. I, p. 122), that of the kings of Armenia (Villotte, pp. 561-77), and that of the Empire of the Persians by Philippe de la Sainte-Trinité (“De l’Empire des Persans,” bk. 2, p. 94). Contemporary history, i.e., events personally witnessed by the authors or heard through local sources include: the arrival in 1906 of Shah ʿAbbās, who came to celebrate his victory over the Ottoman army near Lake Urmia (9 September 1605; Feynes, pp. 50-55); the incursion into Persia of the army of the Ottoman grand vizier (Philippe de la Sainte-Trinité, bk. i, ch. 8, p. 39) and the siege of Baghdad in 1630 (Fermanel, p. 280); the reconquest of the city by Murad IV in 1638 (La Boullaye Le Gouz, vol. ii, ch. lv, p. 325); the loss and recapture of Yerevan in 1634 (Tavernier, bk. i, p. 32); Chardin, in 1672, witnessed the revolt of the Abḵāzins (I, p. 83, see ABḴĀZ). Villotte returned in 1708 with the envoy Michel and observed the “revolution” of the Afghans led by Mir Ways (“Miriveiz,” Villotte, p. 67). Father Bachoud, on 25 September 1721 (Nouveaux mémoires, vol. iv, p. 113) reported the revolt fomented among the Lazgis by Fatḥ-ʿAli Khan Dāḡestāni (q.v., Padery, AMAE, CP Persia, fol. 259 sq.).

Persia was sometimes described in pairs of paradoxical terms, such as the familiar and the marvelous. The readers was led from the well known to the unknown, hence the frequent comparisons between the cities of Persia and those of France (Feynes, pp. 11, 43, 62, 63; La Boullaye Le Gouz, bk. ii, ch. lix, p. 336), or between Yerevan and the surroundings of Vaux (Tavernier, bk. i, p. 30). The maydān of Isfahan reminds Daulier-Deslandes (p. 24) and Father Pacifique (p. 390) of the Place Royale in Paris. The latter compares the courts of the two countries (p. 401). Yet there was also pure amazement at unfamiliar sights and customs (Fermanel, p. 273): the city walls (Pacifique, p. 390), houses, public buildings (Daulier-Deslandes, pp. 21-22), gardens, irrigation schemes (Pacifique de Provins, p. 391; Daulier-Deslandes, p. 47). Shiraz won the admiration of Daulier-Deslandes (pp. 66-71), Feynes (p. 62), and Chardin (vol. iii, p. 140). The maydān and its sights impressed Feynes (p. 49), Villotte (p. 501), Daulier-Deslandes (p. 23). Equally startling was the administration of justice (Feynes, p. 42; Pacifique, p. 393; Daulier-Deslandes, p. 8, Villotte, p. 506), and even more so the splendor of the court at the receptions attended by Feynes (pp. 48-53), Pacifique (p. 264), Daulier-Deslandes (pp. 31-2). Father Sanson (pp. 47-108) provides a long description of their grandeur. Archaeological sites such as Persepolis and Naqš-e Rostam were especially admired by Philippe de la Sainte-Trinité (p. 103), Daulier-Deslandes (pp. 55-65) and Chardin (vol. iii, pp. 99-139) who provides a detailed description of them, complete with drawings.

Some writers recourse to literary perceptions from the Classics. The French were all well-versed in classical authors, both Greek and Latin. Carré compared the Persian feasts with those of the ancient Greeks (p. 194) or with biblical and Christian legends. While at Babylon, Pacifique (p. 248) and Villotte (p. 382 ff.) thought they had found the earthly paradise (p. 56); Philippe de la Sainte-Trinité (p. 87), La Boullaye Le Gouze (book II, ch. LV, p. 324) and Feynes saw Bisotun (q.v.) as a procession of the Blessed Sacrement (pp. 70-71). Daulier-Deslandes (p. 63) and Philippe de la Sainte-Trinité (bk. ii, ch. x, p. 103) called Persepolis a Roman monument.

Travelers often quoted or plagiarized their predecessors, or else, on the contrary, tried to differentiate themselves from them. Indeed the authors often met, when their dates and itineraries happened to coincide. Villotte (p. 16) and Lucas; Thévenot and d’Herbelot, Daulier-Deslandes (letter, p. iii), and Tavernier; Daulier-Deslandes (pp. 32-33) and Raphaël du Mans, and (pp. 65-66) Thévenot; Thévenot (Book IV, ch. VI, p. 491) and Tavernier; Alexandre de Rhodes (p. 314) and La Boullaye-Le-Gouz at Isfahan, Poullet (vol. I, p. 218) and Gabriel de Chinon at Tabriz. Chardin quotes almost all his predecessors, perhaps implying that the French felt at home in Persia.

The issue of fresh discovery and the prospect of colonization were not entirely absent. There were apparently some commercial prospects for French investors, as implied by Feynes (p. 44; pp. 60-61) in his views on the country’s economy and by Tavernier in the course of his journeys. Daulier-Deslandes observed the silk trade carried on by the Armenians in Tabriz (p. 14), and the fur trade at Sāva (p. 17). Even the monks, Pacifique de Provins (p. 403), Philippe de la Sainte-Trinité (bk. ii, ch. xii), and Villotte (p. 528) took an interest in trade. But the French merchants had to avoid taking too many risks. Feynes (p. 42) and Daulier-Deslandes (p. 8) praised the security on the roads for foreigners, and Tavernier the safety of the caravans (bk. I, ch. x, p. 96). Pacifique de Provins (pp. 402-3), Daulier-Deslandes (p. 30), and Sanson (p. 3) mention the warm reception reserved for the French by Shah ʿAbbās I, Shah ʿAbbās II and Shah Solṭān- Ḥosayn.

Shiʿism and broadened notions of Christianity. Philippe de la Sainte-Trinité (bk. vi, ch. iii, p. 322), felt that he was on favorable religious terrain. The writers all devoted at least one chapter to religion (Feynes, p. 57; La Boulaye Le Gouze, bk. i, ch. xlii, p. 106; Villotte, p. 513) and presented the Persians in a favorable light. Tavernier said that between Yeravan and Tabriz, almost all the inhabitants were Christians (ch. iii, pp. 31-32). Feynes (p. 68), Philippe de la Sainte-Trinité (bk. vi, p. 322), Alexandre de Rhodes (3rd pt., pp. 318-19) and Daulier-Deslandes (p. 53) emphasized the religious tolerance of Shah ʿAbbās I, Shah ʿAbbās II and their subjects, who were thus “very prone to be converted” (Philippe de la Sainte-Trinité, bk. vi, p. 324). And then there were the Armenians. Tavernier (bk. i, p. 37), Poullet (pp. 85-86; pp. 139-145), La Boullaye Le Gouz (bk. i, ch. xxxii), Daulier-Deslandes (pp. 47-51), and Philippe de la Sainte-Trinité (bk. v, p. 298) devote many pages or chapters to them. It should be borne in mind that the missionaries were in effect appointed by the pope, who was using them for his policy of alliances against the Turks (Philippe de la Sainte-Trinité, bk. i, p. 41). This traditional view came into a conflict with a new emerging perception of the balance of powers in the 15th century when the kings of France began to regard the Turks as potential allies against the House of Austria.

Conclusion. Failure was a constant factor in Franco-Persian relations. The problem must partly have lain in the fact that instead of consistent diplomatic missions, these relations were initiated by men of the cloth, for whom proselytizing was the primary incentive (cf. A. H. Hairi, p. 151), and by merchants with increasingly colonial attitudes.

Plate 1. The Capuchin Father Pacifique de Provins

Figure 1. The Capuchin Father Pacifique de Provins.Figure 1. The Capuchin Father Pacifique de Provins.

Plate 2. Jean-Baptiste Tavernier

Figure 2. Jean-Baptiste Tavernier.Figure 2. Jean-Baptiste Tavernier.

Plate 3. Pétis de la Croix

Figure 3. Pétis de la Croix.Figure 3. Pétis de la Croix.

Plate 4. Jean de Thévenot

Figure 4. Jean de Thévenot.Figure 4. Jean de Thévenot.

Plate 5. Jean Chardin

Figure 5. Jean Chardin.Figure 5. Jean Chardin.

Plate 6. François Pallu

Figure 6. François Pallu.Figure 6. François Pallu.

Plate 7. François Picquet

Figure 7. François Picquet.Figure 7. François Picquet.


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J. Guennou, Les Missions Etrangères de Paris, Paris, 1986.

A-H. Hairi, “Reflections on the shiʿi responses to missionary thought and activity in the Safavid period,” in J. Calmard, ed., Études Safavides, Paris-Tehran, 1993, pp. 151-64.

M. P. Jaktāji, Fehrest-e towṣifi-ye safar-nāma-hā-ye farānsavi mowjud dar ketābḵāna-ye melli-ye Irān, 1356 Š./ 1977.

L. Lockhart, The Fall of the Ṣafavi Dynasty and the Afghan Occupation of Persia, Cambridge, 1958.

F. Richard, “L’apport des missionaires européenes à la connaissance de l’Iran en Europe et de l’Europe en Iran,” in J. Calmard, ed., Études Safavides, Paris-Tehran, 1993, pp. 251-66.

M. Ṣabā, Bibliographie française de l’Iran, Tehran, 1966.

M. Schwab, Bibliographie de la Perse, Paris, 1875.

A-M. Touzard, “Image de la Perse. Thématique des titres des récits de voyages français en Perse, publiés entre 1600 et 1730,” Studia Iranica 26/1, 1997, pp. 47-110.

The bibliography below is mostly based on the extensive bibliography of this article, which should be referred to for further information and reference to second and later editions of the works cited. G. de Vaumas, L’éveil missionnaire de la France au XVIIe siècle, Paris, 1959 (excellent bibliography). A. T. Wilson, A Bibliography of Persia, Oxford, 1930.

Primary sources: Anonymous works. L’entrée solennelle faicte à Rome aux ambassadeurs du roy de Perse, le cinquiesme avril 1601. Envoyez à N. S. Père le Pape pour contracter ligue contre le Turc et moyenner la réduction de son royaume à la religion catholique, apostolique et romaine, tr. from Italian version printed in Rome, Paris, 1601.

Lettre écrite d’Ispahan à Alep le 26 Mars sur la Bataille de Gulnabat, Gazette de Hollande, 18 August 1722.

Lettre sur l’investissement de cette première ville (Ispahan) et sur la taxe imposée à Julfa, Gazette de France, 22 August 1722.

Mémoire sur la Dernière Révolution de Perse jusqu’à la fin de l’année 1724, AMAE (Archives of the Ministère des Affaires Etrangères), CP (Correspondance Politique) Perse, vol. vi, fol. 341-70, memoir, based on another by Joseph Apisalaimian, attached to a letter of Vicomte d’Andrezel, Constantinople, 8 August 1725.

Extraite d’une Lettre du Constantinople à M…, le 28 Janvier 1727, Mercure de France, March 1727.

Suite des Révolutions de Perse. Nouvelles de Perse écrites de Zulpha le 29 Août1727, Paris, 1727.

Suite des Révolutions de Perse, extrait d’une Lettre d’Ispahan, du 1er Mai 1729, Paris, 1729.

Relation de la Suite des Révolutions de l’Armée de Perse sur les Turcs par le Sophi de Perse, Paris, n.d., but ca. 1730.

Works by known authors. Alexandre de Rhodes, Père., Divers voyages et missions du P. Alexandre de Rhodes en la Chine et autres royaumes de l’orient avec le retour de l’auteur en Europe, par la Perse et l’Arménie, Paris, 1653.

Idem, Sommaire des divers voyages et… depuis 1618 jusques à l’année 1653, Paris, 1653.

Idem, Relation de la mission des Pères de la Cie de Jésus establie dans le royaume de Perse par le R. P. A. de Rhodes dressée et mise à jour par un Père de la mesme compagnie, Paris, 1659, cf. Machault, Paris, 1666.

Idem, Voyages en la Chine et autres royaumes de l’Orient avec retour par la Perse et l’Arménie, Paris, 1666.

Idem, Divers voyages en Chine et autres royaumes de l’orient avec le retour de l’auteur en Europe, par la Perse et l’Arménie, Paris, 1681.

Ange de Saint-Joseph, Père, (Joseph Labrosse), Lughah-yi Ferank wa Pârs / Gazophylacium linguae Persarum, Amsterdam, 1684; ed., tr. by M. Bastiaensen as Souvenirs de la Perse Safavide et autres lieux de l’Orient (1664-1678), Brussels, 1985.

Le chavalier Laurent d’Arvieux, Mémoires (Turkey and the Levant), Paris, 1735; cf. Labat. R. P. Philippe Avril, Voyages en divers états d’Europe et d’Asie entrepris pour découvrir un nouveau chemin à la Chine, Paris, 1692; tr. into Eng. and Dutch. Père Louis Bachoud, S. J., Lettre du Père Bachoud, Missionnaire de la Compagnie de Jésus en Perse, écrite de Chamakié le 25 Septembre 1721, in Père Saignes, ed., Lettres édifiantes et curieuses, vol. iv, pp. 113-24, 231-77, Paris, 1780, cf. Jesuits (a) vol. IV and (b) 4. Charles César Baudelot de Derval, Voyage du Sieur P. Lucas au Levant, Paris, 1704, vol. ii, (based on notes by Paul Lucas about his travels in the Levant), The Hague, 1705; cf. Paul Lucas. Jean Baudoin, Histoire apologétique d’Abbas, roy de Perse. tr. from the Italian of messire Pierre de la Valée, Paris, 1631.

Henri, baron de Beauvau, Relation journalière du voyage du Levant faict et descrit par Messire Henry de Beauvau baron dudit lieu et de Manonville, seigneur de Fleurville, 1 vol. in 3 parts 1608.

François Bernier, Histoire de la dernière révolution des Etats du Grand Mogol, Amsterdam, 1669.

Idem, Suite des Mémoires du sieur Bernier sur l’empire du Grand Mongol, Amsterdam, 1670.

Jean Billon de Canserilles, Mémoires à Monseigneur le Marquis de Torcy, dated 20 March 1715, AMAE, CP. Perse, vol. iv, fol. 30b-32a; reprinted in M. Herbette, Une Ambassade persane sous Louis XIV d’après des documents inédits, Paris, 1907, pp. 260-61.

Idem, Projet de Commerce pour les Français en Perse dans le Seine persique et aux Indes, AMAE, CP Perse, vol. i, fol. 33b-39a, date and author not indicated but probably by Jean Billon de Canserilles, about 1716. Idem, Commerce des Anglois en Perse, dated 15 July 1718, AMAE, CP. Perse, vol. v, fol. 184b-191a.

Mémoire sur le Commerce de Perse, n.d. but probably written about 1730, included as appendix xlix in Ch. Schefer, ed., Père Raphaël du Mans, Estat de la Perse en 1660, pp. 364-72, Paris, 1890.

Jean-Louis d’Usson, Marquis de Bonnac, Mémoire historique sur l’Ambassade de France à Constantinople, par le Marquis de Bonnac, avec un précis de ses négociations à la porte Ottomane, ed. Ch. Schefer, Paris, 1894.

R. P. Jacques de Bourges, Relation du voyage de Monseigneur l’Eveque de Béryte par la Turquie, la Perse, les Indes jusqu’au royaume de Siam, Paris, 1666.

Carre de Chambon, abbé Barthélémy, Voyage des Indes Orientales. Mêlé de plusiers Histoires curieuses, Paris, 1699; ed. and tr. by C. Fawcett as The travels of the Abbé Carré in India and the Near East, 1672 to 1674, 3 vols, London, 1948.

Père J. A. Cerceau, cf. Krusinki, (a). Jean (later Sir John) Chardin, Journal du Chevalier Chardin en Perse et aux Indes Orientales par la Mer Noire, London, 1686, (Further editions and translations in Touzard, p. 98).

François Charpentier (dean of the Académie Française), Discours d’un fidèle sujet du roi touchant l’établissement d’une Compagnie Françoise pour le commerce des Indes Orientales adressé à tous les Français, Paris 1664.

Idem, Relation de l’establissement de la Compagnie françoise pour le commerce des Indes Orientales, dédiée au Roi avec le recueil de toutes les pieces concernant le même établissement, Paris, 1665.

Jean Chesneau, Le voyage de Monsieur d’Aramon en Levant, escript par Nobel Homme Jean Chesneau, l’un des secretaries dudit Seignuer Ambassadeur, ed. Ch. Schefer, Paris, 1887.

Idem, Voyage de Paris à Constantinople, celui de Perse, avec le camp du Grand Seigneur etc…, Paris, 1759.

Louis-André de la Mamie de Clairac, Histoire des revolutions de Perse depuis le Commencement de ce siècle, 3 vols., Paris, 1750.

Louis Coulon, Mémoires, Paris, 1648.

André Daulier-Deslandes, Les Beautez de la Perse ou Description de ce qu’il y a de plus curieux dans ce Royaume, Paris, 1672.

Claude Dellon, Relation d’un voyage des Indes orientales, 3 parts in 1 vol., Paris, 1685.

Idem, Nouvelle relation du voyage fait aux Indes Orientales, Amsterdam, 1699.

Deshayes de Courmenin, Voyage de Levant fait par le commandement du Roy en l’année 1621, An account of the voyage by Des Hayes, written by his secretary, Paris, 1624; 2nd ed., 1629, to which the author had added “plusiers choses notables observées en un troisième voyage fait à Constantinople, il y a deux ans,” (further editions, Touzard p. 99).

Jean Dumont, Corps universel diplomatique de Droit des Gens: contenant un Recueil des Traitez d’Alliance, de Paix, de Trêves, de Neutralité, de Commerce, d’Echange, etc., vol. viii, pt. ii., Amsterdam and the Hague, 1731.

Gilles Fermanel, Le voyage d’Italie et du Levant, Rouen, 1664.

Idem, Observations curieuses sur le voyage du Levant fait en 1630 par Messieurs Fermanel, conseiller au Parlement de Normandie, Fauvel Maistre des Comptes, Baudouin, Sieur de Launay and Stochove, Sieur de Sainte Catherine, Gentilhomme flamand, Rouen, 1668.

Charles, Comte de Ferriol (Baron d’Argental), Correspondance du Marquis de Ferriol Ambassadeur de Louis XIV à Constantinople, avec une introduction par M. Emile Varenbergh, Anvers, 1870.

Henri de Feynes, Voyage faict par terre depuis Paris jusques à la Chine par le Sieur de Feynes; avec son retour par mer, Paris, 1630.

Jaques de la Forest Mouët de Bourgon, Relation de Perse, où l’on voit l’état de la Religion dans la plus grande partie de l’Orient, Angers, 1710.

Père Nicolas Frizon, S. J., cf. Villotte.

Père Gabriel de Chinon, Relations nouvelles du Levant ou traités de la religion, du gouvernement et des coutumes des Perses, des Arméniens et des Gaures. Avec une description particulière de l’établissement et des progréz que y font les missionaries et diverses disputes qu’ils ont eu avec les OrientauxCompozés par le P. G. D. C. C. (Père théologie), Lyon, 1671.

Agne de Gardane, Chevalier de Sainte-Croix, Nouvelles de Perse, letters sent by Ange de Gardane to Paris between 1718 and 1722, MS, AMAE, Paris, CP Perse, vol. V et VI.

Idem, Relation de la bataille des Perses avec les Arrevans, AMAE, CP Perse, vol VI, fol. 148b-153b, account sent by Ange de Gardane, who probably wrote the report. Journal, qu’Ange de Gardane, sans doute avec l’aide de Joseph Apisalaimian, écrivit par intervalles de Mars à Juillet 1722, pendant le siège d’Ispahan, MS AMAE, Paris, CP Perse, vol. vi, fol. 175-180.

Abbé Martin Gaudereau, Relation de la Mort de Schah Soliman Roy de Perse et du Couronnement de Sultan Ussain son fils, avec plusiers particularitez touchant l’état present des affaires de la Perse et le détail des Cérémonies observées à la Consécration de l’Evesque de Babylone à Zulpha les Hispahan, Paris, 1696.

Idem, Relation d’une Mission faite nouvellement par Monseigneur l’Archevesque d’Ancyre à Ispaham en Perse pour la Réunion des Arméniens à l’Eglise Catholique, Paris, 1702; a somewhat condensed version of the first part of this report forms the appendix L in Père Raphaël du Mans, Estat de la Perse en 1660, ed. Ch. Schefer, p. 373-376, Paris, 1890.

Idem, Relation de Perse, écrite par un Missionaire à un de ses Amis en France, n.p., n.d., but probably published in Paris, 1700-1702. Idem, Mémoire écrit à Amboise le 25 Janvier 1715, sur l’alliance proposée entre la France et la Perse contre Arabes de Muscat, MS, AMAE, CP Perse, vol. iii, fol. 386b-388a.

François Emmanuel de Guignard, Comte de Saint-Priest, Mémoires sur l’Ambassade de France en Turquie et sur le Commerce des Français dans le Levant, par M. le Comte de Saint-Priest, 1st pt., Paris, 1877.

Ebrāhim Müteferreqa, Tāriḵ-e Sayyāḥ dar bayān-e ẓohur-e Aghvâniyân wa sabab-e enhadām-e bena’-e dawlat-e šāhān-e Ṣafawiyān, Turkish tr. of Père du Cerceau’s recension of Kruzinski’s memoires, Istanbul, 1142/1729. cf. Kruzinski, and G. A. Kut, “Maṭba’a,”” E.I2 VI, p. 801.

Jerôme François de Saint Joseph, Père, Extrait d’une lettre écrite d’Amadan le 30 août 1725 par un Religieux Carme Déchaussé, qui étoit dans Ispaham, pendant le siège de cette derniere Ville., Mercure de France, September, 1726. Jesuits, (a) Nouveaux Mémoires des Missions de la Compagnie de Jésus, vol. III, Paris, 1723, containing the following: 1. Lettre du Père Monier, pp. 1-10; 2. Mémoire sur l’Arménie, pp. 11-126; 3. Mémoire de la mission d’Erivan, pp. 227-53; 4. Lettre du Père Ricard, du 7 Aoüt 1697, pp. 253-71; 5. Mémoire de la Mission d’Erzeron, pp. 272-314; 6. Journal du voyage du Père Monier d’Erzeron à Trébizonde, pp. 314-32; 7. Mémoire de la Province du Sirvan, pp. 333-92; 8. Journal du voyage du Père de la Maze de Chamakié à Ispahan, par la province du Guilan (169-1699), pp. 393-482.

Idem, vol. IV, Paris, 1724: Lettre du Père Bachoud, écrite de Chamakié, le 25 Septembre 1721, au Père Fleuriau, pp. 329-46.

Jesuits (b) Lettres Edifiantes et Curieuses écrites des Missions étrangères, new ed., Mémoires du Levant, vol. IV, Paris, 1780, containing the following: 1. Journal du voyage du Père Monier d’Erzeron à Trébizonde, pp. 1-13; 2. Mémoire de la Province du Sirvan, pp. 13-53; 3. Journal du voyage du Père de la Maze de Chamakié à Hispaham, par la province du Guilan, 1698, pp. 53-113; 4. Lettre du Père Bachoud, écrite de Chamakié, le 25 Septembre 1721, pp. 113-24; 5. Lettre du R. P. H. B***, Missionnaire en Perse, à M. le Comte de M****, pp. 125-168; 6. Relation historique des révolutions de Perse, sous Thamas Koulikan, jusqu’à son expédition dans les Indes; tirée de différentes lettres écrites de Perse par des Missionnaires Jésuites, pp. 169-229.

Père Judasz Tadeusz Krusinski, S.J., Histoire de la dernière Révolution de Perse, 2 vols., The Hague, 1728 (recension by Père J. A. du Cerceau, S. J., of Bechon’s Fr. tr. of Père Krusinski’s Memoirs; tr. anon. into Eng. as The history of the Late Revolutions of Persia, taken from the memoirs of Father Krusinski, Procurator of the Jesuits at Ispahan, London, 1728, and Dublin, 1729; 2nd ed., London, 1740, repr. New York, 1973.

Idem, Tāriḵ-e Sayyāḥ…, cf. Ibrāhim Müteferriqa (for further bibliographical information, including Turkish, Persian, Latin, and English translations, see Touzard, pp. 101-2; Lockhart, pp. 555-56).

Père Jean-Baptiste Labat, Mémoires du Chevalier d’Arvieux, envoyé extraordinaire du Roy à la Po rte…recüeillis de ses Memoires originaux, et mis en ordre avec des réfléxions. Par le R. P. Jean-Baptiste Labat de l’Ordre des Fréres Prêcheurs, Paris, 1735, 6 vol. in 12, vol. vi, p. 81: Histoire abrégée de Monsieur François Picquet Evêque de Césarople, Vicaire Apostolique de Babilone, et Visiteur General de la part de Sa Sainteté en Orient; vol. vi, pp. 91-105 and 123-33; letters from François Picquet to d’Arvieux, then Fr. Consul at Aleppo; vol. vi, pp. 138-58: Lettre de M. l’Evêque de Césarople Ambassadeur du Roi auprès du Roi de Perse, contenant la Relation de son arrivée en Perse, et celle du Roi des Yusbeks à Ispaham. François de La Boullaye Le Gouz, Les voyages et observations du sieur de La Boullaye Le Gouz, gentilhomme angevin, où sont décrites…, Paris, 1653; 2nd ed., “augmentée de quantité de bons advis pour ceux qui veulent voyager,” 1657 (Touzard, p. 96).

Joseph Labrosse, see Ange de Saint-Joseph. Nicolas Claude de Lalain, Letters from de Lalain and from de La Boullaye Le Gouz to the King and to M. de Lionne, AMAE, in Père Raphaël du Mans, Estat de la Perse en 1660, ed. Ch. Schefer, appendix, pp. 290-320, Paris, 1890.

Lefevre de Fontenay, Journal Historique du Voyage et des Aventures singulières de l’Ambassadeur de Perse en France, augmenté et corrigé sur de nouveaux mémoires, in Mercure Galant, special no. as supplement to the February issue, Paris, 1715. Lettres: (a) to Louis de l’Estoile, Paris, 29 October 1664, AMAE, Paris. (b) Reply from Shah Solaymān to a letter from Louis XIV, tr. from Persian by Pétis de la Croix, fils, dated 5 November, 1685, AMAE, Paris. (c) Letter in which F. Picquet describes his audience with the king, collected in Père Raphaël du Mans, Estat de la Perse en 1660, ed. Ch. Schefer, Paris, 1890, appendix, pp. 289-90 (a), pp. 340-42 (b), pp. 339-40 (c). Paul Lucas, Voyage du Sieur P. Lucas au Levant, 2 vol. 12 mo., Paris. 1704 (the 2nd vol. contains a description of Persia); Voyage du Sieur P. Lucas au Levant, ed. C. C. Baudelot de Dairval, The Hague, 1705, cf. Baudelot de Derval (further bibliography, Touzard, p. 103).

Luillier-Lagaudiers, Nouveau voyage du Sieur Luillier aux Grandes Indes, avec une instruction pour le commerce des Indes orientales, et la description de plusieurs isles villes et rivières, l’histoire des plantes et des animaux qu’on y trouve, Paris 1705, 12 mo.

Père Jacques de Machault, compiler, Relation de la mission des Père de la Compagnie de Jésus establis dans le royaume de Perse par le R. P. Alexandre de Rhodes. Dressée et mise au jour par un Père de la mesme Compagnie, Paris, 1659; tr. A. T. Wilson as “History of the mission of the Fathers of the Society of Jesus, established in Persia by the Reverend Father Alexander of Rhodes,” BSO(A)S 3/4, 1925, pp. 675-706; see also Père Alexandre de Rhodes. Dr. George Maigret (Dr. in theology and Prior of St. Augustin, Liége), Brieves relations des progrés de l’evangile au royaume des Perses en la conversion des Mores, préparation des Perses à la moisson evangélique et en la reunion des Arméniens avec l’Eglise de Rome, par les frères heremites de St. Augustin. Item les grandes conquestes du Grand Roy de Perse sur nos communs ennemis les Turcs, Liege, 1610.

François Martin de Vitré, Description du premier voyage faict aux Indes orientales par un Français, en l’an 1603 par Martin de Vitré, Paris. 1604.

Père Jean Baptiste de la Maze, S.J., Journal du Voyage du Père de la Maze de Chamaké à Hispaham (1698-99), in Nouveaux Mémoires iii, pp. 393-482; abridged as Journal du voyage du Père de la Maze de Chamakié à Ispahan, par la province du Guilan, 1698 in Lettres Edifiantes et Curieuses écrites des Missions étrangères, New ed. Memoires du Levant, vol. iv, Paris, 1780, pp. 53-112. cf. Jesuits, (a) 8; and (b) 3. Pierre Victor Michel, Mémoire du Sr. Michel sur le voyage qu’il a fait en Perse en qualité d’Envoyé extraordinaire de Sa Majesté dans les Années 1706, 1707, 1708, et 1709, Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris, MS, Fonds français, no. 7200. Claude Barthélémy Morisot, Relation d’un voyage en Perse faict ès années 1598 et 1599 par un gentilhomme de la suite du Seigneur Scierley, ambassadeur du roy d’Angleterre, rédigée par Cl. Barth. Morisot, cf. Abel Pincon, Relations véritables et curieuses… Paris, 1651. Père Léonard Mosnier, S. J., Journal du Voyage du Père Monier d’Erzeron à Trébizonde, in Nouveaux Mémoires de la Société de Jésus dans le Levant, vol. iii, pp. 314-32.

Idem, Lettre au Père Fleuriau, ibid, pp. 1-126, cf. Jesuits, (a) 1, 2, 6; (b) 1.

Père Pacifique de Provins, Lettre du père Pacifique de Provins, prédicateur capucin, estant de présent à Constantinople, envoyée au R. P. Joseph le Clerc, prédicateur du mesme ordre et deffiniteur de leur procure de Tours. Sur l’estrange mort du Grand Turc, empereur de Constantinople, Paris, 1622.

Idem, Lettre escrite au Père Gardien des Capucins de Messine par le Père Pacifique de l’Escalle, président de la mission des Capucins envoyez de leur Père Général pour establir la Religion Catholique, Apostolique et Romaine au Royaume du Turc et autres Royaumes. Envoyée en France par le Grand Maistre de Malte, et traduit d’italien en François, Paris, 1628.

Idem, Relation du Voyage de Perse faict par le R. P. Pacifique de Provins, prédicateur capucin…, Paris, 1631. (Full title and further editions, Touzard, pp. 104-5).

Idem, Le voyage de Perse et brève relation du voyage des îles d’Amérique, ed. Godefroy de Paris and Hilaire de Wingene, Assisi, 1939. Etienne Padery, Mémoire sur les Monoyes de Perse, AMAE, CP Perse, vol. V, fol. 219b, n.d., but circ. 1718. Idem, Compte du Roi, AMAE, CP Perse, vol. VI, fol. 406a-440a, 1725.

Idem, number of reports and dispatches from Samāḵi, Isfahan, Shiraz, etc. AMAE, CP Perse, passim, vol. V and VI.

Idem, The Padéry papers, Arch. Nat., Paris, A. F. IV, 1686, 4th dossier. Pierre Raul, Relation de cinq Persans convertis et batisés par les Carmes Déchaussés en la mission de Perse à Ispahan, Paris, 1623.

Idem, Relation du voyage de Perse faict par un prédicateur capucin, Lille, 1632.

Idem, Relation des voyages des pères de la Compagnie de Jésus dans les Indes orientales et la Perse, Paris, 1656.

Petis de la Croix, Extrait du journal du sieur Pétis, fils, professeur en arabe, et secrétaire interprète entretenu en la marine, renfermant tout ce qu’il a vu et fait en Orient, durant dix années qu’il y a demeuré par l’ordre de Sa Majesté, présenté à Monseigneur Phélippeaux, secrétaire d’Etat, en 1694, in M. Langlés, tr. and ed., Relation de Dourry Effendy, ambassadeur de la Porte Othomane auprès du roi de Perse, en 1720, traduite du Turk, et suivie de l’Extrait des Voyages de Pétis de la Croix, rédigé par lui-même, Paris, 1810.

C. C. de Peyssonnel, Essai sur les Troubles actuels de Perse et de Géorgie, Paris, 1754.

Père Philippe de la Très Sainte Trinité, Itinerarium orientale, in quo., Lyon, 1649, tr. into Fr. by Pierre de Saint-André, as Voyage d’Orient du R. P. Philippe de la Très Saincte Trinité, carme déchaussé où il décrit…, Lyon, 1652. cf. Pierre de St. André, for full titles and other translations, Touzard, pp. 105-6.

Mgr. François Picquet, Lettre au Roy par laquelle F. Picquet rend compte de son audience a Spahan, ce 20 Janvier 1683, in Raphaël du Mans, Estat de la Perse in 1660, ed. Ch. Schefer, Paris, 1890, pp. 339-40.

Père Pierre de Saint-André, tr. into Fr., Voyage d’Orient du R. P. Phillippe de la Très Saincte Trinité, Lyon, 1652, cf. Philippe de la Sainte Trinité. Abel Pincon, ed., Relations véritables et curieuses de l’isle de Madagascar et du Brésil, avec l’histoire de la dernière guerre faite au Brésil, entre les Portugais et les Hollandais, trois relations d’Egypte et une du Royaume de Perse, a miscellany compiled from notes of different travelers, Paris, 1651. cf. Claude Barthélémy Morisot. Joseph Pitton de Tournefort, Relation d’un voyage du Levant, Paris, 1717.

Guillaume Postel, Entrée solennelle faicte à Rome aux ambassadeurs du roi de Perse, le 5 avril 1601, Rouen, 1601.

Poullet, Nouvelles relations du Levant qui contiennent diverses remarques fort curieuses touchant… 2 vol., Paris, 1668 (full title Touzard, p. 106).

Père Raphaël du Mans, Estat de la Perse en 1660, ed. Ch. Schefer, Paris, 1890; Raphaël du Mans missionnaire en Perse au XVIIe s., ed. F. Richard, 2 vols., Paris, 1995.

Abbé Guillaume Thomas François Raynal, Histoire philosophique et politique des établissements des Européens dans les deux Indes, Amsterdam, 1770, without author’s name; tr. into Eng. by J. Justamond, as A Philosophical and Political History of the Settlements and Trade of the Europeans in the East and West Indies, 4 vols., London, 1776.

M. Reinaud, Relation des voyages faits aux Indes orientales, par un gentilhomme François…avec une hydrographie pour l’intelligence du dit voyage, Paris, 1646.

Père Joseph de Reuilly, Lettre du R. P. Joseph de Reuilly, écrite au R. P. Eusèbe, supérieur des Capucins à Tripoli, datée d’Alep le 11 Juin 1726 contenant quelques particularitez sur les affaires de Perse, etc., in Mercure de France, January 1727, pp. 83-88.

Two other letters in 15 January 1728 and August 1728. Père Reynal, Relation historique du Détrônement du Roy de Perse et des Révolutions arrivées pendant les Années 1722, 1723, 1724, et 1725, Paris, 1727; tr. into Eng. as An Historical Account of the Revolution in Persia in the Years 1722, 1723, 1724, and 1725, London, 1727.

For Spanish tr. with additions see Touzard, p. 107. Idem, Suite de la Relation du Détrônement du Roy de Perse, avec la liste de ceux qui y ont péri, Paris, 1727.

Père Ricard, Letter of 7th August 1697 in Nouveaux Mémoires de la Société de Jésus, dans le Levant, III, pp. 253-271; and Nouveaux Mémoires des Missions, vol. II, cf. Jesuits, (a) 4.

Jean-François-Xavier Rousseau, Sur les rapports politiques de la France avec la Perse et sur les traités conclus entre ces deux puissances en 1708 et 1715, Arch. Aff. Etr., Mémoires et documents, Perse no. 1, fol. 114-137, 1804.

Comte de Saint-Priest, cf. François Emmanuel de Guignard. Père N. Sanson, Voyage ou Relation de l’Etat présent du Royaume de Perse, avec une dissertation curieuse sur les mšurs, religion et gouvernement de cet Etat, Paris 1694.

Idem, Voyage ou Relation de l’Etat présent du Royaume de Perse, Paris, 1695.

Abbé de Tallemand (attributed to), Memoires de Shâh Tahmas II, Empereur de Perse, écrits par lui-même et adressés à son Fils, 2 vols. Paris, 1758.

Jean-Baptiste Tavernier, Les six voyages de J. B. Tavernier, écuyer, baron d’Aubonne, qu’il a fait en Turquie, en Perse et aux Indes, pedant l’espace de quarante ans, Paris, 1676.; new ed. S. Yerasimos, 2 vols, Paris , 1981; (for other eds, Touzard, p. 108; Jaktāji, pp. 142-47). Jean de Thevenot, Voyages, Vol. 1, Paris, 1664; 2nd vol. (on Persia), Paris, 1674, 3rd Vol. (India) Paris, 1684; tr. into Eng. as The travels of M. Thévenot into the Levant, 3 vols. The 2nd vol. on Persia, London, 1687; Vol. I, new ed. S. Yerasimos, Paris, 1980 (further bibliography, Touzard, pp. 108-9).

Melchisedech Thévenot, Relation de divers voyages curieux…, 2 vols, Paris, 1663-1696 (further bibliography, Touzard, p. 109).

Pierre Van der Aa, Recueil de divers voyages faits en Tartarie, en Perse et ailleurs, 2 vol., Leyden, 1729.

Père Jacques Villotte, S. J., Voyages d’un Missionaire de la Compagnie de Jésus en Turquie, en Perse, en Arménie, en Arabie et en Barbarie, Paris, 1730, cf. Frizon. Abraham de Wicquefort, tr. from Spanish, L’ambassade de Don Garcia de Silva y Figueroa en Perse, Paris, 1667.

Idem, tr. from Eng. and Flemish, Relation du voyage de Perse et des Indes orientales, traduite de l’anglais de Thomas Herbert avec les révolutions arrivées au royaume de Siam l’an mil six cens quarante sept, traduites du flamand de Jérémie van Vliet, Paris, 1663.

Idem, Traduction françause des Voyages d’Olearius par Abraham de Wicquefort, sous le titre; Voyages très curieux faits en Moscovie, Tartarie et Perse, trad. En françois par Abraham de Wicquefort, Amsterdam, 1727.


18th Century travelogues. After the fall of the Safavids in 1722, Persia was plunged for a long period into political anarchy, civil war, and economic and social insecurity. As a result there were fewer Western residents and visitors to Persia in the latter half of the eighteenth century. On the reign of Nāder Shah (1736-1747), accounts by missionaries, notably those by the Jesuit Père Louis Bazin, chief physician to Nāder Shah from 1746 until the latter’s assassination (Lockhart, pp. 257, 310-11), form useful complements to the Persian sources. Jean Otter, an official envoy to the Persian court in 1738, and a good linguist (Lockhart, pp. 306-7), wrote an account of his journey from Turkey to Isfahan, where he stayed for almost two years and summed up his impressions in these bleak terms: “The city of Isfahan, which suffered considerably during the siege, and even afterwards, was almost deserted. Entire quarters were abandoned, and the houses were falling into ruin. The same was true of the provincial towns,” (Otter, vol. I, p. 224).

About half a century later, in 1783-84, André Michaux explored Hamadān and its surroundings including Mount Alvand and enthused on the pleasures of exploring the mountains and valleys in the east (Bonnerot, p. 17; Gabriel, p. 121). His contemporary, Louis-François Comte de Ferrières-Sauvebšuf, an eyewitness to the civil wars of 1784-85 in Persia, gave an account of the skirmishes as well as the life of the people and of various religious groups. In 1787, the Abbé de Beauchamp, was sent to Rašt by the Académie des Sciences, but failed in his attempt to discover new itineraries (Gabriel, p. 122).

On the eve of the 18th century, Guillaume-Antoine Olivier provides us with a detailed account of his journeys. Sent to the Orient on a scientific and commercial mission (1794), he traveled in Persia in 1796 (Amini, pp. 21-22). Summing up his mission, he states: “a stay of several months at the court [of Āḡā Moḥammad Khan Qājār in Tehran] to carry out a mission of the highest importance provided me with the opportunity to observe the great, to study the people, and to collect interesting material about the history of the internecine wars which have ravaged this empire since the death of Nāder Shah” (Olivier, I, p. ix). In his depiction of cities and monuments, he makes frequent comparisons with what they were like under the reign of the Safavids. “The most flourishing cities under the reign of the Sophis consist of nothing but ruins everywhere: three quarters of the inhabitants have perished or fled to the quiet and fertile regions of Indostan” (Olivier, I, p. 224). He also provides valuable detail about topography, agricultural produce, industry and trade, the army and the navy, and the manners and customs of the people he encounters.

19th Century travelogues. A direct outcome of the perennial rivalries among the great Western nations in the early 19th century was a number of diplomatic missions, particularly French, sent to Persia in the hope of concluding agreements with the shah. Among the first French missions, some were also engaged in research on geographical, economic, political and social aspects. Their findings brought home to the west the realization that Persia was not as highly developed, nor as populated and rich as some 17th century travelogues had led them to believe, and the maps that sometimes accompanied the accounts showed a considerable part of the country as barren and deserted.

The French 19th century travelers to Persia came from different backgrounds and professions. In terms of the motives that led them to travel, they may be divided into three categories:

1. Diplomats and travelers on political or military missions. Pierre-Amédée Jaubert was sent to Persia by Napoleon to seek an alliance against England, and arrived in 1806 (Amini, pp. 71-82). He had already been taught some Persian and Arabic by Sylvestre de Sacy. His account focuses on the political and economic conditions of the country, describing the regions and towns he passses through on his way to the court of Fatḥ-ʿAlī Shah in Tehran. He describes the physical features of the Shah and the conversations he had with him and the Crown Prince ʿAbbās Mīrzā as well as their courtiers (Movassaghi, pp. 70-73; Jaktājī, pp. 101-7).

He was followed by General Claude Mathieu de Gardane (q.v.), who arrived in Persia in 1807 as an official representative to set up the details of the cooperation between the two countries. The mission itself ended in failure, but the scientific research carried out by its members, providing a detailed study of the country intended perhaps as a guide in case Napoleon’s plans for an invasion of India materialized, remains its lasting contribution. Thus J. M. Tancoigne took an interest in the behavior and habits of Persian women, a subject he illustrated with some fine drawings and also made topographical observations, referring to Tehran in 1807 as “a rectangular enclosure surrounded by wide brick walls,” (Scarce, p. 917, ref. to Tancoigne, Letter XX, pp. 179-80). Adrien Dupré, who acted as a dragoman to Trézel in their journey to Baghdad and to Persia (Movassaghi, pp. 75-76) provided a vivid geographical, historical, economic and anthropological account. Camille-Alphonse Trézel explored the provinces of Gīlān and Mazandarān. Hilarion Truilhier, studied problems of water supply and irrigation, and also wrote on Yazd, describing its local cotton and silk industry and its Jewish and Zoroastrian minorities. Joseph Rousseau, traveled in western Persia and noted its archaeological sites, including the Ṭāq-e Bostān monument.

In 1825, the scholar Charles Bélanger, a botanist attached to the Ministry of Marine, gave an account of city life, the army, and the position of the British and Russians in Persia and their relations with the Persians. The position of the British and the commercial interests of France in the Persian Gulf were also discussed by Victor Fontanier, sent as an envoy to the Persian Gulf in 1834. The same considerations must have underlined the goodwill mission (“mission de courtoisie,” de Sercey, p. 29) of Édouard Comte de Sercey, sent to Persia as ambassador extraordinary by Louis Philippe in 1839-40. A failure in terms of its political objectives, the mission was highly successful from an artistic point of view. It included Eugène Flandin and Pascal-Xavier Coste (see FLANDIN AND COSTE), who succeeded in exploring most of Persia (1839-41) and produced their magnificent oeuvre on its archaeological monuments. When Comte de Sercey arrived in Persia, he was welcomed by Eugène Boré, another pupil of de Sacy a generation after Jaubert (Movassaghi, pp. 73-75) and Charles Texier, who were engaged in restoring archaeological monuments and bas reliefs. They also took a wide interest in the political, economic, and cultural conditions of the country.

In 1845, Charles de Gatines who had accompanied the Comte de Sartige in his mission to the Persian court, wrote an account of his return journey, describing among other things the art of professional dancers and the fabrication of forged medallions by Jews in Hamadān. Two years later, in 1847, Xavier Hommaire de Hell embarked on a study of topics relating to astrological lore, geography and geology of Persia but he died suddenly in August 1848 in Isfahan (Jaktājī, pp. 91-96). His companion Jules Laurens continued his mission and produced some of the finest drawings ever made of the country. Joseph Arthur Comte de Gobineau (q.v.) arrived in Persia on his first visit in 1855. An admirer of Persia, he was responsible, even more than Montesquieu, for the appearance of Persia and motifs taken from Persian literature in French literature (Boissel 1973, pp. 81-113). During the years 1858-61, Émile Duhousset, a military adviser to the army, wrote not only about wild life and hunting in Persia but also made detailed anthropometric measurements of members of a regiment in Solṭānīya in his anthropological research. During his long stay in Persia, Julien Comte de Rochechouart, who took over the French legation in 1863 from Gobineau, made a grand tour of the country studying its architecture, pottery and ceramics production, as well as other handicraft and the conditions of merchants and artisans (Jaktājī, pp. 136-37). A decade later, Jules Patenôtre spent three years (1873-76) in the north of the country and described the silk and carpet markets in northern Persia, as well as the route from Rašt to Tehran. Other travelers of the period included Gabriel Bonvalot, who traveled in the north of Persia in 1885 on his way to a geographical mission to India and wrote about music and medicine; and Albert Develay and Georges Pisson, who studied different aspects of Kurdish life in 1890. But perhaps the most important single account of the last years of the century was that of Dr. Jean-Baptiste Feuvrier (q.v.), an army doctor and the shah’s physician in ordinary (1889-92), who gave a vivid account of the court, the personality of the shah, as well as the events surrounding the debacle of the Tobacco Régie.

2.Travelers on archaeological missions. After the diplomats, the archaeologists held pride of place. The Third Republic (1870-1944) confirmed the policy of French colonial expansion, adding to it a keen enthusiasm for archaeology. The remarkable surveys carried out by Charles Texier, Coste, Flandin, Laurens, and subsequently Henri Binder in Kurdistan (1885) were followed by other important missions, including those of the Dieulafoys (qq.v.) in 1884-86, and Jacques de Morgan (q.v.) from 1897 to 1912. It should be noted that the contributions made by Jane Dieulafoy (q.v.) and those of the engineer Charles Babin and botanist Frédéric Houssay who accompanied the Dieulafoys transcend the realm of archaeology and delve into other aspects of life in Persia including the nomadic life of the Baḵtīārī (see DÉLÉGATIONS ARCHÉOLOGIQUES FRANÇAISES).

3. Soldiers of fortune and tourists. The development of steamships, especially after 1850, and the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, led to more rapid voyages to the Black Sea and the Persian Gulf. Moreover, the Romantic movement in literature permeated western culture in general and introduced a vogue for journeys to lands regarded as exotic. There was thus a ready market for books by travelers, frequently accompanied by fine illustrations.

Persia was very much part of this general trend and was a coveted destination for European travelers in search of adventure. Major Gaspard Drouville’s well-known account of manners and customs of Persian society, including marriage, divorce and religious ceremonies, and the army, its weapons and organization as witnessed in 1812-13, contains fine engravings (Jaktājī, pp. 54-56). Other narratives include those of Joseph-Pierre Ferrier, a military envoy who sporadically traveled over most parts of the country between 1839 and 1846; and Henri de Coulibšuf de Blocqueville, who had been captured and kept a prisoner by the Turcomans for over a year while on a punitive expedition against them.

Among the scientists who visited Persia, one can single out Rémi Aucher-Éloy who collected botanical and zoological specimens in 1835-37.

Among the tourists, the most observant were: Jules-Charles Teule (1841), E. Guilliny (1858), the Comte de Panisse (1865), Ferdinand Méchin (1867), Ernest Orsolle (1882; Jaktājī, pp. 127-29), Jean de Pontevès de Sabran (1888), Carle Lefèvre-Pontalis (1892), Auguste Lacoin de Vilmorin (1894; Jaktājī, pp. 158-61) and George Grillières (1899). Most of these travelers kept to well-trodden routes and their accounts are often replete with inaccurate and superficial judgments. However, some of them broached original topics and relatively unexplored aspects of their contemporary scene including the description of local male and female costumes in Gīlān (Guilliny, p. 91), incidents of drunkenness, prostitution, and homosexuality in Tehran (Panisse, pp. 117-120), the royal palace of Negārestān and salacious reports about its slide used for erotic purposes (de Pontevès de Sabran, pp. 138-40), and the Zoroastrian community in Yazd (Méchin).

20th Century travelogues. The rapid development in both the means of transport and communication in the 20th century meant that although the number of foreign visitors to Persia increased dramatically, the reasons and the urge to compose narratives of journeys in the manner of the previous centuries had disappeared. Nevertheless, until the outbreak of the First World War, one still finds narratives of journeys, like those of Pierre Loti, Claude Anet (Jaktājī, pp. 14-15) and Henry-René d’Allemagne (Jaktājī, pp. 3-13) which as well as describing the manners and customs of the people, also report on archaeological finds and provide detailed accounts of local handicrafts. To these could be added accounts given by some members of the French archaeological delegation such as Georges Bondoux, the botanist Louis-Charles Watelin and Émile André. Certain French observers also wrote about the major political upheavals of the time, such as the Constitutional Revolution (EugèneAubin, Jaktājī, pp. 16-20 ) or the Anglo-Russian rivalries in Persia (Jouannin, Bouillane de Lacoste).

The political and social upheavals after the First World War induced some travelers, including the orientalist Henri Massé and H. Weaver of the International Bureau of Labor in Geneva and the special correspondent Maurice Pernot to analyze the process of modernization in Persia, including, in the case of Weaver, the condition of labor in newly established industries. After the Second World War and indeed up to the present, French academics and researchers visiting Persia have continued this tradition of informing the French reading public at home through a mixture of personal narrative and direct observation against their own background of reading and analysis of Persian history and culture.


Travelogues and reports written in French by travelers and observers of other nationalities like Nicolas de Khanikoff (Chanykov), and Chodźko (q.v.), Carla Serena, and Henri Moser are not included here.

H.-R. d’Allemagne, Du Khorassan au pays des Backhtiaris: trois mois de voyage en Perse, 4 vols., Paris, 1911. I. Amini, Napoléon et la Perse, Paris, 1995.

É. André, “Impressions de voyage en Perse,” Société de la Géographie de l’Est 22, N.S.,1901, pp. 139-66.

C. Anet, Les Roses d’Ispahan: La Perse en automobile à travers la Russie et le Caucase, Paris, 1906.

Idem, Feuilles persanes, Paris, 1924.

E. Aubin, La Perse d’aujourd’hui, Iran, Mésopotamie, Paris, 1908.

R. Aucher-Éloy, Relations de voyages en Orient de 1830 à 1838, ed. Comte Jaubert, 2 vols., Paris, 1843.

Ch. Babin and F. Houssay, “A travers la Perse méridionale,” Le Tour du Monde 2, 1892, pp. 65-128.

L. Bazin, “Mémoires sur les dernières années du règne de Thamas Kouli-Khan et sur sa mort tragique,” Lettres édifiantes et curieuses IV, 1780, pp. 277-321.

Idem, “Seconde lettre … contenant les révolutions qui suivrent la mort de Thamas Kouli-Khan,” Lettres édifiantes et curieuses IV, 1780, pp. 322-64.

Abbé de Beauchamp, “Voyage en Perse,” Journal des savants, 1790, pp. 726-48.

Ch. Bélanger, Voyage aux Indes orientales par le nord de l’Europe, les provinces du Caucase, la Géorgie, l’Arménie et la Perse (1825-29), 7 vols., Paris, 1834-38.

H. Binder, Au Kurdistan, en Mésopotamie et en Perse, Paris, 1887.

Idem, “Mésopotamie et Perse,” Bulletin de la Société de Géographie Commerciale de Paris 10, 1887-88, pp. 509-17.

J. Boissel, Gobineau, l’Orient, et l’Iran I, Paris, 1973 (only one vol. published to date).

Idem, Gobineau biographie, mythes et réalité, Paris, 1993.

G. Bondoux, “Un voyage en Perse,” Bulletin de la Société de Géographie Commerciale de Paris 27, 1905, pp. 262-73.

O. H. Bonnerot, La Perse dans la littérature et la pensée françaises au XVIIIe siècle, Paris, 1988.

G. Bonvalot, Du Caucase aux Indes à travers le Pamir, Paris, 1889.

E. Boré, Correspondance et mémoires d’un voyageur en Orient, 2 vols., Paris, 1840.

Idem, “Lettre sur quelques antiquités de la Perse,” JA, April 1842, pp. 327-35.

H. de Bouillane de Lacoste, Autour de l’Afghanistan aux frontières interdites, Paris, 1908.

H. Castonnet des Fosses, A travers la Perse, Lille, 1891.

H. de Coulibšuf de Blocqueville, Quatorze mois de captivité chez les Turcomans aux frontières du Turkestan et de la Perse (1860-1861), Paris, 1866.

A. Develay and G. Pisson, “De Trébizonde à Téhéran,” Bulletin de la Société de Géographie Commerciale de Paris 14, 1891-2, pp. 97-124.

J. Dieulafoy, La Perse, la Chaldée et la Susiane 1881-1882, Paris, 1887; repr. 2 vols. (with illustrations) as Une amazone en Orient. Du Caucase à Persépolis (vol.1); L’Orient sous le voile. De Chiraz à Bagdad (vol.2), Paris, 1989; tr. ʿA.-M. Farahvašī as Safar-nāma-ye Mādām Dīūlāfūā, Tehran 1332 Š./ 1953.

G. Drouville, Voyage en Perse pendant les années 1812 et 1813, 2 vols., St. Petersburg, 1819; 2nd. ed., Paris, 1825.

E. Duhousset, “Les chasses en Perse,” Le Tour du Monde, 1862, pt. 2, pp. 113-28.

Idem, Etudes sur les populations de la Perse et pays limitrophes pendant trois années de séjour en Asie, Paris, 1863.

A. Dupré, Voyage en Perse, fait dans les années 1807, 1808, 1809 en traversant la Natolie et la Mésopotamie, 2 vols., Paris, 1819.

J.-P. Ferrier, Voyages en Perse, dans l’Afghanistan, le Bélouchistan et le Turkestan, 2 vols., Paris, 1860, tr. into Eng. from the original unpublished ms. by W. Jesse as Caravan Journeys and Wanderings in Persia, Afghanistan, Turkistan, and Beloochistan, ed. H. D. Seymour, London, 1857, repr. with intr. by G. Hambly, Karachi, 1976.

L.-F. Comte de Ferriéres-Sauvebšuf, Mémoires historiques, politiques et géographiques des voyages faits en Turquie, en Perse et en Arabie depuis 1782 jusqu’en 1789, 2 vols., Paris, 1790.

J.-B. Feuvrier, Trois ans à la cour de Perse, Paris, 1900; trans. ʿAbbās Eqbāl Āštīānī as Seh sāl dar darbār-e Īrān, Tehran, 1326 Š./1947.

E. Flandin and P. Coste, Voyage en Perse pendant les années 1840 et 1841, 8 vols., Paris, 1843-54.

P. Frédé, Voyage en Arménie et en Perse, Paris, 1885 (see Jaktājī, pp. 79-80).

Idem, La pêche aux perles en Perse et à Ceylan, Paris, 1887.

V. Fontanier, Voyage dans l’Inde et dans le golfe Persique par l’Égypte et la Mer Rouge, 3 vols., Paris, 1844-46.

Idem, Narrative of a Mission to India, London, 1844.

A. Gabriel, Die Erforschung Persiens: Die Entwicklung der abenlädischen Kenntnis der Geographie Persiens, Vienna, 1952; tr. F. Ḵᵛāja-nūrī as Taḥqīqāt-e joḡrāfīyāʾī rājeʿ ba Īrān, Tehran, 1348 Š./1969.

A. de Gardane, Mission du Général Gardane en Perse sous le premier empire: Documents historiques publiés par son fils, Paris, 1865.

P.-A. de Gardane, Journal d’un voyage dans la Turquie d’Asie et la Perse, fait en 1807 et 1808, Paris, 1809.

H. Garnier, Voyage en Perse, Arménie, Mésopotamie, Chaldée etc., Tours, 1859.

Ch. de Gatines, “Journal d’un voyage en Orient: de Téhéran à Bagdad,” Revue de l’Orient 14, 1862, pp. 108-26.

J. A. Comte de Gobineau, Trois ans en Asie (de 1855 à 1858), Paris, 1859.

G. Grillières, “Voyage en Russie et en Perse,” Bulletin de la Société de Géographie Commerciale de Paris 22, 1900, pp. 245-66.

E. Guilliny, “Essai sur le Ghilan,” Bulletin de la Société de Géographie 11, 1866, pp. 81-104.

X. Hommaire de Hell, Voyage en Turquie et en Perse … 1846-8, ed. Adèle Hommaire de Hell, 4 vols., Paris, 1854-60 (illustrated by Jules Laurens).

Idem, “De Tauris à Téhéran,” Revue de l’Orient 4, 1856, pp. 1-23.

F. Houssay, “Souvenirs d’un voyage en Perse: l’Arabistan et la montagne des Bakhtyaris; le littoral du golfe Persique et le Fars,” Revue des deux Mondes 79, 1887, pp. 367-91 and pp. 856-83.

Idem, “La structure du sol et son influence sur la vie des hommes: Études sur la Perse méridionale, 1885-6,” Annales de Géographie 3, 1894, pp. 278-95.

P.-A. Jaubert, Voyage en Arménie et en Perse, fait dans les années 1805-1806, Paris, 1821.

M. P. Jaktājī, Fehrest-e towṣīfī-ye safar-nāmahā-ye farānsavī mawjūd dar ketābḵāna-ye mellī-ye Īrān,2535=1356 Š./ 1977.

A. Jouannin, “Sur les rives du golfe Persique, notes de voyage (1903),” Bulletin de la Société de Géographie commerciale de Paris 26, 1904, pp. 62-75.

C. Lefèvre-Pontalis, De Tiflis à Persépolis, Paris, 1894. L. Lockhart, Nadir Shah: A Critical Study Based Mainly Upon Contemporary Sources, London, 1938. Pierre Loti, Vers Ispahan, Paris, 1904.

H. Massé, Vers le Khorasan (automne 1934): aux lieux saints de la Perse (automne 1931), Paris, 1935.

F. Méchin, Lettres d’un voyageur en Perse, Bourges, 1867.

A. Michaux, Voyage d’Andre Michaux en Syrie et en Perse (1782-85), ed. E. T. Hamy, Geneva, 1911.

J. de Morgan, “Relation sommaire d’un voyage en Perse et dans le Kurdistan (1889-1891),” Bulletin de la Société de Géographie de Paris 14, 1893, pp. 5-28.

A.-M. Movassaghi, “Aptitudes et connaissances linguistiques des voyageurs français en Perse au XIXe siècle,” Luqmān 10/1, Fall-Winter, 1993-94, pp. 69-95.

G.-A. Olivier, Voyage dans l’empire Othoman, l’Égypte et la Perse, 3 vols., Paris, 1801-7.

E. Orsolle, Le Caucase et la Perse, Paris, 1885.

J. Otter, Voyage en Turquie et en Perse avec une Relation des expéditions de Tahmas Kouli-khan, 2 vols., Paris, 1748 (for further bibliographical information see Lockhart, p. 324).

Le Comte de Panisse, La Russie, la Perse, l’Inde, souvenirs de voyage (1865-66), Paris, 1867.

J. Patenôtre, “Les Persans chez eux,” Revue des deux Mondes 8, 1875, pp. 145-68.

M. Pernot, “L’inquiétude de l’Orient: intrigue et politique en Perse,” Revue des deux Mondes, 1 February 1927, pp. 618-50.

Idem, “A traverse la Perse,” Revue des deux Mondes, 15 February 1927, pp. 837-70.

G. Pisson, “De Trébizonde à Téhéran,” Bulletin de la Société de Géographie Commerciale de Paris 14, 1891-92, pp. 97-124.

J. de Pontevès de Sabran, Notes de voyage d’un hussard: un raid en Asie, Paris, 1888.

Idem, “Voyage au Caucase, en Perse, au Khoraçan et en Asie centrale,” Bulletin de la Société de Géographie Commerciale 12, Bordeaux, 1889, pp. 88-92.

J. de Rochechouart, Souvenirs d’un voyage en Perse, Paris, 1867.

J. Rousseau, “Extrait de l’itinéraire d’un voyage en Perse par la voie de Bagdad,” Fundgruben des Orients 3, 1813, pp. 85-98.

A. de St. Quentin, Notes d’un voyage dans les montagnes de l’Elbourz et le Mazendhéran, Paris, 1859.

J. Scarce, “The Arts of the Eighteenth to Twentieth Centuries,” Camb. Hist. Iran VII, pp. 890-958.

É. Comte de Sercey, Une ambassade extraordinaire: la Perse en 1839-1840, Paris, 1928.

F. Sicard, Rapport du capitaine Sicard au retour de son voyage en Arabie, Perse, golfe Persique et Mésopotamie, pour la Société franco-orientale, Paris, 1869.

J. M. Tancoigne, Lettres sur la Perse et la Turquie d’Asie, 2 vols., Paris, 1819; tr. into Eng. as A Narrative of a Journey into Persia and Residence at Tehran …, London, 1820.

J.-C. Teule, Pensées et notes critiques extraites du journal de mes voyages dans l’empire du Sultan de Constantinople, dans les provinces russes, géorgiennes et tatares du Caucase et dans le royaume de Perse, 2 vols., Paris, 1842.

Ch. Texier, Description de l’Arménie, la Perse et la Mésopotamie, 2 vols., Paris, 1842-52.

Idem, “Itinéraires en Arménie, en Kurdistan et en Perse,” Bulletin de la Société de Géographie 20, 2nd series, 1843, pp. 229-52.

H. Truilhier, “Mémoire descriptif de la route de Téhéran à Meched, et de Meched à Jezd reconnue en 1807,” Bulletin de la Société de Géographie 9, 2nd series, 1838, pp 109-45, pp. 249-82, pp. 313-29; 10, also 1838, pp. 5-18.

C.-A. Trézel, “Notice sur le Ghilan et le Mazanderan,” in P.-A. Jaubert, Voyage en Arménie et en Perse, pp. 417-63.

C. Vaume, “De Resht à Hamadan par le Karaghan-Dagh,” Compte-Rendu des séances de la Société de Géographie, no. 1, 1887, pp. 19-24.

A. Lacoin de Vilmorin, De Paris à Bombay par la Perse, Paris, 1895.

L.-C. Watelin, La Perse immobile: ses paysages inconnus, ses villes délaisseés. Paris, 1921.

H. Weaver, “Notes sur un voyage en Inde, en Irak, en Perse et en Turquie,” Revue internationale de travail 28, 1933, pp. 491-527.


Whereas Germany could vaunt Goethe’s West-östlicher Diwan and Nietzsche’s Also sprach Zarathustra, and England had FitzGerald’s imaginative and free translation of Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, French writers and critics had their own, manifold responses to the lure of Persia. At first they celebrated the ancient heroes (Cyrus, etc.); later, informed by reports of missionaries and travelers and by the Thousand and One Nights and Saʿdī’s Golestān, they used Persia chiefly as a means of social, political, and religious self-criticism, and they were interested in Zoroastrianism as “the most ancient religion.” Later, the gradual acquaintance with other Persian poets inspired them to create new literary works. Furthermore, ancient Persia was praised as the country of truth, justice, and purity; the Persian poets were seen by some as masters of unconventional morality, while others were fascinated by Persian mysticism.

When Madeleine de Scudéry (1607-1701) wrote her novel Artamène ou le grand Cyrus, her source was of course Xenophon’s Cyropedia, in which the founder of the Achaemenid empire is depicted as an ideal king. Prosper Jolyot de Crébillon’s (1674-1762) tragedy Xercès was based on Aeschylus’ Persae. Pierre Corneille (1606-84) wrote his tragedy Rodogune (1644) about a Parthian princess and ten years later Suréna, général des Parthes, the conqueror of Crassus. Jean Racine (1639-99) in his Mithridate carried his praise of the Persian king to the highest level of eulogy. Their examples were followed by some subsequent writers. The outcome was some thirty tragedies on Persia.

Meanwhile, even before the end of the century of Louis XIV, the quarrel of the Ancients and Moderns had begun to divide French writers: should they continue emulating the ancients as they had done since the Renaissance, or seek other sources of inspiration including biblical and oriental material? Charles Perrault (1628-1703), who was among the Moderns, published in 1691-94 his Contes de ma mère l’Oye and in 1697 his Histoires ou Contes du temps passé, in one of which, entitled Le Maitre Chat ou le Chat botté, the cat likes to call his master Marquis de Carabas. The reputation of Shah ʿAbbās, notably as a great builder, who had sent letters to Henry IV and Louis XIII, must have spread deep enough in France for this name to be so altered. And he had another avatar in la fée Carabosse, a kind of female Ahriman opposed to Carabas-Ormazd, perhaps a reflex of the Iranian dualism known in France through Plutarch’s De Iside et Osiride, Barnabé Brisson’s (1530-91) De regio Persarum principatu (1590) and later, through Thomas Hyde’s (q.v.; 1636-1703) Historia religionis veterum Persarum eorumque magorum (Oxford, 1700). Persia was described in L’Estat de la Perse en 1660 by Père Raphaël du Mans (q.v.; 1613-96), and by Père N. Sanson, in Estat présent du royaume de Perse (1694), Jean-Baptiste Tavernier’s (q.v.; 1605-89) Voyages, Jean Chardin’s (q.v.; 1643-1713) Voyage en Perse et aux Indes orientales (1711). Saʿdī’s Golestān was translated by André du Ruyer de Malezar as Gulistan ou l’Empire des Roses, composé par Sadi, prince des poètes turc et persan (Paris, 1634). It inspired Jean de la Fontaine (1621-95) in the composition of his Fables, although the only oriental model he acknowledges is “le sage indien Pilpay.” This Pilpay or Bīdpāy (from an Old Iranian vaedyapaiti “master of knowledge”) was allegedly the author of a collection of tales translated from the Sanskrit Pancatañtra into Pahlavi, in turn rendered into Arabic in the 8th century by Ebn al-Moqaffaʿ (q.v.) and entitled Kalīla wa Demna (q.v.), thence into Latin and several modern languages, including the French version by Dāvūd b. Saʿīd Eṣfahānī (David Sahid d’Isphan, 1612-84; Richard, 1986-87, pp. 29-30), who had stayed in Paris in the 1640s, and Gilbert Gaulmin (1585-1665, Richard, ibid, p. 30), entitled Le Livre des Lumières ou la Conduite des Roys, composé par le sage Pilpay indien (1644), apparently known to la Fontaine, who, however, was also indebted to Saʿdī, for "The Dream of the Resident of Mogol" is taken from Golestān 2, 15 and "The Astrologer Who Fell into a Pit" is freely adapted from Golestān 4, 11. Moreover, the source of "The Shepherd and the King" is to be found in a tale Tavernier brought back from the court of Shah ʿAbbās. The Thousand and One Nights was imitated by Jean-François Pétis de la Croix (1653-1713) in his Mille et un jours (see Pétis de la Croix, intr. by P. Sebag, pp. 7-31), and by Anne Claude Philippe, comte de Caylus (1692-1765) in his Nouveaux contes orientaux. Barthélemy d’Herbelot’s (1625-95, q.v.) Bibliothèque orientale had several articles on Persia (Torābi, pp. 47-48).

About the year 1717 which saw the end of Louis XIV’s long reign, Charles-Louis de Secondat, Baron de la Brède et de Montesquieu (1689-1755), probably began to write his Lettres persanes, which were published under a pseudonym in 1721 and had enormous success. Montesquieu’s purpose was not, of course, to tell us about the Persians but to criticize the French, their beliefs and way of life, and ultimately to recommend—in a young magistrate’s manifesto—tolerance, liberalism, humanism. The Persian he uses for this purpose, has left his country in order to widen his vision of things and men. The country he leaves behind is characterized by despotism, polygamy (with a rather frivolous emphasis on eunuchs), and bigotry. He praises the sultan for not expelling the Armenians, which would have deprived the country of their valuable talents, a veiled allusion to Louis XIV’s Revocation of the Edict of Nantes. The “most ancient” religion of Persia is evoked with sympathy in the story of the Gabr in love with his sister, and pacific coexistence between religions is recommended. But the Christian mission in Persia is dismissed as senseless. Usbek the Persian has his doubts, notably about the impurity of pork, and a mollā’s explanations are made to sound absurd. Another belief criticized is the one which reserves paradise for men only. Religious dogmas on both sides are compared unfavourably with the laws of physics (Newton, though not named, is clearly alluded to). Montesquieu’s masterpiece was often imitated, for instance in the anonymous Mémoires secrets pour servir à l’histoire de la Perse (1745). In L’Esprit des lois, Montesquieu sees in Persina’s despotism the cause of violence, bloodshed, and the reign of ignorance.

In Voltaire’s (1694-1778) Le Monde comme il va (1746) references to Persia are mere disguises of French realities; Persepolis, which is to be chastised for its follies by the Scythians, stands for Paris. Zadig ou la Destinée (1747) dedicated to Saʿdī, tells the story of a sort of an idealized Persia free of all of Europe’s prejudices. To this narrative an appropriately exotic décor is provided by repeated references to Zoroaster, his breviary, the book of the Zend, Orosmada [sic], an evil person called Arimaze [sic], Media, the prince of Ispahan, the Zenda-Vesta [sic], the sacred fire, the magi, but there is more to it; the Scythians are the only honest people in the world. Such is the equity of Zadig, (Ṣādeq, “the veracious one”), that the laws he promulgates are deemed those of Zoroaster, in contrast to the Persians’ habit of having the culprits impaled. In La Princesse de Babylone (1768), the king of the Scythians is illiterate and his realm, which the Princess visits, has no cities, hence no civilized arts. It shows her how different men and governments are, and ever will be until some other, more enlightened people will gradually communicate light to them, after centuries of darkness, and some heroic souls will have strength and perseverance enough to change brutes into men. Thus are the Sarmatians, alias the Poles, governed by a philosopher-king, who however could be called the king of anarchy on account of the liberum veto, with one vote capable of blocking a whole measure.

Jean-Philippe Rameau’s (1683-1764) opera Zoroastre (1749), based on Thomas Hyde, was produced in a new version in 1756 with great success. Voltaire was interested in Zoroastrianism in that it provided him with a weapon against Christianity, a means to écraser l’infâme: Moses was not unique, truth could as well be found in a non-Christian religion. Anquetil Duperron’s (q.v.; 1731-1805) departure for India raised high hopes in the rank of the philosophes. But Anquetil, who remained attached to the religion of his fathers, gradually shattered the Encyclopedists’ hopes by refusing to see any potential amunition against Christianity in the Avesta which he had translated in 1771. In the article on Zoroastre in the Dictionnaire philosophique, Voltaire stressed Anquetil’s courage and Hyde’s competence. And he avenged himself for his disappointment by his impertinent paragraph on “L’abominable fatras que l’on attribue à Zoroastre.” In 1761 and 1762, tales of Saʿdī, adapted by Diderot, were published.

Montesqieu, Voltaire, Diderot, and others had unwittingly paved the way to the French Revolution; but Saʿdī’s fame had outlasted the regime they had contributed to destroy. One of the revolutionaries, Lazare Carnot, a colleague of Danton and Robespierre, was so fond of the Golestān that he wished his descendants to be named after its author: his son Sadi Carnot (1796-1882) formulated the first principle of thermodynamics and later, the Third Republic had as one of its presidents one more Sadi Carnot (murdered in 1887).

The Romantics, who reacted against the century of Enlightenment, found in oriental literature an escape from classicism. Victor Hugo (1802-85) wrote in the preface to Les Orientales (1829), “in the century of Louis XIV one was hellenist, now one is orientalist.” His orient, which included Spain and Greece (only recently liberated from the Turks), scarcely extended beyond the Ottoman empire. However, four out of the 41 poems have as an epigraph a quotation from Saʿdī or Ḥāfeẓ At the commencement of La Captive we read, freely adapted from Saʿdī’s Golestān, “On entend le chant des oiseaux aussi harmonieux que la poésie”; the epigraph to Les Troncons du Serpent reads “D’ailleurs les sages ont dit: il ne faut point attacher son coeur aux choses passagères” and to Novembre which has one verse A ce soleil brumeux les Pèris auraient froid, yet again from Saʿdī, “Je lui dis: La rose du jardin, comme tu le sais, dure peu; et la saison des roses est bien vite écoulée.” To Sultan Ahmet the “quotation” is from Ḥāfeẓ: “Oh!, permets, charmante fille, que j’enveloppe mon cou avec tes bras.”

He wrote in the Notes des Orientales, “From the Arabs to the Persians the transition is abrupt: it is like a nation of women after a people of men,” a statement hardly supported by the quotations that follow from Jālāl-al-Dīn Rūmi, Farīd-al-Dīn ʿAṭṭār, and Ferdowsī. And what may have passed from these poems into his Persian poets must be considered as mere stimuli to his general imagination, a debt he once considered acknowledging on the title-page of Les Orientales which bears, in the manuscript, two further quotations from Saʿdī’s Golestān. So much for Les Orientales. Differently, in the Légende des Siècles (1859), a precise link may be detected between a ḡazal of Ḥāfeẓ and the biblical poem Booz endormi:

Et Ruth se demandait

Quel dieu, quel moisonneur de l’éternel été

Avait en s’en allant négligemment jeté

Cette faucille d’or dans le champ des étoiles.

may have borrowed the final metaphor from one of Ḥāfeẓ’s ḡazals,

Mazraʿ-e sabz-e falak dīdam o dās-ē mah-e now

Yād-am az kešta-ye ḵvīš āmad o hangām-e derow.

“I saw the green field of the celestial vault and the sickle of the new moon; I remembered my seed-bed and the time of the harvest.” In the unfinished poem Dieu revelations are made by birds as in Farīd-al-Dīn ʿAṭṭār’s Manṭeq al-ṭayr, translated in 1863 by Garcin de Tassy (q.v.). With Marceline Desbordes-Valmore (1786-1859), an early romantic whom Victor Hugo praised as “poetry itself,” roses culled from the title of Saʿdī’s Golestān had lent their perfume to her short poem “Les Roses de Saadi.”

ʿOmar Ḵayyām, the author of the Robāʿīyāt first translated into French in 1867 by Jean-Baptiste Nicolas with an introduction, and retranslated many times, was very much debated: was he a mystic, a free-thinker, an epicure? Théophile Gautier (1811-72), the founder of the school of art for art’s sake, had a sound, balanced appreciation of the scientist-philosopher-poet. His daughter Judith wrote Le Second rang du Collier, inspired by Saʿdī’s Būstān and much admired by her father.

Maurice Bouchor (1855-1929), author of Le Songe de Khayyām, declared himself one of the followers of the poet, “a flower of life, wisdom and intelligence.” And Ḵayyām was particularly praised by Princess Marthe Bibesco (1887-1973), author of Les Huit Paradis (1908).

The Parnassiens admired the formal perfection of Persian poetry and could consider it a model for their own primacy of form. Laconte de Lisle (1814-94) included in his Poèmes tragiques a poem, Les Roses d’Ispahan, inspired by Saʿdī’s Golestān and Būstān, as well as by Jāmī’s Laylā wa Majnūn.

In José-Maria de Heredia’s (1842-1905) admirable sonnets, Les Trophées, a battle between Romans and Parthians provides a rhyme:

Les soldats regardaient comme des feuilles mortes

Tourbillonner au loin les archers de Phraortes,

famous for shooting backwards, on horseback, the Parthian shot,”la flèche du Parthe.”

Armand Renaud (1836-99), a minor Parnassien, author of Les Nuits persanes published in 1865 and again in a revised version, in 1896, was haunted all his life by ʿAttār.

Jules Michelet (1798-1874) had in his Bible de l’Humanité a chapter on La Perse which judged very favourably that ancient country, home of a religion of justice, Zoroastrianism. Gérard de Nerval (1808-55), in his Voyage en Orient, gives Persia as one of the destinations of the spiritual pilgrim, and his novel Aurelia the three sacred names of Shiʿism are inserted: Allāh! Moḥammad! ʿAlī! Joseph-Arthur, Comte de Gobineau (q.v.; 1810-82) described in his Nouvelles asiatiques a corrupt regime, with generals pocketing the pay of their soldiers, etc.; on the other hand, in his Religions et philosophies en Asie centrale, and in his novel Amadis posthumously published in 1887, he not only portrayed ancient Persia as the paragon of the “Aryan race” but also, fascinated by Babism and Shiʿism and by several performances of taʿzīa, he prophesied the emergence, as in ancient Athens from the cult of Dionysos, of a new kind of tragedy. Gobineau as an admirer of Shiʿism was followed, in our time, by another enthusiast, Henry Corbin (q.v.), who taught both in Tehran and Paris and wrote, among other books, Face de Dieu et face de l’homme, 1983.

Maurice Maeterlinck’s (1869-1949) Oiseau bleu was an avatar of the unattainable Sīmorḡ, and his symbolistic play Pelléas et Mélisande the story told in the Šāh-nāma (translated by Jules Mohl from 1838 to 1878) of Zāl and Rūdāba. And it was used by Claude Debussy (1862-1918) as the libretto for an opera first performed in 1902, a landmark in the history of modern music. Another great musician, Maurice Ravel (1875-1937) put to music Scheherazade, a poem by Tristan Klingsor (1876-1966), inspired by Ḥāfeẓ. And the musician Paul Dukas (1863-1935), in his choreographic poem La Péri, portrays this replica of the Avestan pairikāsas coveted by a man who forsakes his passion so that the seductress, who aspires to purity, may accomplish her destiny.

Both André Gide (1861-1951) in his Nourritures terrestres, and Henry de Montherlant (1895-1972) in his Evenṭail de fer laid out their debt to the “masters of Persia”; both found in Persian poetry a means of shaking off conventional morality; in particular, they were attracted, as homosexuals, to love poems which, owing to the ambiguity of the Persian language, can often not be said whether to be addressed to a girl or a boy. Pierre Loti (1850-1923), also a homosexual, in his fanciful Vers Ispahan pretends to have crossed the mountains at night on horseback from the Persian gulf to the Safavid capital and to have spoken Persian and to have seen roses everywhere.

Louis Aragon (1897-1982), for some time a surrealist and always a communist, was inspired, in his enthusiastic celebration of the madness of Love, partly by Saint John of the Cross but mainly by Jālāl-al-Dīn Rūmi, ʿAṭṭār, and Jāmī. He begins Le Fou d’Elsa with a hemistich translated from Jāmī’s mystical poem Salāmān and Absāl: ʿēšq-bāzī mīkonam bā nām-e ū, and ends up calling himself a heart-piercing arrowhead to Jāmī’s bent bow.

The story of Zāl and Rūdāba told by Ferdowsī inspired Abel Bonnard’s Le Prince persan (1908). It was also translated by Auguste Bricteux (1873-1937), who taught Persian at the University of Liège. In addition, the latter author made a blank verse rendition of Roustem et Sohrab: épisode du Livre des rois (Paris, 1938) and provided Jāmī’s mystical love poem Salāmān and Absāl (Salaman et Absal, Paris, 1911) with an introduction on Islamic mysticism and Persian rhetoric and prosody. He dedicated his translation of Jāmī to the famous statesman Georges Clemenceau (1841-1929), who had written Le Voile du Bonheur, also inspired by Persia.

Persia continues to inspire contemporary poets and novelists. A faint echo of Lettres persanes reverberates in Fanny Deschamps’ novel Louison ou l’heure exquise (Paris, 1987).


Editions of texts. Père Raphaël du Mans, Estat de la Perse en 1660, ed. Ch. Schefer, Paris, 1890; ed. F. Richard as Raphaël du Mans: missionnaire en Perse au XVIIe s., 2 vols., Paris, 1995.

Mémoires secrets pour servir à l’histoire de la Perse, Amsterdam, 1749.

Ch. Perrault, Histoires ou Contes du temps passé. Avec des Moralitez, Paris, 1697; tr. into Eng. as Histories or Tales of Past Times. With Morals, London, 1729; facs. ed. with intro. by M. P. Hearn, New York, 1977.

J.-F. Pétis de la Croix, Les mille et un jour: contes persans, Paris, 1710-12, ed. P. Sebag, Paris, 1981.

Père N. Sanson, Estat présent du royaume de Perse, Paris, 1694.

M. de Scudéry, Artamène ou le grand Cyrus, 10 vols., Paris, 1649-53; repr. of 1656, Paris ed., Geneva, 1972.

Secondary literature. S. André, “Mundus imaginalis, la rencontre spirituelle de Gobineau avec le Chiism,” Romantisme: Revue de la société des études romantiques 52, 1986, pp. 57-68.

J. Boissel, Gobineau, l’Orient et l’Iran I, 1816-1860, Paris, 1973 (only 1 vol. published).

Idem, Gobineau biographie: mythes et réalité, Paris, 1993.

O. H. Bonnerot, La Perse dans la littérature et la pensée françaises au XVIIIe siècle, Paris,1988.

M.-L. Dufrénoy, L’Orient romanesque en France (1704-1789), 2 vols, Montréal, 1946-47; 3rd. vol, Amsterdam, 1975.

Dj. Hadidi (J. Ḥadīdī), “Naissance et développement de l’iranologie en France,” Luqmān 10/1, 1993-94, pp. 37-52 (contains a chronological list of Persian works translated into French in the 19th century, pp. 51-52).

Idem, Az Saʿdī tā Ārāgon, taʾṯīr-e adabīyāt-e fārsī dar adabīyāt-e farānsa, Tehran, 1994.

P. Hazard, La Crise de la conscience européenne 1680-1715, Paris, 1935; repr., 2 vols., Paris, 1961.

J. Huré, “Un siècle de présence iranienne dans le récit français, 1872-1963,” Luqmān 8, 1991-92, pp. 41-52.

C. Juilliard, Imaginaire et Orient: l’écriture du désire, Paris, 1996.

N. Khaffate, “Le mirage de l’Orient chez Pierre Loti,” Luqmān 15/1, 1998-99, pp. 53-85.

L. Lowe, Critical Terrains: French and British Orientalisms, Ithaca, 1991.

P. Martino, l’Orient dans la littérature française au XIIe et au XVIIIe siècle, Paris, 1906, repr., Geneva, 1970.

A. M. Piemontese, “Les Huit Paradis d’Amir Khosrow et la littérature européenne,” Luqmān 12, 1995-96, pp. 7-24.

F. Richard, “Aux origines de la connaissance de la langue persane en France,” Luqmān 3/1, 1986-87, pp. 23-42.

R. Schwab, Vie d’Anquetil-Duperron, suivie des Usages civils et religieux des Parses par Anquetil-Duperron, Paris, 1934.

Idem, L’Auteur des Milles et Une Nuits: Vie d’Antoine Galland, Paris, 1964.

Idem, La Renaissance orientale, Paris, 1950; tr. into Eng. by G. Patterson-Black and V. Reinking as The Oriental Renaissance, New York, 1984.

D. Torābi, “La Perse de Barthélémy d’Herbelot,” Luqmān 8/2, 1992, pp. 43-58.


In the last two centuries, French literature has had a significant impact on modern Persian literature. The new trends in Persian literature in the beginning of the 20th century are closely related to social and political changes which began in Persia under Nāṣer-al-Dīn Shah (1848-96), and brought about the Constitutional Revolution of 1905-11 (see CONSTITUTIONAL REVOLUTION vii) and the advent of the Pahlavi regime. An analysis of the contributing factors such as the birth of the printing press, the development of newspapers and journals, and the reform of the educational system, enables us to define with relative certainty the different stages of the growth of a new reading public and the creation of new genres of fiction in whose formation translations of French texts played an important part.

A study of available sources, whether still in manuscript form or in print, conveys the magnitude of this translation movement which, in its most active phase, extends over a century. As the 20th century draws to a close, the great demand for translations shows no sign of abating. After the Second World War, for political reasons, French lost its dominant position to English, but this did not imply its disappearance from the Persian cultural scene. On the contrary, a deeper and more subtle understanding of French literature seems to have developed in Persia, with many Persian literary critics exploring current French theories of criticism for theoretical scaffoldings to their own analysis of literary texts. Works introducing western critical concepts which began to appear in mid 1950s, including Reżā Sayyed Ḥosaynī’s Maktabhā-ye adabī (Tehran, 1955) and Dr. Mītrā’s (Sīrūs Parhām)’s Reʾālīsm wa ẓedd-e reʾālīsm dar adabīyāt (Tehran, 1955), were widely read and reprinted, and translations of essays by Roland Barthes (tr. Moḥammad Taqī Ḡīāṯī, Naqd-e tafsīrī-ye bīst maqāla, Tehran, 1973) and other modern critics continued the trend.

The first element in the evolution of the modern Persian literary system was the advent of the printing press (see ČĀP) in the beginning of the 19th century. It was instrumental in creating a much wider and cheaper distribution of cultural works, in dissemination of newspapers, and in providing educational support for the new schools. The establishment of Dār al-Fonūn (q.v.) in 1851 and other modern schools required tens of translations on technical and scientific subjects, as well as on literary works. These were made from the French because, for political reasons, the teaching staff had been recruited mostly from central Europe where French was the language of diplomacy and culture (Rouhbakhshan, pp. 37-40).

Within this context, translations played a mediating and pivotal role. They provided the bulk of the political, scientific and cultural material items of news for the journals and newspapers which had begun to appear, whether published by the government or by the political opposition abroad in Calcutta, Istanbul, Tiflis, Baghdad, Cairo, Paris, Berlin, and London (see DIASPORA).

The translation of French works into Persian, also dating back to the 1830s and the first printing presses, has witnessed high tides and low ebbs as a result of socio-political events which have shaped recent Persian history. The first of these was the Constitutional Revolution (1905-11, q.v.). Most of the translations prior to it remain in manuscript form and a large collection of these unedited manuscripts are preserved in the National library in Tehran. About half of these texts are works of fiction, a quarter are history books, and the rest are memoirs or scientific works. At first there does not seem to be any underlying logic behind the choice of texts for translation. Authors as widely different as René Lesage, Voltaire, Alexandre Dumas, Jules Verne, Comtesse de Ségur, and Fénelon were all translated. Yet, within the intellectual and historical context of the time, an underlying concept of knowledge can be detected as the common denominator among these authors. The choice was not primarily based on the work’s inherent literary quality or merit. Increasingly mindful of their technological backwardness, the Persians of the time preferred texts that they thought would enhance their knowledge of the outside world, i.e., of history and geography or, more generally, any text which would lead them to a better understanding of Europe which was to serve henceforth as their model for modernization.

For translation purposes, Voltaire’s L’histoire de Charles XII, Gil Blas by Lesage, Télémaque by Fénelon, or Alexandre Dumas’ La Reine Margot were all on a par. It was the extreme diversity of his work, covering the whole gamut of French history, that made Alexandre Dumas père the most translated author into Persian.

From the outset French theater occupied a special place in the choice of translators. This was due to the development of the modern education system in which French classical drama was read as part of the curriculum, as well as to occasional performances in Tehran and Rašt (Browne, Lit. Hist. Persia IV, pp. 459-64; Nawwābī, pp. 85-87). For example, Molière’s Le médecin malgré lui, the first French play to be performed in Persian, was published by the office of translations at the Dār al-Fonūn (tr. in 1888 by Moḥammad-Ḥasan Khan Moqaddam Marāḡaʾī, Eʿtemād-al-Salṭana (1843-96; q.v.; Āryanpūr, Az Ṣabā tā Nīmā I, pp. 267-68; Bala, pp. 25-27). Molière’s Le Misanthrope was translated from Turkish and published by Mīrzā Ḥabīb Eṣfahānī (1835-93, q.v., Afšār, p. 495) in Istanbul in 1869; another example was the same author’s Mariage forcé translated and published in Tehran in 1904 by Moḥammad Ṭāher Mīrzā (1834-98; q.v. Āryanpūr, Az Ṣabā tā Nīmā I, pp. 271-72; Bala, pp. 31-33) the famous translator of Alexandre Dumas’ works.

From the Constitutional Revolution to Reżā Khan’s Coup d’état of 1299/1921 (q.v.), there were not only translations of authors who had already been translated, but new ones were also added to the list: Bernardin de St. Pierre (Paul et Virginie) Eugène Sue (Les Mystères de Paris), Victor Hugo (Les Misérables), L’abbé Prévost (Mannon Lescaut), Ponson du Terrail, Pierre Loti, and Paul de Kock. The rise of the literary review was another important cultural event of the period. These reviews devoted considerable attention to the translation of poetry and prose. The earliest of these periodicals was the monthly Bahār (q.v.) founded in 1910 by Mīrzā Yūsof Khan Āštīānī, Eʿteṣām-al-Molk (1874-1938; see EʿTEṢĀMĪ; Āryanpūr, Az Ṣabā tā Nīmā II, pp. 112-17), the father of the famous poet Parvīn Eʿteṣāmī (q.v.). The first translation of Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables (tr. as Tīra-baḵtān)was serialized in Bahār during 1910. Other famous reviews attempting similar translations were Dāneškada, Armaḡān, and Now Bahār, first published in Mašhad as a political journal in 1910 by Moḥammad-Taqī Malek al-Šoʿarāʾ Bahār (1886-1951, q.v.) and then later in Tehran in 1922 as a literary review (Āryanpūr, Az Ṣabā tā Nīmā II, p. 332). After World War II literary reviews showed a considerable and uninterrupted development. Among them, Soḵan was the most receptive to the literature of other countries. Looking through its issues, one can find the names of all those important French writers hitherto unknown in Persia, as well as those of the majority of the best known modern Persian writers.

Under Reżā Shah (1925-41) those French writers already known in Persia continued to be translated. Others, such as Maurice Leblanc, Michel Zevago, or Lamartine, were added to the list. It was only until after the Second World War that great French writers, such as Montesquieu, Balzac, Flaubert, Zola, etc., were translated into Persian.

The first translators came from different social backgrounds. Before the Constitutional Revolution there were some twenty famous names among them, including the already mentioned Eʿtemād-al-Salṭana, Mīrzā Ḥabīb Eṣfahānī, and Moḥammad Ṭāher Mīrzā; as well as ʿAbd-al-Raḥmān Ṭālebov (1834-1911), and Mīrzā Āqā Khan Kermānī (1854-96). They were intellectuals, writers, and high officials of the state. In the following period mention must be made of Moḥammad Ḥosayn Khan Ḏokāʾ-al-Molk Forūḡī (1839-1907; q.v.), the famous statesman and man of letters, who for years directed the office of translations at Dār al-Fonūn; Moḥammad-Taqī Bahār; ʿAlīqolī Khan Sardār Asʿad Baḵtīārī (1857-1917; see BAḴTĪĀRĪ chiefs); Ḡolām-Reżā Rašīd Yāsamī (1895-1951), Bahār’s collaborator in Dāneškada; Saʿīd Nafīsī (1895-1976), the famous scholar who also wrote novels; Ḥosaynqolī Mostaʿān (1904-83) a prolific writer and translator who also translated Les Misérables (Tehran, 1921), ʿAbbās Eqbāl Āštīānī (1896 or 97-1956, q.v.); Qāsem Ḡanī (1893-1952, q.v.) the noted scholar and diarist and translator of Anatole France; the historian Naṣr-Allāh Falsafī (q.v., 1901-81), translator of the seminal work by the historian Fustel de Coulanges, La Cité antique as Tāṟīḵ-e tamaddon-e qadīm (Tehran, 1930) and finally Moḥammad Ḥejāzī (q.v. 1900-1973) and ʿAlī Daštī (q.v., 1896-1981), both also noted politicians and novelists (Nawwābī, pp. 93-98).

Two writer-translators played a pivotal role in the development of modern fiction in the decades between 1920 and 1940 and deserve to be singled out: Moḥammad-ʿAlī Jamālzāda (q.v., 1895-1997) and Ṣādeq Hedāyat (q.v., 1903-51). Their contributions illustrate the way many of the most influential writers of fiction in modern Persia were influenced not only by translations from European and American literature, but by their own direct and thorough immersion in western literature. It should be noted that two of Hedāyat’s short stories, Lunatique and Sampingué, were written both in French and Persian (Ḥasan Qāʾemīān, ed., Majmūʿa-ye neveštahā-ye parākanda-ye Ṣādeq Ḥedāyat, 2nd rev.ed., Tehran, 1956, pp. 551-624).

With the expansion of American influence at the end of World War II and particularly after the fall of Moṣaddeq’s government in 1953, French gradually lost ground to English which became the second language in Persia. Nonetheless, the period from the 1953 coup d’etat to the present has been a time of intense cultural and intellectual development in which translations have played a siginificant part. In his already cited historical study of translations published in 1985, Dāwūd Nawwābī selects some fifty-six well-known skilled translators almost all translating from French (Nawwābī, pp. 104-6). Some great French writers hitherto neglected in Persia were at last translated including Honoré de Balzac, Gustave Flaubert, and Emile Zola. Twentieth writers have also occupied an important place among those translated: Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Albert Camus, Jean-Paul Sartre, André Maurois, André Malraux, and more recently Romain Gary and Marcel Proust have also been translated. Among famous translators of French writers mention can be made of Parvīz Nātel Ḵānlarī (1913-90) for Paul Valéry; Moḥammad Qāżī (1929-98) for Saint-Exupéry (Le Petit Prince) and Flaubert (MadameBovary); M. A. Behāḏīn (Maḥmūd Eʿtemādzāda, b. 1915) for Balzac (Le Père Goriot, La Cousine Bette, La Peau de chagrin, Le Lys dans la vallée) and Romain Rolland (Jean Christophe); Jalāl Āl-e Aḥmad (1923-69, q.v.) for Camus (L’Étranger); Reżā Sayyed-Ḥosaynī (b. 1925) also for Camus (La Peste) and Malraux (L’Espoir); ʿAbu’l-Ḥasan Najafī (b. 1929) for Malraux (Antimémoires); Aḥmad Samīʿī (b. 1920) for Rousseau, Diderot, and Flaubert; and Esmāʿīl Saʿādat (b. 1925) for Rolland (La Vie de Michel-Ange).

In sum, it can be concluded that French literary impact on the evolution of Persian literature was decisive in the formative period of its adoption of two new literary genres, namely, the short story and the novel, and continued to be influential in the course of this century. In modern poetry (šeʿr-e now) too, French influence can be detected in the seminal and innovative diction of Nīmā Yūšīj (1897-1960). It should also be added that some great French writers still remain unknown to Persian readers; such are Rabelais and those from the medieval period, the majority of classical French writers, a great number from the Romantic period, not to speak of great modern figures, such as Georges Bernanos, Charles Péguy, Paul Claudel, Louis-Ferdinand Céline, or the majority of surrealists, such as Guillaume Apollinaire, Jean Giono, or Henry de Montherlant.


Ī. Afšār, “Mīrzā Ḥabīb Eṣfahānī,” Yaḡmā 13/10, 1339Š./1961, pp. 491-97.

ʿA. Anwār, Fehrest-e nosaḵ-e ḵaṭṭī-e Ketāb-ḵāna-ye mellī, 10 vols., Tehran 1342-58 Š./1963-79.

Āryānpūr, Az Ṣabā tā Nīmā. Ch. Bala, “La genèse du roman persan moderne,” Ph.D. diss., Université de Paris III, 1987 (also published under the same title, Tehran, 1998).

Ch. Bala and M. Cuypers, Aux sources de la nouvelle persane, Paris, 1983.

D. Derakhshesh, Les affinités françaises de Sadeq Hedayat: étude comparative aves les šuvres de Nerval, Baudelaire, et Sartre, Bethesda, Md., 1990.

H. Kamshad, Modern Persian Literature, Cambridge, 1966. Monzawī, Nosḵahā VI, pp. 4060-68 (translations from French press).

D. Nawwābī, Tārīḵča-ye tarjama-ye farānsa ba fārsī dar Īrān az aḡāz tā konūn, Kermān, 1363 Š./1984.

Includes a detailed catalogue of books translated from French, including those not originally in French, and an alphabetical list of translators from French, and a separate list of travelogues translated from French into Persian (pp. 147-289).

A. Rouhbakhshan, “Le rôle du Dār ol-Fonūn dans l’éxpansion du français en Iran,” Luqmān 3/2, 1987, pp. 33-54.


French collections, both public and private, contain hundreds of Persian works of art. Some of these reached France during the Middle Ages, notably after the Crusades, and were kept in the treasures of several churches around the country. But most of the great collections containing Persian art were created during the second half of the 19th century. These contain the main public collections, such as the Louvre, the Musée des arts décoratifs, the Musée de la céramique de Sèvres, and the manuscripts catalogued in the Supplément section of the Persian manuscript collection at the Bibliothèque nationale. Some provincial museums also contain interesting items, sometimes arranged in a thematic collection, as in the Musée des tissus in Lyon. The interest in Persian art is also demonstrated in the number of public exhibitions which have been held in Paris; including those of 1912 (Marteau and Vever), 1938 (Corbin), 1948 (Iran: pièces du musée de Téhéran), 1961 (Sept mille ans d’art en Iran), 1973 (Mélikian, 1973).

At the turn of this century, some of the finest private collections of Oriental and Islamic art were to be found in France, although later these collections were split up and largely scattered around the world. The art market dealing with Islamic art is well represented in Paris, but not on the same scale as that in London.

Church treasuries. The trade of luxury goods, active in antiquity, continued the import of Oriental objects into Europe in the Middle Ages. This trade concerned mainly textiles, which were light and easy to transport, as well as objects in gold and silver. Thus, the so-called “Cup of Ḵosrow” is a magnificent piece of Sasanian orfèvrerie which had been kept since the Middle Ages in the treasury of the cathedral of Saint-Denis (Survey of Persian Art, pl. 203). This cup was part of a rich collection which also housed some masterpieces from Islamic times, such as the ivory chess piece called “de l’échiquier de Charlemagne,” probably of Indian origin (Trésor de Saint-Denis, no. 18). The Cup of Ḵosrow, now in the Cabinet des médailles (part of the Bibliothèque nationale), is made of gold set in cloisonné-work with a cut rock crystal showing a king enthroned and surrounded by garnets and green colored glass pieces. Datable to the 6th or 7th century, it has been attributed successively to Ḵosrow I, Ḵosrow II and even Kavād I (Trésors d’Orient, 1973, no. 226, pp. 86-88). Another Sasanian object, a rock crystal vase, known as the “Vase d’Aliénor” was also kept in this treasury (Trésor de Saint-Denis, no. 27) and is now in the Louvre (MR 340).

Among the many works of art housed in the treasuries of French churches and cathedrals, oriental textiles occupy an important place. A silk fragment known as the “Shroud of Saint Bertrand,” is housed in the Crypt of Notre Dame de la Couture in Le Mans. This textile, dated 9th-10th century, is very much in the Sasanian style of other textiles of the period, but its provenance is uncertain. Another fragment woven in silk, the so-called “Shroud of Saint-Josse” is, however, unquestionably Persian (Survey of Persian Art, pl. 982) and bears the name of Abū Manṣūr Boḵtegīn, a Turkish governor of Khorasan who died in 350/961. Now in the Louvre, this textile was kept in the reliquary of Saint Josse, in Pas-de-Calais and was probably brought back from the Near East by Etienne de Blois, brother of Godefroy de Bouillon, after the first Crusade (Arts de l’Islam des origines à 1700 dans les collections publiques françaises, no. 228, pp. 168-69; Survey of Persian Art, pp. 2002-3). Other Oriental textiles, possibly of Persian origin, are kept in the cathedral at Sens and in the Benedictine abbey at Jouarre (Trésors sacrés, no. 3). Important carpets were also preserved in churches; for example the “Tapis de Mantes,” a large Safavid carpet dating back to the end of the 16th century, that was used on important occasions in the Collegiate Church of Notre Dame, Mantes. Since 1912 it has been preserved in the Louvre (Survey of Persian Art, pl. 1127).

Public collections. 1. The Musée du Louvre, Paris. The famous collections housed at the Louvre are of very different origins. Thus, a Timurid jade cup dated c. 1450-1500 (Lentz and Lowry, p. 226) entered the personal collections of Louis XIV between 1684 and 1701 (Lentz and Lowry, p. 355). With the development of archaeological excavations in Persia, and particularly those at Susa, the museum acquired a number of Elamite, pre-Achaemenid and Achaemenid objects, as well as important pieces of early Islamic period. A large part of the outstanding pieces of Persian art of the Islamic era was acquired through the sales of great private collections, such as Goupil’s, in 1888. The Louvre has an active acquisition policy that attempts to complete the collections of the museum and retain in France the remains of the important private collections.

Several agreements have been made between Persia and France for the acquisition of antiquities, such as one in 1900, between Foreign Minister Théophile Delcassé and Moẓaffar-al-Dīn Shah (La Perse et la France, no. 206). Marcel-Auguste Dieulafoy (q.v.) directed the excavations at Susa from 1884 to 1886, followed in 1897 by Jacques de Morgan. The most famous findings by Dieulafoy are the glazed ceramic wall decorations from Susa. The magnificent archers’ frieze was heavily restored by him; and it is difficult to imagine today that most of the heads of these figures were entirely reconstituted with inspiration from the Persepolis reliefs. Besides the ten archers’ ensemble, other glazed panels from the Susa palaces are on exhibit, such as that of a griffin or a winged-bull, as well as two sphinx with the Mazdean winged-disk. The excavations in Susa also brought to light important sculptures, painted or glazed ceramics and bronzes from the Elamite period (see ELAM vi). Of interest for the history of pottery, and coming from the same site, are the first Islamic faiences, with their characteristic blue and white decoration. A special exhibition of the new findings from Susa was held in Paris in 1930 (Fouilles de Tello…), at a time when the museum lacked space to house these artifacts. With the recent enlargement of exhibition space, a full display of the art of pre-Islamic Iran has been made possible. Other pre-Islamic pieces come from fortuitous finds, such as a gold cup from north-west Persia, dated 13th-10th century B.C.E. (Porada, p. 88). The Louvre also possesses representative items of Sasanian art, such as a bronze bust of a Sasanian king (Ghirshman, 1951, pl. XVI), stucco plaques (Porada, p. 216), and mosaics coming from the palaces of Bīšāpūr (Ghirshman, 1956).

It must be noted that the results of the French archaeological expeditions in pre-Islamic sites from Afghanistan (Ball and Gardin) are housed in the Guimet Museum and not in the Louvre. These concern mainly the late Hellenistic and Greco-bactrian sculptures from Haḍḍa, Fondoqestān (q.v.) and Gandhāra, as well as some ivory fragments and the superb glass goblet from Begrām (q.v.).

The creation of an Islamic section in the Louvre dates back to 1890, mainly thanks to the donation of Alexandre-Charles Sauvageot (1856), and the interest shown by the curators of the Objets d’art department, Emile Molinier and Gaston Migeon (Bernus-Taylor, p. 7). Other gifts or bequests (Raymond Koechlin, Alphonse Kann, Alexandre Chompret, Jacques Matossian, Georges Marteau) also contributed to the formation of the collections, reflecting the taste for oriental objects fashionable at the turn of the century. However, from 1971 to 1993, the Islamic collections were not on permanent display. During this time, some exhibitions were held (Arts de l’Islam, 1971; L’Islam dans les collections nationales, 1977; Arabesques, 1989) which allowed the public to see some of the major Islamic works of art, although for limited periods only. Fortunately, with the opening of the new galleries in 1993, a selection of the museum’s best pieces are now on display, along with a temporary loan from the Musée des arts décoratifs. The Musée des arts décoratifs started its collection of Persian art in 1884. It was in this museum, in 1903, that the first large exhibition of Islamic art was held (Mélikian, 1973, p. 2). On the occasion of the opening of the Islamic art gallery in the Louvre, a practical handbook written by Marthe Bernus-Taylor, conservateur général of this section, was issued (Bernus-Taylor, 1993).

Thanks to the Susa findings, the Louvre has a rich collection of Persian ceramics, especially from the early Islamic period. Among other important early Islamic pieces is the large plate with black Kufic calligraphy over a white slip (Louvre AA96; illustrated in Bernus-Taylor, p. 35; Survey of Persian Art, pl. 560A), probably from 10th century Samarqand, or the plates dated 10th-11th century, from Khorasan (MAO 858 and 859; illustrated in Bernus-Taylor, pp. 36-37 ). The so-called mīnāʾī or haft-rangī as well as luster decorated ceramics are also well-represented, the latter by the remarkable water-jug dating from the beginning of 13th century. The mīnāʾī cup with a horseman is a peculiar example of both luster and mīnāʾī techniques used together in a single piece (MAO 440; illustrated in Bernus-Taylor, p. 53).

There are several noteworthy metal objects from the Saljuq period in the Louvre, including a bronze lion incense-burner (Khorasan, 11th-12th century; Melikian, 1973, p. 17; Survey of Persian Art, pl. 1297, Bernus-Taylor, p. 61 ) and a copper candle-stick decorated with a frieze of ducks (Khorasan, 12th-13th century). Another item in the same collection is a star-tile panel in luster decoration made in Kāšān for the Emāmzāda Jaʿfar in Dāmḡān and dated 665/1267 (Survey of Persian Art , p. 1679; (PLATE I).

PLATE 1. Star-tile panel tile from Emāmzāda Jaʿfar, Kāšān, 13th C. Louvre, no. 6319. Photograph courtesy of RMN-Hervé Lewandowski.PLATE 1. Star-tile panel tile from Emāmzāda Jaʿfar, Kāšān, 13th C. Louvre, no. 6319. Photograph courtesy of RMN-Hervé Lewandowski.

Timurid metal-work is represented by a candle-stick bearing the name of Tīmūr, which was made in 799/1396-97 for the shrine of Aḥmad Yasavī in Turkestan (Survey of Persian Art, pl. 1373A). This candle-stick with the base missing is part of a set of six pieces which were originally made for the shrine. Four of them are still in Turkestan, the sixth is at the Hermitage, in Saint-Petersburg (Survey of Persian Art, pl. 1373B; Bernus-Taylor, p. 94; Melikian, 1973, p. 83; Lentz and Lowry, pp. 30 and 329).

As for the Safavid period, one of the outstanding items, the large “Tapis de Mantes” has already been mentioned. Another interesting piece from this period is a kilim from Kāšān, dating from the end of the 16th or beginning of the 17th century, depicting, in a central medallion, Bahrām Ḡōr fighting the dragon, with Laylā and Majnūn in the corners (illustration, Bernus-Taylor, p. 102; (PLATE II). Also worth mentioning is the fritware dish from the Musée des arts décoratifs, which uses a peculiar technique of decoration. The motif is cut through a beautiful cobalt-blue slip covered with a transparent glaze so that it has the color of paste. This kind of ceramic, apparently very rare (about five pieces have been published), may have come from Kermān, and was made sometime between 1620-40 (Soustiel and David, 1991, no. 125). A big tile panel in cuerda-seca polychrome decoration depicts outdoor festivities in the style of Reżā ʿAbbāsī; it probably comes from a 17th century pavilion in Isfahan.

PLATE II. Kilim with depiction of Bahrām Gōr struggling with a dragon (center medallion) and Leyli and Majnūn in the desert (corners). Kāšān, 17th c. 2.49 x. 1.39 m. RMN-Chuzeville, inv. 5946.PLATE II. Kilim with depiction of Bahrām Gōr struggling with a dragon (center medallion) and Leyli and Majnūn in the desert (corners). Kāšān, 17th c. 2.49 x. 1.39 m. RMN-Chuzeville, inv. 5946.

The Qajar period is perhaps the least represented in the Louvre. The main item from this period is a portrait of Fatḥ-ʿAlī Shah on the throne by Mehr-ʿAlī (lent by Musée de Versailles), which was given in 1806 to Pierre-Amédée Jaubert, Napoleon’s ambassador in Persia (Camb. Hist. Iran VII, pl. 14b).

Only loose leaves of Persian paintings and calligraphies are kept in the Louvre, manuscripts being preserved at the Bibliothèque nationale. Thus, three pages of the famous so-called “Demotte” Šāh-nāma (q.v.) were given by Georges Marteau in 1916. A beautiful tinted drawing by Moḥammadī, dated 986/1578 also comes from Marteau’s donation. The illustrated page from a lost manuscript of Homāy o Homāyūn, from the Musée des arts décoratifs (Survey of Persian Art , pl. 879) is “one of the most celebrated of Timurid paintings” (Lentz and Lowry, p. 336). The beautiful portrait of Shah ʿAbbās with a sāqī, painted by Moḥammad-Qāsem in 1037/1627 was acquired in 1975. It seems to be the only one painted in Persia during the lifetime of the shah (Bernus-Taylor, p. 133; for a general discussion of Shah ʿAbbās’ portraits, see Grube and Sims). A page from a large Safavid fāl-nāma (q.v.) is one of the more recent acquisitions by the Louvre (Soustiel and David, 1992a, no. 117; (PLATE III).

PLATE III. Imam Reżā fights a demon. Illustration from a Safavid fāl-nāma. Louvre MAO. 894. Photograph courtesy of RMN-Gérard Blot.PLATE III. Imam Reżā fights a demon. Illustration from a Safavid fāl-nāma. Louvre MAO. 894. Photograph courtesy of RMN-Gérard Blot.

2. Other Parisian museums. In spite of its name, The museum of the Institut du monde arabe holds some important pieces of Persian art. One of these is an unusual bronze paper-polisher from eastern Persia, probably from the Saljuq period (Contribution, pp. 26-27). The museum also keeps Persian calligraphies and paintings, such as a page from a Mongol Šāh-nāma which, according to Marianna Shreve Simpson, comes from the Freer Šāh-nāma (Simpson, pp. 356 and 387).

Odd items can be found in other Parisian museums, such as the exquisite pen box, probably from Shiraz, ca. 1400-1425 in the Musée Jacquemart-André (Melikian, 1973, p. 85; Jacquemart-André 11959; repro. Lentz and Lowry, pp. 141, cat.no. 47). Several Persian textiles from late-Sasanian and Islamic periods are preserved in the collections of the Musée de Cluny (Persia or Mesopotamia, 10th-11th century; Ray, 11th-12th century). The Musée de l’Armée in the Hôtel des Invalides keeps some weapons and military paraphernalia, mainly of later Islamic dynasties, such as a Safavid steel helmet.

3. Musée national de la céramique, Sèvres. Sèvres, the famous center for porcelain manufacture, has a large museum situated close to the factory containing representative items of ceramics from all around the world, including some fine Persian examples. Among the donators of Persian ceramics, mention must be made of Dr. Alexandre-Eugène Joseph Chompret, whose donation in 1957 included ceramics from Nīšāpūr and Samarqand, dated 10th-11th century, as well as a curious foundation disk, dated 761/1360, decorated in the luster technique (Sèvres inv. 22688; repr. in Adle, p. 201). This disk, together with its “twin,” whose existence became known through an old photograph, was published by Chariyar Adle (Adle, pp. 199-218). The “twin” disk, hitherto unlocated, showed up in a Paris sale in 1996 (Arcache, no. 159), and was bought by the Sèvres Museum. Another item from the Chompret Collection is the zoomorphical jug, in the shape of a partridge, with Persian verses written around its wings, dating from 15th century (PLATE IV). A large show-case displays about fifty pieces from the Safavid period, such as the plate decorated with a kh’i-lin (late 16th century), a luster-decorated bottle (17th century), and a lavender-blue qalyān, painted in white slip (PLATE V).

PLATE IV. Zoomorphical jug with inscription. 15th c. Sèvres, MNC 22687. RMN-Agence photographique.PLATE IV. Zoomorphical jug with inscription. 15th c. Sèvres, MNC 22687. RMN-Agence photographique.

PLATE V. Lavender-blue qalyān. Safavid. Sèvres MNC 16379.PLATE V. Lavender-blue qalyān. Safavid. Sèvres MNC 16379.

4. The Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris. The formation of the Persian manuscript section in the Bibliothèque nationale goes back to the reign of Louis XIV. There were no Persian manuscripts in the library before 1660. However, less than a century later, the catalogue of the manuscripts in the Royal Library (Catalogus codicum manuscriptorum Bibliothecae Regiae I, Paris 1739) already included 388 Persian manuscripts which constitute the Ancien fonds (Richard, 1989, p. 1; 1997, pp. 224-25). The impulse for the creation of the École des langues orientales, as well as the funds to buy manuscripts, can probably be traced to Colbert, during the period from 1661 to 1684. Among the famous collectors of oriental manuscripts of the time were Nicolas Fouquet (1615-80), Cardinal Mazarin (1602-61) and Antoine Galland (1646-1715), the translator of The Arabian Nights. It must be borne in mind that not all the manuscripts in Persian were of Persian origin, many of them being Indian or Turkish copies of Persian texts. Edgar Blochet’s (q.v.) Catalogue des manuscrits persans de la Bibliothèque nationale, (4 vols, Paris, 1905-34) included 2481 entries. Francis Richard has undertaken a revision of the catalogue: the first volume, concerned with the Ancien fonds, has been published (Richard, 1989) and he is currently preparing the Supplément persan which includes Persian manuscripts which were acquired by the library from 1740 to the present.

The Bibliothèque nationale possesses some celebrated Persian illustrated manuscripts. The copy of the Ketāb al-deryāq (dated 595/1199), an illustrated Arabic text, is regarded as an important landmark in the history of Islamic painting (Ettinghausen, pp. 83-86). Its provenance remains controversial, although in the opinion of one art historian, its Persian origin is beyond dispute (Mélikian, 1967).

The oldest illustrated manuscript made for the library of Sultan Aḥmad Jalāyer is a copy of Moḥammad b. Maḥmūd b. Aḥmad Ṭūsī Salmānī’s ʿAjāʾeb al-maḵlūqāt (q.v.) made in Baghdad in 790/1388 (Suppl. Pers. 332; Gray, pp. 45-48, Richard 1997, p. 71). An illustrated copy of the Jāmeʿ al-tawārīḵ of Rašīd-al-Dīn, made for Bāysonḡor (q.v.) in Herat around 1430 (Suppl. Pers. 1113), contains 113 illustrations by several artists. Although written in Arabic, the copy of the Ketāb ṣowar al-kawākeb al-ṯābeta (The book on the constellations of the fixed stars; MS Arabe 5036) by ʿAbd-al-Raḥmān b. ʿOmar Ṣūfī (q.v.), made for Uluḡ Beg around 1437, is a jewel of the Timurid art of the book. The copy contains 74 illustrations, probably made in Herat or Samarqand (Lentz and Lowry, pp. 152-53, 168-69 and 340). A splendid Ḵamsa of Neẓāmī dated 1620-24 (Suppl. Pers. 1029) contains 34 paintings, two of them signed by an otherwise unknown artist, Ḥaydarqolī Naqqāš. This copy was probably made in Bāḡbād (Turkmenistan) and Isfahan for a member of Shah ʿAbbās’ entourage (Richard, 1995, pp. 92-94; 1997, p. 219). Other important paintings and calligraphies are kept in the form of albums (moraqqaʿs) such as Suppl. Pers. 1171, or Arabe 6076, which contain fine specimens of Safavid painting.

Located on the premises of the Bibliothèque nationale is the Cabinet des Médailles, which houses the already-mentioned Cup of Ḵosrow. Besides an impressive collection of coins and seals of different periods, the Cabinet also displays other masterpieces of Sasanian art, such as a silver plate with a royal hunting scene attributed to Yazdegerd III (Ghirshman, 1951, pl. XV; Trésors d’Orient, no. 227) or the cameo commemorating the victory of Šāpūr I over Valerian (B.N., Méd., Babelon, Cat. no. 360; Trésors d’Orient, no. 225).

Provincial museums. Some provincial libraries also keep Persian manuscripts. Thus, the Bibliothèque nationale et universitaire in Strasbourg has 32 Persian manuscripts (Hoghoughi); four of them illustrated (Bourgeois, Pls. IX-XII), to which a moraqqaʿ with calligraphies and paintings must be added (Piemontese).

The Musée historique des tissus in Lyon was founded in 1890. It was perhaps The Great Exhibition of 1851 in London that inspired the Lyon industrialists to create a historical museum with textiles from different parts of the world. The collection contains an important section on pre-Islamic textiles, including many Sasanian fragments. Most of these come from excavations at Antinoë in Egypt. Jean Pozzi’s donation to the museum in 1971 included 1400 textiles, among which 800 are Persian. These comprise seven Buyid fragments, along with numerous pieces from the 17th and 18th centuries, as well as carpets from Senneh and Khorasan (Martiniani-Reber; Sano, 1976). The donation also included several Persian ceramics.

The Musée Adrien Dubouché in Limoges has some interesting pieces of Persian ceramics including a qalyān base in the shape of a cat, made in Kermān in the 17th century and a large vase with polychrome decoration (Kermān, late 17th century). Many other regional museums own oriental objects; they are mostly badly catalogued and seldom on display (Musée Granet in Aix-en-Provence, Musée Grobet-Labadié in Marseille, Musée d’Art et d’Histoire de Narbonne, among others).

Rarely displayed, the collections of Islamic art in the French central regions are unknown to the public; moreover, the history of the provenance and acquisition of their pieces are poorly documented. Arms and weapons, mainly Qajar, are probably best represented in these collections: Rochebrune, (Nantes, Musée Dobrée), Walh-Offroy (Châteaudun, Musée des beaux-arts et d’histoire naturelle) and Mangin (Chartres, Musée des beaux-arts). There is also some Safavid bronze, such as a series of candlesticks in Nantes, and a large basin in Dijon’s Musée des Beaux-Arts. As for ceramics, Châlon-sur-Saône keeps a beautiful Solṭanābād cup, and two Kubachi plates are preserved in Châteaudun. There is a collection of pottery-sherds collected by Cugnin, housed in the Tessé museum in Le Mans.

Some small provincial museums hold interesting surprises in store: the Musée Duplessis in Carpentras owns four superb Qajar paintings (unpublished) given to the painter Jules Laurens by the newly crowned Nāṣer-al-Dīn Shah in 1848. Laurens, a native of Carpentras, was the illustrator for the scientific mission led by Xavier Hommaire de Hell; the drawings illustrating his travels were published in 1859. The Qajar paintings, along with some of his own compositions (including two entitled “The Ashraf Gardens,” and “The Roofs of Isfahan”) were donated to his native city after his death.

Other provincial collections, such as the Maison de Pierre Loti, in Rochefort, are not arranged as museums. The house has been preserved intact, in the way it was left by the famous travel writer. It contains an impressive quantity of objects from his numerous travels, including some Persian 19th century tiles (kāšīs), carpets, and weapons (a detailed catalogue of this collection is yet to come).

Private collections and art market. Persian and Islamic art in general do not seem to have interested private collectors before the 19th century. One exception was Vicomte de Robien, whose collection of Oriental paintings-mainly Indian-was sequestrated in 1792. Before the Exposition Universelle of 1878, only a few private collectors were known, such as Sauvageot, Piet-Lataudrie and Jules-Albert Goupil (Soustiel and David, 1988, p. 7). On the occasion of the Exposition Universelle, Jules Jacquemart, Charles Schefer, Alfred Firmin-Didot and Philippe Burty were the main lenders of Islamic works of art. Between 1879 and 1893, Louis Gonse formed the first great private collection of Oriental (mainly Persian) paintings. A large part of this collection was sold in Paris in 1988. From the beginning of this century, the number of collectors of oriental art in France began to increase considerably: Claude Anet, Raymond Koechlin, Louis Cartier, were among the lenders at the Exhibition of Persian Art at Burlington House, London, in 1931 (Persian Art: An Illustrated Souvenir…, pp. 42, 45). The famous Exposition des Arts Musulmans, Paris 1903, although not exclusively Persian, was also an important landmark. In 1912, the exhibition of Persian arts of the book at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs organized by Georges Marteau and Henri Vever displayed their magnificent collections, together with some items belonging to the Comtesse de Bearn and Henry d’Allemagne. Marteau’s collection went mostly to the Louvre; while Vever’s entire collection was acquired by the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery in Washington (Lowry and Nemazee) and thus lost to France. Two other famous collectors of Persian art were Baron Edmond de Rothschild and his son Maurice. Sevadjian’s collection of Islamic ceramics and works of art was sold in 1927 and 1960. Jean Pozzi’s collection (1884-1967) was probably one of the most impressive of the time. The most important part of the collection were Persian miniatures and manuscripts, but textiles and ceramics were also included. After his death, the bulk of Persian paintings from Pozzi’s collection was donated to the Musée d’art et d’histoire in Geneva (Robinson). However, the sale of oriental paintings from his collection in 1970 still included some outstanding Persian pages such as six illustrations from the so-called “Big heads” Šāh-nāma (Soustiel, 1970, nos. 84-89).

Paris is one of the important markets for Islamic art, with experts of international reputation, such as Jean Soustiel and Marie-Christine David, whose gallery, first established in 1926 by Joseph Soustiel is the oldest in Paris specializing in Islamic art. Sales of Islamic objects take place mainly in the Hôtel Drouot and many of the items often come from small and little-known private collections from within France.

There are still some important private collections in France but they try to maintain their anonymity. Thus, the sale in 1992 of Garith Windsor’s collection appeared in Melikian’s regular art column in the Herald Tribune (Melikian, 1992a) as “The End of an Era in Collecting.” Later in the same year was the sale of Pierre Abrami’s collection of Islamic glass and ceramics (Soustiel and David, 1992b, no. 1-57), in which 57 items were sold, including an exceptional (although fragmentary) Koranic frieze in luster ceramic (Kāšān, second half of 13th century), as well as a group of tiles decorated in the same technique, probably from Taḵt-e Solaymān, which again prompted Melikian to write “The collector’s market is alive, but the speculative market is dead” (Melikian, 1992b). Thus, the art market continues to provide art historians with new data.


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L. Arcache, Art de l’Islam, tableaux orientalistes, Catalog 18-19 March 1996, Etude Tajan, Paris, 1996.

Arts de l’Islam des origines à 1700 dans les collections publiques françaises, Paris, 1971.

E. Babelon, Catalogue des camées antiques et modernes de la Bibliothèque nationale, Paris, 1897.

W. Ball and J. C. Gardin, Catalogue des sites archéologiques d’Afghanistan, Paris, 1982.

M. Bernus, “Dossier de recensement (du suaire de saint Josse),” Bulletin de liaison du centre international d’etudes des textiles anciens 33, 1971, pp. 22-55.

M. Bernus-Taylor, Les Arts de l’Islam: guide du visiteur du Louvre, Paris, 1993.

M. L. Bourgeois, “Sur quatre manuscrits persans de la Bibliothèque nationale et universitaire de Strasbourg,” Stud. Ir., 16, 1987, pp. 237-55.

Catalogue de l’exposition d’antiquités orientales: Fouilles de Tello, de Suse et de Syrie, Paris, 1930.

Contribution de la civilisation islamique à la culture européenne, Paris, 1991.

H. Corbin, Les Arts de l’Iran, l’ancienne Perse et Bagdad, Paris, 1938.

R. Cottevieille-Giraudet, “Coupes et camée sassanides du Cabinet de France,” in Revue des arts asiatiques 12, 1938, pp. 52-64.

Les donateurs du Louvre, Paris, 1989.

R. Ettinghausen, Arab Painting, Geneva, 1962.

R. Ghirshman, L’Iran des origines à l’Islam, Paris, 1951.

Idem, Bichâpour II: les mosaïques sassanides, Paris, 1956.

B. Gray, Persian Painting, Geneva, 1961.

E. J. Grube and E. Sims, “The Representations of Shāh ʿAbbās I,” in L’Arco di Fango che Rubo la luce alle Stelle: Studi in onore di Eugenio Galdieri, Lugano, 1995, pp. 177-208.

A. Hoghoughi, Catalogue critique des manuscrits persans de la Bibliothèque nationale et universitaire de Strasbourg, Strasbourg, 1964.

Iran: pièces du musée de Téhéran, du musée du Louvre et de collections particulières, Paris, 1948.

L’Islam dans les collections nationales, Paris, 1977.

Th. W. Lentz and G. D. Lowry, Timur and the Princely Vision: Persian Art and Culture in the Fifteenth Century, Los Angeles, 1989.

G. Marteau and H. Vever, Miniatures persanes, Paris, 1913.

M. Martiniani-Reber, Lyon, Musée historique des tissus: soieries sassanides, coptes et byzantines, Ve-XIe siècles, Paris, 1986.

A. S. Melikian-Chirvani, “Trois manuscrits de l’Iran seldjoukide,” in Arts Asiatiques 16, Paris, 1967, pp. 3-51.

Idem, Le bronze iranien, Paris, 1973.

Idem, “The End of an Era in Collecting,” International Herald Tribune, February 22-23, 1992, p. 6.

Idem, “Auctions: Top Dollar is Paid, but Only for Top-Notch,” International Herald Tribune, June 27-28, 1992, p. 7.

La Perse et la France: relations diplomatiques et culturelles du XVIIe au XIXe siècle, Paris, 1972.

Persian Art: An Illustrated Souvenir of the Exhibition of Persian Art at Burlington House, London, 1931.

A.-M. Piemontese, “Un album moraqqaʿ persano-turc à Strasbourg,” in Pand-o-sokhan: Mélanges offerts à Charles-Henri de Fouchécour, ed. C. Bala, C. Kappler, and Z. Vesel, Tehran, 1995, pp. 201-18.

E. Porada, Alt-Iran, Baden-Baden, 1962.

F. Richard, Catalogue des manuscrits persans I: ancien fonds, Paris, 1989.

Idem, Les cinq poèmes de Nezâmi, Paris, 1995.

Idem, Splendeurs persanes: manuscrits du XIIe au XVIIe siècle, Paris, 1997.

B. W. Robinson, et al., Jean Pozzi: L’Orient d’un collectionneur, Geneva, 1992.

T. Sano, ed., Etoffes merveilleuses du Musée historique des tissus, Lyon III: tissus de l’Orient, de l’Italie et de l’Espagne, Tokyo, 1976.

Sept mille ans d’art en Iran, Paris, 1962.

M. S. Simpson, The Illustration of an Epic: The Earliest Shahnama Manuscripts, New York, 1979.

J. Soustiel, Collection Jean Pozzi: Miniatures Indiennes et orientales, Catalog 5 December 1970, Rheims and Laurin, Palais Galliéra, Paris, 1970.

J. Soustiel and M.-C. David, Art islamique: 22 miniatures des collections Louis Gonse, Catalog 16 December 1988, Etude Daussy-Ricqlès, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 1988.

Idem, Art islamique, archéologie, Catalog 1 July 1991, Daussy-Ricqlès, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 1991.

Idem, Extrême-Orient, Archéologie Orientale et Islamique, Catalog 21 February, 1992, Mes Audap-Godeau-Solanet, Paris, Hôtel Drouot, 1992.

Idem, Art islamique, Catalog 22 June 1992, Etude Daussy-Ricqlès, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 1992. Le Trésor de Saint-Denis, Paris, 1991.

Trésors d’Orient, Paris, 1973.

Trésors sacrés, trésors cachés: patrimoine des églises de Seine-et-Marne, Melun, France, 1988.


From the origins to the end of the 19th century: The primacy of language studies. Until the end of the 18th century there were only a few limited sources of information on Persia available in France: Saʿdī’s Golestān through Latin and French translations; travelogues by Jean-Baptiste Tavernier (1676), Jean Thévenot (1674), and Jean Chardin (q.v.; 1686 and 1711), the latter containing one of the first copies of Sasanian inscriptions and the first copy of one of the Persepolis inscriptions of Darius (DPc, see Kent, Old Persian, p. 109); and finally through Greek and Latin accounts of the Ancient World. In literature and the arts in general, the image of Persia, as depicted in Montesquieu’s Lettres persanes (1721) and Jean-Philippe Rameau’s opera Zoroastre (1749), was basically a fictive one.

From the beginning of the Safavid era, there was some French influence within Persia itself, and particularly in Isfahan, thanks to the activities of Carmelite and Capuchin monks (see CAPUCHINS IN PERSIA and CARMELITES IN PERSIA) who established a hospice in Isfahan (Richard, 1986-87, pp. 27-8) where many French travelers and scholars stayed, but their knowledge of Persia did not filter back to France. Gabriel de Paris (ca. 1595-1641), the first prior of this hospice, was one of the most active pioneers of Persian culture and language in French in the seventeenth century, but his influence was limited to within Persia itself. Similarly, Raphaël du Mans (q.v.), interpreter at the Safavid court from about 1650 until his death in 1696, was a major source of information to travelers but had little direct impact on France where there was still no teaching of Persian and where only a handful of people had any scholarly knowledge of Persian language and literature. Dāwūd b. Saʿīd Eṣfahānī, a Catholic from Isfahan (1612-84), was the Persian translator at the court of Louis XIII and wrote several works which remain in manuscript, including a French-Persian-Turkish dictionary. His translation,in collaboration with Gilbert Gaulmin, of Anwār-e sohaylī (q.v.) as Le Livre des Lumières ou la Conduite des Roys, was printed in Paris in 1644 (Richard, 1986-87, p. 29). Ange de Saint Joseph (Joseph Labrosse, 1636-97) printed his famous Persian-Latin-Italian dictionary, Gazophylacium linguae Persarum triplici linguarum clavi …, in Amsterdam in 1684 (ed. and tr. M. Bastiaensen as Souvenirs de la Perse safavide et autres lieux de l’Orient, 1664-1678, Brussels, 1985). In the seventeenth century, Gilbert Gaumin (1585-1665), Claude Saumaise (1588-1653), and Claude Bérault (d. 1705), who later taught Syriac at Collège Royal, were among the first few French scholars with some knowledge of Persian. Another teacher at Collège Royal, Jean-François Pétis de la Croix (1653-1713), son of François Pétis de la Croix (1622-1695), Persian interpreter at the French court, had a good knowledge of Persian. He traveled in Persia (1674-1676) and was, along with his near contemporary Antoine Galland (1646-1715), one of the first translators of One Thousand and One Nights (see ALF LAYLA WA LAYLA) into French (Richard, 1986-87, pp. 30-31, 35-37). The great quest for oriental manuscripts which began in the seventeenth century (see H. Omont, Missions archéologiques françaises en Orient aux XVIIe et XVIIIe siècles, 2 vols., Paris, 1902) should also be mentioned. Persian manuscripts began to be collected both by private collectors including cardinals Richelieu and Mazarin as well as, from 1667 onwards, by the Bibliothèque du Roi, the future Bibliothèque nationale (Richard, 1986-87, pp. 31-33). The most important single work to appear in France on Persian and oriental literature in the seventeenth century was the Bibliothèque orientale which was started by Barthélémy d’Herbelot de Molainville (q.v.) in 1697. This remained a basic work of reference for orientalists to the end of the nineteenth century (Torābi, 1992, p. 43).

The genuine beginning of Persian studies in France began with the foundation in Istanbul and Smyrna (Izmir) of a “School of languages for the young” (Écoles des jeunes de langues,translation of dil ōğlanı from Ottoman Turkish). Created at Colbert’s instigation on 18 November 1669 by a decree of the Council of Commerce, the school finally began its work in 1710. It trained translators for French consulates and was headed by Capuchin priests. At that early stage, the translators were to master only Ottoman Turkish, but after the expulsion of the Jesuits from France in 1762 and the merging of the École des jeunes des langues with the Collège Louis-le-Grand in Paris in 1763, the teaching of Persian was finally introduced. The creation of the École spéciale des langues orientales (see below) after the Revolution did not entail the suppression of this establishment (which at one time was referred to as the Institut des boursiers du collège Égalité), but the school began to stagnate and became l’École des langues orientales annexed to the Collège royal de Louis-le-Grand between 1820 and 1868, before apparently disappearing altogether in 1893.

In the eighteenth century, Persian acquired the same academic status as Arabic and Turkish and several important works of Persian literature were translated. Abraham Hyacinthe Anquetil-Duperron (q.v.; 1731-1805) traveled throughout India for five years (1755-61); he learnt from the Parsee dastūrs (q.v.) what they knew of Avestan, procured from them a number of manuscripts, and undertook a translation of the Avesta which he finished in 1760. On his return to Paris, he enriched the Bibliothèque du Roi with the manuscripts he had brought back with him. He also published his translation of the Avesta, accompanied by several essays on the religion of the Parsees. His refusal to find anything anti-Christian in the Avesta disappointed the Encyclopedists, including Voltaire and Diderot who, having been eager to exploit his work as a polemical weapon against Christianity, gave it a poor reception (Schwab, 1934, p. 96).

The last years of the eighteenth century were marked by the establishment by the Convention, on 10 Germinal of year III (30 March 1795), of the École spéciale des langues orientales, based on an idea of the Orientalist Louis Langlès (1763-1824) and with the support of Joseph Lakanal. Known later as “Langues O,” this academic institution, housed at the Bibliothèque nationale until 1873, is still the main pillar of Oriental studies in France. Holders of the chair of Persian are listed in Table 1.


The three great languages of the Muslim East (alsana-ye ṯalāṯa: Arabic, Persian (associated at first with Malay), and Ottoman Turkish) were taught by several figures of great erudition (A. Bourgey, ed., Bicentenaire des Langues O, Paris, 1995). These included two eminent scholars who contributed greatly to the study of Persian literature: Antoine Isaac Sylvestre de Sacy (q.v.; 1758-1838) and Jules Mohl (q.v.; 1801-52).

Sylvestre de Sacy, translator of ʿAṭṭār and Jāmī, who also deciphered some Sasanian inscriptions, can be considered as the first master of modern Orientalism and Persian studies in France. He held his courses at the École des langues orientales in Arabic, Hebrew, and Persian from 1794 to 1796, before becoming its director (1824-38). He chaired the first session of the Société asiatique founded in 1821 (the Journal asiatique, began publication in 1823), and was, in 1806, the first holder of the chair of Persian language at Collège de France (est. 1529), thereby giving Persian studies a prominent position in French humanities. Many famous Orientalists were taught by him including Antoine-Léonard de Chézy (1774-1832), Pierre-Amédée Jaubert (1779-1847), Etienne Quatremère (1782-1832), and Joseph Garcin de Tassy (q.v.; 1794-1878).

Born in Stuttgart, Jules Mohl left for Paris in 1823, and later became a French citizen. In 1826 he undertook, by royal commission, his monumental edition and translation of the Šāh-nāma of Ferdowsī which was read and discussed by Victor Hugo, Jules Michelet, Charles-Augustin Sainte-Beuve and other literary figures who attended the famous literary salon of his wife Mary Clarke (Lesser, pp. 3, 118-22). In 1847, he became professor of Persian at Collège de France and succeeded Eugène Burnouf (q.v.; 1801-52), the famous scholar of the Avesta, as president of the Société Asiatique in 1852.

From 1870 to World War II: ancient history and philology. With the establishment of the Third Republic in France in 1871, Iranian studies entered a phase of detailed and wide-ranging research within a professional and institutional framework. The École des langues orientales (“nationale” as of 1914) finally acquired a comprehensive library thanks to the efforts of Charles Scheffer (q.v.; 1820-98), who became its director in 1869 and reshaped its organization. Scheffer was the holder of the chair of Persian at the École from 1857, and published numerous editions and translations of Persian classics and encouraged the Ministry of Public Instruction to support expeditions to the Orient to collect data and materials.

Following the travels of Flandin and Coste (q.v.) and the excavations in Susa (1884-85) by Marcel-Auguste Dieulafoy (q.v.; 1844-1920), Jacques de Morgan (q.v.; 1857-1924) was appointed in 1890 as head of the first comprehensive scientific study on Persia (Mission scientifique en Perse, 10 vols., Paris, 1895-1905). Meanwhile, the French government acquired the monopoly of archaeological excavations in Persia from Nāṣer-al-Dīn Shah in 1894 and de Morgan established the French Archaeological Mission in Persia (1897). Later, in 1923, France obtained the monopoly of archaeological excavations in Afghanistan for a period of thirty years (see DÉLÉGATIONS ARCHÉOLOGIQUES FRANÇAISES). In Central Asia, the expedition of Paul Pelliot (q.v.; 1878-1945) to Xinjiang (1906-9) brought a rich collection of Sogdian texts back to Paris (see EXCAVATIONS iv).

The results of these collections and excavations were soon made available and left a strong imprint on the course of French Iranian studies, which became focused on ancient Iran, archaeology, linguistics, and classical literature. The contributions made by the outstanding scholars in this field, many of whom enjoyed an international academic reputation thanks to the range and depth of their contributions to linguistics, comparative philology and anthropology are described under their own entries and in a different section (see FRANCE xii[b]). They include James Darmesteter (1849-94), Antoine Meillet (1866-1936), Robert Gauthiot (1876-1916), Émile Benveniste (1902-76; qq.v.), and Georges Dumézil (1898-1986). In the field of classical Persian literature, Henri Massé (q.v.; 1886-1969), professor of Persian at the École national des langues orientales from 1927 to 1958, wrote on both Ferdowsī and Saʿdī. But his most significant contribution was his pioneering work on folklore: Croyances et coutumes persanes, suivies de contes et chansons populaires (q.v.; 2 vols., Paris, 1938).

Since World War II: new institutions and diversification. During the second half of the 20th century, studies in linguistics, ancient Iranian culture and religion, and classical Persian literature continued as before. New fields of research also began to be explored: in Islamic studies on Shiʿism, history of the Islamic period, modern literature, and the social sciences in Persia as well as in others regions of the Iranian world (Afghanistan, Central Asia, India).

The present institutional framework within which Iranian studies in France are carried out gradually came into being after the Second World War. In 1947, Louis Massignon (q.v.; 1883-1962) founded the Institut des études iraniennes (IEI), for research and post-graduate studies mainly on languages and literature, at the University of Paris (now Sorbonne Nouvelle-Paris III). Its library collection was enriched by acquiring the private libraries and papers of Darmesteter, Massé, and Marijan Molé (q.v.; 1924-63), a Polish born and highly gifted specialist of the Zoroastrian religion, Sufi orders, and classical Persian literature. The profound influence of Massignon himself on oriental studies in general and his role in delineating a particularly Persian strain in the development of Islamic thought remains a matter of debate and controversy. He was succeeded by Émile Benveniste, who became director of the IEI in 1962 and inaugurated the series Travaux des l’Institut des études iraniennes with his own contribution, Titres et noms propres en iranien ancien (Paris, 1966). Following Jean de Menasce (1902-73) professor of ancient Iranian religions at the École pratique des hautes études (EPHE), the Institute was directed by Gilbert Lazard (b. 1920), a linguist, author of Grammaire du persan contemporain (Paris, 1957; tr. by S. A. Lyon as A Grammar of Contemporary Persian, Costa Mesa, Calif., 1992), and Dictionnaire persan-français, (Leiden, 1990). His teachings and works on Persian language and literature have had a very strong influence on the whole of Persian studies in France since 1960. His work covers many fields particularly early Persian language and literature (La langue des plus anciens monuments de la prose persane, Paris, 1963; Les premiers poètes persans, Paris, 2 vols., 1964). He has also translated several works by Ṣādeq Ḥedāyat, (q.v.) including Ḥājī Āqā, into French (Hâdji Aghâ, Paris, 1996). From 1952 to 1972 Lazard held the chair of Persian language at the École nationale des langues orientales vivantes. He was also professor at Sorbonne from 1966 and at EPHE as successor to Benveniste from 1971.

In 1972, a new journal, Studia Iranica, was founded under the editorship of Philippe Gignoux (b. 1931), professor of ancient Iranian religions at EPHE, and the famous historian Jean Aubin (see below). In the same year, the Institut d’études iraniennes joined the Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS) to create a research group chaired by Gilbert Lazard and entitled “Langues, littérature et culture iraniennes” to which most of French scholars working on classical Persian studies were affiliated.

In literary studies, Charles-Henri de Fouchécour (b. 1925), professor at the Langues O and the Sorbonne, has studied a wide range of topics in classical literature, and has published many articles on literary subjects and individual poets including Ḥāfeẓ and Ferdowsī. His comprehensive work, Moralia: les notions morales dans la littérature persane du 3e/9e au 7e/13e siècle (Paris, 1987), based on a wide ranging study of primary sources, is a pioneering and subtle analysis of the intertextual connections between literature and ethics through new perspectives and taxonomies. Research on medieval literature has also been carried out by Claude-Claire Kappler, particularly on Ḥāfeẓ and Rūmī, and by Marina Gaillard on popular prose literature (Le Livre de Samak-e ʿAyyar: structure et idéologie du roman persan médiéval, Paris, 1987). On modern literature, Christophe Bala (b. 1949), professor at the Langues O since 1985, has written on Persian contemporary novels and short stories (Aux sources de la nouvelle persane, Paris, 1983, in collaboration with Michel Cuypers; and La genèse du roman persan moderne, Tehran, 1998).

The history of arts and sciences in the Islamic period has been studied by several scholars in France. Yves Porter (b. 1957) has written on miniature paintings and the art of the book (Peinture et arts du livre, Paris, 1992; tr. by S. Butani as Painters, Paintings, and Books: An Essay on Indo-Persian Technical Literature, 12th-19th Centuries, New Delhi, 1994). A historian of medieval sciences, Živa Vesel, has written on medieval Persian encyclopædias (Les encyclopédies persanes: essai de typologie et de classification des sciences, Paris, 1986). The Persian historian Chahryar Adle (b. 1944) has edited and contributed to the proceedings of important seminars on art and archaeology as well as the social and cultural history of Tehran. He has also published several articles based on his field work on archaeological sites and monuments particularly relating to the medieval Islamic period in eastern Persia. Assadullah Souren Melikian-Chirvani, a prolific writer on fine arts and art history in general, has written several valuable studies on the interaction between art and literature (Essai sur les rapports de l’esthétique littéraire et de l’esthétique plastique dans l’Iran pré-mongol, Paris, 1970). Another scholar with an interdisciplinary approach is Jean During (b. 1947), whose work is informed by his study of mystical and philosophical texts as well as a thorough knowledge of Persian music (with Z. Mirabdolbaghi and D. Safvat, Musique et mystique, Paris, 1989; tr. into Eng. with the collaboration of Manuchehr Anvar as The Art of Persian Music, Washington, D.C., 1991).

Historical studies of the Islamic period in Persia have never occupied a central place in French institutions, where they have always been overshadowed by the dominance of studies focused on the Arab world. Jean Aubin (1927-98), professor at the EPHE, was the most eminent French historian writing on Persian history. He established, with Jean Calmard (b. 1931), a separate research group joining EPHE with the CNRS called the Centre d’études islamiques et d’histoire comparée. In his wide-ranging and yet highly detailed articles (see bibliography by J. and J. Calmard, 1998), Aubin showed his mastery in using primary sources with a flair and sensitivity unequaled in contemporary Western historical research on Persia. Like Claude Cahen, he was a historian with a wide and rigorous training in different historical fields. Assisted by Jean Calmard, who contributed articles on nineteenth century social history and popular religious dramas (taʿzīya), Aubin published numerous studies in the journal Le monde iranien et l’islam (several issues from 1971 to 1994). In recent years there have been several seminars and conferences on Persian history from the Safavid period to the present (see, for example, J. Calmard, ed., Études safavides, Paris and Tehran, 1993). A new generation of historians has also emerged since 1990. Denise Aigle (b. 1943) at EPHE, has written on and edited important volumes on medieval hagiography and Moghul history (D. Aigle, ed., L’Iran face à domination mongole, Tehran, 1997). Maria Szuppe (b. 1960) has worked at the CNRS on the social and cultural history of central Asia in the 16th century (Entre Timourides, Uzbeks et Safavides, Paris, 1992).

French Iranian studies were also developed within Persia in the years following the Second World War. The French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, starting a new cultural initiative in the Middle East, asked Henry Corbin (q.v.; 1903-78) the famous specialist in the history of Iranian Islamic thought, to establish the Département d’iranologie de l’institut Français de Téhéran (1946). Corbin’s substantial contributions as writer, editor and translator of Persian philosophers, theologians, and mystics, and founder of the Bibliothèque iranienne, a series published by the same institute since 1949, are discussed under his entry as well as the entry on his monumental work, En Islam iranien. During the directorship of his successor, Charles-Henri de Fouchécour (1974-79), major changes took place at the Institute. The Département d’iranologie was given a wider scope and scholars from different disciplines including social sciences were encouraged to participate in its activities. The annual journal Abstracta Iranica,containing short critical reviews of current research on all aspects of Iranian studies was founded in 1978. This trend towards a wider coverage of social and human sciences in the Institute was further reinforced under the later directors of the Institute, Bernard Hourcade (1979-93), and Rémy Boucharlat (1993-98). In 1983, The Institute and the Délégation Archéologique Française en Iran were joined to create the Institut Français de Recherche en Iran (IFRI), which, because of the political situation in Persia remained closed until 1993, although the series “Bibliothèque iranienne,” and its translations into Persian continued to be published in Tehran.

Before the collapse of the Soviet Union, French archeologists and historians were engaged in excavations in Tajikistan (Rolland Besenval) and Uzbekistan (Frantz Grenet in Samarkand). Most of these scholars had been working before in Afghanistan prior to the Soviet invasion of 1979. Also before the invasion, the CNRS had a permanent base in Kabul for geographical and geological research, headed by Daniel Balland. In 1992 the Institut français d’études en Asie Centrale (IFEAC), directed by Pierre Chuvin, was created by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and several young scholars are now studying the Persian culture of this region.

Iranian studies are carried out in various institutions in Paris, but not in other cities. Only basic courses of Persian are taught at Lyon, Bordeaux (until 1997), Aix-en-Provence, and Strasbourg, where a group of researchers affiliated to the CNRS has been working since 1993 on Turkish and Persian history and culture. After Henry Corbin, the tradition of studies on Iranian Sufism and Shiʿism continued at the EPHE (in the section on religious sciences) with the participation of Guy Monnot and later Pierre Lory; Mohammad Ali Amir-Moezzi, who has written on early Shiʿism (Le guide divin dans le shiʿisme originel, Paris, 1992; tr. by D. Streight as The Divine Guide in Early Shiʿism, Albany, N.Y., 1994); and Denise Aigle, whose work on hagiography and religious anthropology has already been mentioned. Some important scholars, however, work outside the university system, including Christian Jambet (b. 1949), an active proponent of Corbin’s thought (Henri Corbin, Paris, 1981) and a writer on Ismaʿili history and literature. The history and the activities of the Bibliothèque nationale also fall outside the scope of this article. However, mention must be made of the scholarly contributions of the present curator of Persian manuscripts, Francis Richard, who has made valuable studies on scholarly contacts between France and Persia and the role of the religious orders. His masterly biography and edition, Raphaël du Mans: missionaire en Perse au XIIe siècle (2 vols, Paris, 1995) is indispensable for the study of Safavid Persia. He has also embarked on a new catalogue of Persian manuscripts at the Bibliothèque national, the first volume of which has already appeared (Paris, 1989).

The Institut national des langues et civilisations orientales (official name of Langues 0) was the basic institution for undergraduate teaching in Iranian languages. Besides Persian, Pashto (Daniel Septfonds, Le Dzadrani: un parler pashto du Patkya [Afghanistan], Paris, 1994) and Kurdish were also offered on the syllabus. Courses in Kurdish began in 1947, taught by Roger Lescot (Grammaire kurde: dialecte kurmandji, in collab. with Bédir Khan, Paris, 1970). In 1970 a permanent position in Kurdish was established which is at present occupied by Joyce Blau de Wangen (b. 1932), who has published several works on various Kurdish dialects. Another prolific writer on Kurdish studies, particularly in relation to folklore and literature is Mohammad Mokri, who also worked for many years at Paris.

The CNRS has played a major role in developing Persian studies since 1970. More than twenty five scholars working in various groups are employed by this state organization, which is responsible for the major part of the budget for research and publications and is able to put into practice long term projects and plans concerning oriental studies. In 1995, most of the groups of research on Persian and Iranian studies (ancient, classical, and contemporary, excluding archeology) affiliated with CNRS were joined into a new research team “Monde Iranien,” headed by Bernard Hourcade (b. 1946), consisting of approximately forty researchers, excluding a number of foreign associate scholars. All institutions dealing with Persian and Iranian studies in Paris (CNRS, Sorbonne Nouvelle, Institut national des langues et civilisations orientales, EPHE) contribute to this new team.

Last but not least, the Collège de France has been one of the bastions of Iranian studies since the beginning of the last century. In 1999, Jean Kellens taught Avestan studies; Michel Tardieu, history of religions (Manicheism); and Pierre Briant, author of an authoritative work on the history of the Achaemenids (Histoire de l’empire acheménide, Paris, 1996), the ancient history of Persia. This demonstrates the continuing prominence of Iranian studies in this most prestigious French academic institution.


H. Beikbaghban, “Henri Massé: l’homme et l’oeuvre,”Luqmān 11/1, 1994-95, pp. 81-95.

W. W. Belier, Decayed Gods: Origin and Development of Georges Dumézil’s “Idéologie tripartite,” Leiden, 1991.

E. Benveniste, “Bibliographie des travaux d’Antoine Meillet,” BSL 38, 1937, pp. 43-68.

Cent-cinquantenaire de l’École des langues orientales: histoire, organisation et enseignements de l’École nationale des langues orientales vivantes, Paris, 1948.

O. H. Bonnerot, La Perse dans la littérature et la pensée françaises au XVIIIe siècle, Paris, 1988.

A. Bourgey, ed. Bicentenaire des Langues O, Paris, 1995.

J. and J. Calmard, “Jean Aubin 1927-1998: Bibliographie réunie par Jean et Jacqueline Calmard” Stud. Ir. 27, 1998, pp. 9-14.

R. Dollot, L’Afghanistan, Paris, 1937, pp. 275-94.

J. Duchesne-Guillemin, P. Lecoq, and J. Kellens, Bio-bibliographies de 134 savants, Acta Iranica 20, 4th ser., 1, Leiden, 1979.

Ch.-H. de Fouchécour, “L’Iran Moderne,” in Cinquante ans d’orientalisme en France (1922-1972), JA 261, special issue, 1973, pp. 125-33.

Ph. Gignoux, “L’Iran ancien,” in Cinquante ans d’orientalisme en France (1922-1972), JA 261, special issue, 1973, pp. 117-23.

J. Hadidi, “Naissance et développement de l’iranologie en France,” Luqmān 10/1, 1993-94, pp. 37-52 (contains a list of 19th century French translations of Persian classics ).

B. Hourcade, “Iranian Studies in France,” Iranian Studies 20/2-4, 1987, pp. 1-51 (extensive bibliography).

Idem, “La découverte de l’Iran contemporanian,” Luqmān 4/2, 1988, pp. 47-64.

M. Lesser, Clarkey: A Portrait in Letters of Mary Clarke Mohl (1793-1883), Oxford, 1984.

A. Meillet, “Nécrologie: Robert Gauthiot,” BSL 20, 1916, pp. 127-32.

J. de Morgan, Mémoires de Jacques de Morgan 1857-1924: souvenirs d’un archéologue, compiled and ed. A. Jaunay, Paris, 1997.

E. C. Polomé, ed., Indo-European Religion after Dumézil, Journal of Indo-European Studies Monograph Series 16., Washington, D. C., 1996.

F. Richard, “Aux origines de la connaissance de la langue persane en France,” Luqmān 3/1, 1986-87, pp. 23-42.

Idem, “Quelques collectionneurs français de manuscrits persans au XIXe siècle,” Luqmān 10/1, 1993-94, pp. 53-67.

R. Schwab, Vie d’Anquetil-Duperron , Paris, 1934.

Idem, La Renaissance orientale, Paris, 1950; tr. into Eng. by G. Patterson-Black and V. Reinking as The Oriental Renaissance, New York, 1984.

D. Torābi, “La situation actuelle de l’iranologie en France,” Luqmān 2, 1988, pp. 79-84.

Idem, “La Perse de Barthélémy d’Herbelot,” Luqmān 8, 1992, pp. 43-58.

J. Vendryes, “Antoine Meillet,” BSL 38, 1937, pp. 1-42.

G. Wiet, Notices sur la vie et les travaux de M. Henri Massé, Paris, 1970.


Partly because of the long tradition of philological studies in France which produced a succession of outstanding scholars of international repute and partly because of close historical and institutional connections through the two Délégations Archéologiques Françaises established in Persia and Afghanistan, the French contribution to pre-Islamic Iranian studies, both in philological studies and archeology, has been considerable. This article traces the development of these academic contacts from their inception in the 18th century to the present by a brief chronological examination of the achievements of individual scholars in both fields, many of whom have separate entries of their own providing more detailed information. Furthermore, one of the main traits of French scholarship in the past two centuries has been the contribution made to Iranian studies, particularly in philological, historical and religious domains, by scholars with a wide range of interests of which Iranian studies form only a part. A chronological rather than a thematic approach enables us to delineate their individual contributions more clearly.

Abraham Hyacinthe Anquetil-Duperron (q.v.; 1731-1805) is generally regarded as a pioneer of pre-Islamic Persian studies who succeeded in collecting 180 manuscripts, including copies of the Avesta and samples of most Indian languages during his stay in India. These he deposited at the Bibliothèque du Roi (the future Bibliothèque nationale), thus providing source material for future research.

The translation of the Avesta, completed by Anquetil-Duperron in 1760, was marred by insufficient knowledge of Sanskrit and comparative philology. It was left to Eugène Burnouf (q.v.; 1801-52), the founder of Iranian linguistics, to establish the basis of the scientific study of the Avesta. He wrote a Commentaire sur le Yaçna (2 vols., Paris, 1833-35), based on four manuscripts of the Avesta, the translation of the Pahlavi commentary by Anquetil du Perron (Zend-Avesta, Paris, 1771), and the unedited Sanskrit version of Neriosengh of the same commentary. He was also the first to make use of the Vedic language for philological comparison. He showed that Old Persian is closely related to Avestan and established the place of Old Iranian within comparative grammar.

In his short life, James Darmesteter (q.v.; 1849-94) achieved much both in Zoroastrian studies and Iranian philology. His prize-winning monograph on the Aməša Spəntas (q.v.), Haurvatât et Ameretât: essai sur la mythologie de l’Avesta (Paris, 1875; Gignoux, 1994, pp. 27-40) which was also his graduation thesis as élève diplômé de l’École des hautes études,describes the material attributes of this pair of divinities, whose patronage is related to water and plants, and the relation to their abstract values: health and immortality, in connection with Indo-Iranian mythology. Darmesteter also showed that the seven Aməša Spəntas correspond to the seven creations of Ahura Mazda. In a wider ranging work for which he received the degree of docteur ès lettres, Ohrmazd et Ahriman: leurs origines et leur histoire (Paris, 1877), he applied the comparative methodology used in the history of languages to the history of religion, and reconstructed the Indo-Iranian past of the Mazdean concept of deity. He followed the naturalistic conception of the Indo-Iranian religion, as elaborated in the 19th century and propounded in its most extreme form by Max Müller, and saw the evolution from it to Mazdaism in terms of an uninterrupted progress (Lazard, 1994, pp. 7-8, 16-17).

In the field of Iranian philology, Darmesteter made important contributions to Pahlavi studies and lexicography. His The Zend Avesta appeared in the famous Sacred Books of the East Series edited by Müller (2 vols, Oxford, 1880-83, many reprints). His magnum opus, Études iraniennes (2 vols., Paris, 1883, repr. 1971), surveys the entire history of the Persian language, from the Old Persian of the Achaemenid inscriptions to Modern Persian, a topic to which the contemporary French scholar, Gilbert Lazard, has also brought fresh insights.

Darmesteter’s pioneering work on dialects in relation to philological studies in general is also noteworthy. He established the position of Pashto among Indo-Iranian languages, thanks to the texts collected in Afghanistan, which he published in his massive Chants populaires des Afghans (2 vols, Paris, 1888-90; repr. Amsterdam, 1970). Another major achievement was his French translation of the Avesta, Le Zend-Avesta (Avesta, tr. Darmesteter), where he showed that the hitherto seemingly conflicting approaches of comparative linguistics using Vedic Sanskrit, on the one hand, and, on the other, relying on the tradition of Pahlavi commentaries, could be used as complementary tools and pointed out that, “Vedas and traditions cannot lead to contradictory results if one examines them according to their respective relevance. The Vedas must be looked at for the oldest part of Avestan ideas, the tradition for their present,” (quoted in Eng. tr. by Lazard, 1994, p. 15 from Darmesteter, Études sur l’Avesta: observations sur le Vendidad, Paris, 1883, p. 55; repr. from “Observations sur le Vendidad” JA 7/17, 1881, pp. 435-514).

French archeological excavations in Persia began with Marcel-Auguste Dieulafoy (q.v.; 1844-1920), a government civil engineer, whose initial interest in medieval architecture and archeology and in particular the origin of domes and vaults had led him to travel to Persia with his famous wife, Jane Henriette Magre Dieulafoy (q.v.; 1851-1916). They made two expeditions (1881-82 and 1884-86). The first led them from Tehran to Shiraz, via Persepolis and Susa. In the latter site, explored thirty years earlier by William Kennett Loftus, Dieulafoy discovered the famous friezes of the archers and lions (now in the Louvre) and the capital with protoma of addorsed bulls, revealing the faience work of the Achaemenids. He published the lavishly illustrated L’Art antique de la Perse: Achéménides, Parthes, Sassanides (5 vols, Paris, 1884-89) and L’acropole de Suse d’après les fouilles exécutées en 1884, 1885, 1886, sous les auspices du Musée du Louvre (Paris, 1893). Jane Dieulafoy also wrote several books including La Perse, la Chaldée, la Susiane, relation de voyage (Paris, 1887) and A Suse: journal des fouilles, 1884-1886 (Paris, 1888). A new edition of the two books in three volumes was published in Paris in 1989. The photographs and illustrations in the works of both Dieulafoys provide valuable documentary evidence for contemporary life in the 19th century as well as for pre-Islamic monuments in view of what has since been damaged or lost (e.g. their photograph of the Ayvān-e Kesrā (q.v.), before the irreparable damages by the floods of 1888).

The many contributions of Jacques de Morgan (q.v.; 1857-1924), engineer, geologist, archeologist, and the first director of the French Archeological Delegation in Persia (see DÉLÉGATIONS ARCHÉOLOGIQUES FRANÇAISES) have been set out in detail in his individual entry, and the range of his interests, from geological and archeological studies to Iranian dialects and Mandaean texts is manifested in his monumental Mission scientifique en Perse (5 parts comprising 10 vols, Paris, 1894-1905). His fieldwork in France, Egypt and the Caucasus as well as in Persia and his multidisciplinary approach as a historian and geologist is apparent in another massive contribution, La préhistoire orientale (3 vols., Paris, 1925-27), a major work of synthesis defining his notions on comparative archeology. More controversially, he pioneered the stratigraphic method on the Acropolis tell in Susa. This method, admirably suited to prehistoric sites, becomes problematic when applied ruthlessly regardless of the archeological context, as it was by de Morgan, to a historic site like Susa, radically reshaping it by removing vast quantities of soil. For although many artifacts including masterpieces from the Babylonian and Elamite civilization were found, the architectural remains at Susa, i.e. the provenience of these artifacts, were destroyed forever (Amiet, EIr VII/2, pp. 176-77). De Morgan resigned in 1912, having been unjustly accused of financial mismanagement and laxity. The excavations in Susa were continued by Father Vincent Scheil and Robert de Mecquenem who jointly directed the mission. From 1914 to 1920 the excavations were halted because of the War.

Jean Vincent Scheil (1858-1940), an Assyriologist, who was director of studies at the École pratique des hautes études (EPHE), was the first to identify the Elamite language as non-Semitic. He also excavated the stele containing the code of laws of Hammurabi at Susa in the winter of 1901-2 and transcribed them (J. V. Scheil, “Textes élamites-sémitiques,” in the series Mémoires de la Délégation en Perse (vols. II, IV, VI, X, 1902-19). His colleague, Robert de Mecquenem (1877-1957), directed the French Mission at Susa from 1912 to 1914 and from 1920 to 1947, although the actual excavations terminated in 1938. He focused exclusively on Susiana and published several articles on Elamite culture.

In a long and eventful career, the Ukranian-born Roman Ghirshman (q.v., 1895-1979), carried out major archeological work in many sites in Persia and Afghanistan. As director of the French Archeological Mission in Persia from 1946, he was commissioned by the Louvre Museum to survey the prehistoric sites of the Iranian plateau. He excavated at Tepe Gīān near Nehāvand and Tepe Sīalk, near Kāšān. In 1936 he discovered a ziggurat at Čoḡā Zanbīl (q.v.; Gran-Aymerich, p. 412). He was then invited by Joseph Hackin to excavate the prehistoric site of Nād-e ʿAlī in Afghanistan and became Director of the Délégation Archéologique Française in Afghanistan from 1941. In 1946 he directed two missions in Persia, and through stratigraphic examination of the vast site at Susa he studied the vestiges of succeeding civilizations at the site, paying attention to the legacy of later epochs which had hitherto been ignored by archeologists, and charting the history of the site through fifteen centuries up to the Mongol invasion (Amiet, p. 144). Another of his important excavations was that of the Bīšāpūr (q.v.) site, excavated intermittently between 1935 and 1941. As well as publishing reports of his many excavations (Bio-Bibliographies de 134 savants, pp. 188-201) and co-editing the journal Iranica Antiqua with Louis Vanden Berghe, Ghirshman also wrote important general guides to Iranian history including L’Iran des origines à l’Islam, (Paris, 1951), which was translated into Persian and English and was widely read, and the two more detailed works on Iranian arts and culture, Iran: Parthes et sassanides (Paris, 1962) and Perse: Proto-iraniens. Mèdes. Achéménides (Paris, 1963). The outstanding exhibition of Iranian art, entitled Sept mille ans d’art en Iran, held at the Petit Palais in Paris (1961-62), owed much to his administrative and organizing abilities.

André Godard (q.v. 1881-1965), art historian, architect, and restorer of historical and ancient monuments in Persia, was the Director of the Archaeological Services of Iran from 1928 to 1953, and 1956 to 1960. He was instrumental in the formation of the Faculty of Fine Arts of the University of Tehran (q.v.) and was its dean until 1949. His contributions to pre-Islamic studies include his work in the design and founding of Mūza-ye Īrān-e bāstān, (the Museum of Antiquities in Tehran; Marefat, pp. 105-8 ) and his work as a regular contributor and editor of the bilingual Athār-é Īrān: Annales du Service Archéologique de l’Iran (4 vols, 1936-49). He wrote a pioneering monograph on Les bronzes du Luristan (Paris, 1931), and in collaboration with his wife, Mme.Yedda A. Godard, he prepared the catalogue of the collection of bronzes by E. Graeffe (Bronzes du Luristan, Paris, 1951). His last book, L’art de l’Iran (1962), is a compendium of his numerous works on Iranian architecture, sculpture, jewelry, and numismatics.

Both Antoine Meillet (1866-1936), and his successor Émile Benveniste (q.v.; 1902-76), were prodigious in the range of their many outstanding scholarly works (for bibliography of Meillet’s works see Benveniste, 1937, pp. 43-68). Meillet was first interested in Armenian and in his Esquisse d’une grammaire comparée de l’arménien classique (Vienna, 1903; 2nd ed. with corrections by Louis Mariès and Benveniste, Vienna, 1936), he studied the structure of the language and its historical origins. Since Armenian contains many Parthian loan-words, Meillet also published several articles in this connection including, “De l’influence parthe sur la langue arménienne” (Revue des études arméniennes 1, 1920, pp. 9-14) and several others in the Mémoires de la Société de linguistique (10-18, 1897-1914). Meillet’s Grammaire du vieux-perse (Paris, 1915), which was thoroughly revised and enlarged by Benveniste in a new edition (Paris, 1931) was the first scientific grammar of Old Persian, based on the royal inscriptions published by Franz Heinrich Weissbach in 1911. His famous Trois conférences sur les Gâthâs de l’Avesta (Paris, 1925) as well as his articles on the Avestan text (“Observations critiques sur le texte de l’Avesta,” JA, 1917, pp. 183-214; “Sur le texte de l’Avesta,” JA, 1920, pp. 187-202) attest to his ability to distinguish the Gathic dialect from the Young Avestan. He concluded that for the linguist, as well as the historian of the Zoroastrian religion, a thorough reappraisal of the Avestan text must precede its use as scholarly evidence (JA, 1917, p. 214). But Meillet was, above all, like his great teacher Ferdinand de Saussure (1857-1913), a pioneer in the field of general linguistics (Vendryes, pp. 5-6, 14-16). In 1908 he published his Les dialectes indo-européens (2nd. ed., with new introduction, 1922) and in 1921, Linguistique historique et linguistique générale (2nd. ed., 1926) and the invaluable encyclopædia Les langues du monde which he edited with Marcel Cohen (2 vols, Paris, 1924). Using his remarkable knowledge of different groups of languages (including the Slavic and Germanic languages, on which he also wrote important monographs), these works show his mastery in combining comparative philology with linguistics and supporting innovative observations on the interconnections between languages by detailed knowledge of each language discussed. Among the many students who attended his courses in Paris, were the famous scholar Vladimir Minorsky (1877-1966), the scholar of oral poetry and epic Milman Parry, and the influential Danish language theorist Louis Hjelmslev (Vendryes, pp. 35-36).

On Meillet’s advice, his student and colleague, Robert Gauthiot (1876-1916), devoted himself from 1910 until his untimely death during World War I (1916) to the study of the Sogdian Buddhist texts. These were discovered at Turfan and Dunhuang and brought to Paris by the Pelliot mission (Essai de grammaire sogdienne I: Phonétique, Paris, 1914-23) and published after Gauthiot’s death by Meillet; the second volume, Morphologie, syntaxe et glossaire, was edited and greatly expanded by Benveniste (Paris, 1929). As Meillet, himself a firm believer in comparative methods (Vendryes, pp. 13-14), pointed out in his obituary of Gauthiot, he was a born comparative linguist (“un comparatiste né”) who, although immersed in detailed research in historical linguistics, never lost sight of its relevance to the progress of general linguistics (Meillet, 1916, p. 130).

A prolific writer, Georges Dumézil (1898-1986) has left about sixty books (Bellier, pp. 241-43). Among them, the series of four books Jupiter Mars Quirinus (Jupiter Mars Quirinus, 1941; Naissance de Rome,Jupiter Mars Quirinus II, 1944; Naissance d’Archanges: essai sur la formation de la théologie zoroastrienne, Jupiter Mars Quirinus III, 1945; Jupiter, Mars, Quirinus IV, 1948, all published in Paris) constitute the first elaboration of his famous theory of the tripartite or trifunctional structure of the Indo-European society, culminating in the series of books entitled Mythe et épopée (3 vols., Paris, 1968-73). His views remain a topic of much debate and analysis among scholars of comparative mythology worldwide (for a resumé of different theories, see Baldick, pp. 29-39). However, as a highly gifted linguist well acquainted with both ancient and modern languages, Dumézil did not limit his research to comparative religion, and published invaluable studies in the Caucasian field on the Oubykh language and on Ossetic literature (Légendes sur les Nartes, Paris, 1930; Le Livre des Héros, Paris, 1965; Romans de Scythie et d’alentour, Paris, 1978). One of his last books, Les Dieux souverains des Indo-Européens (Paris, 1977) could be considered as a summing up of his life long research on the development of the tripartite theory.

Like that of his teacher and predecessor, Antoine Meillet, the influence of Émile Benveniste (q.v.; 1902-76) on general linguistics as well as Iranian studies has been profound and seminal. As his achievements in different fields have been succinctly presented under his entry by Gilbert Lazard, only a brief summary of his contributions to the study of Iranian philology, comparative grammar of Indo-European languages, and general linguistics will be given here.

Iranian philology: Old Persian. As already mentioned, Benveniste made a considerable contribution to the revisions in the 2nd edition of Grammaire du vieux-perse (Paris, 1931; O. Szemerényi, E. Benveniste aujourd’hui, vol.1, Paris, 1984, p. 167). Later he also published several articles on the topic (Moïnfar, pp. ix-liii).

Avestan. In his Les Infinitifs avestiques (Paris, 1935), Benveniste brought some order into the many forms classified by Christian Bartholomae (q.v.; 1855-1925) as infinitives. He also wrote a number of articles on grammatical or etymological aspects of Avestan terms.

Sogdian. The discoveries at Turfan and Dunhuang and the texts brought back to Paris by the Pelliot mission provided Benveniste with a new rich field of research to which he made invaluable contributions. As pointed above, he completed the work left by Gauthiot’s untimely death in the war. He went on to publish editions of Sogdian manuscripts in the Pelliot collection until the entire corpus of the Paris documents became available to the public.

Middle Iranian. Compared to his work on Sogdian, Benveniste’s contributions to Parthian and Middle Persian studies were small, particularly as the newly discovered Manichean texts in the Berlin and St. Petersburg collections were not easily accessible. He did, however, contribute to Pahlavi prosody, demonstrating the syllabic principles governing its versification system (“Le texte de Drakht asūṟīg et la versification pehlevie,” JA 217, 1930, pp. 193-225; “LeMémorial de Zarēr. Poème pehlevi mazdéen,” JA 220, 1932, pp. 245-93). His Titres et noms propres en iranien ancien (Paris, 1966) was a pioneering study on the problems of titles and onomastics, which was later studied by Philippe Gignoux, Rika Gyselen, and Rüdiger Schmitt.

Comparative grammar of Indo-European languages: In this vast field Benveniste’s major contributions were the Origines de la formation des noms en indo-européen (Paris, 1935), Hittite et indo-européen (Paris, 1962), and Le vocabulaire des institutions indo-européennes (2 vols., Paris, 1969, tr. Elizabeth Palmer as Indo-European Language and society, London, 1973). These works had a strong international impact not only on the study of general linguistics, but also on the general notions of culture and society and theories of structuralism which were becoming prevalent in the 1970s.

General linguistics: In the tradition founded by Saussure, Benveniste addressed many difficult theoretical problems with a combination of bold imagination and clarity. The nature of the linguistic sign, the taxonomy of languages, the relation of language to society, and conditions for “conversion of language into discourse” are all grappled with in his collection of articles, Problèmes de linguistique générale (2 vols., Paris, 1966), which was translated into several European languages and has become a classic of modern linguistics.

Finally, in the context of history of religions, Benveniste delivered a series of four lectures in the Ratanbai Katrak Foundation series later published as The Persian Religion According to the Chief Greek Texts (Paris, 1929). His conclusion in the book that “neither Greeks, Syrians nor Armenians knew anything of the Avestic Zoroaster nor of his teaching as expressed in the Gâthâs. This fact must be firmly established” (p. 119) probably remains valid. His Les Mages dans l’ancien Iran (Paris, 1938) is a study of the word maga in all its uses and derivatives. His Vṛtra et VṛΘragna (in collaboration with Louis Renou, Paris, 1934), is a study of comparative Indo-Iranian religion, in which the Dumézilian tripartite system is used approvingly.

Jean Pierre de Menasce, O.P., (1902-73), was the first holder of the chair of the Religions of Ancient Iran, established at the École pratique des hautes études in 1948. A year earlier, he delivered four lectures on the Dēnkard (q.v.) in the Ratanbai Katrak Foundation; these were later expanded and published in 1958, under the title Une encyclopédie mazdéenne: le Dēnkart. The book shows great acuity in analyzing the different parts of this monumental 10th century Pahlavi summation of Zoroastrian religion, bringing out its philosophical and theological dimensions, as well as the ethical and apologetical aspects. His second major works was a translation of the Škand gumānīk vičār (Frieburg, 1945), a polemical Pazand-Pahlavi text furnished with his erudite notes, demonstrating a profound knowledge of Christian and Islamic philosophy. His third major book, Le Troisième Livre du Dēnkart (Travaux de l’Institut d’études iraniennes 5, Paris, 1973), appeared shortly after his death. He was also interested in Sasanian epigraphy, on which he published several articles and a portfolio of Pahlavi ostraca and papyri (Corpus Inscr. Iran., 1957).

Henri-Charles Puech (1902-86), a specialist of patristics, gnosis and Manicheism, was the holder of the chair of history of religions at the Collège de France (1952-72). He had a profound impact on current scholarship on the formative period of Christian theology and the masters of the Alexandria school (Clement, Origen), and on the milieu in which this theology developed and interacted with different gnosis, most notably manicheism. In his research he used material from recent discoveries of Manichean papyri from Fayyūm (1930), of Greek papyri in South Cairo (1941) and of the thirteen gnostic codices from Nag Hammadi (1945). His many publications include the succinct introduction to Manicheism, Le Manichéisme: son fondateur, sa doctrine (Paris, 1949); En quête de la Gnose (2 vols, Paris 1978) and his collected articles, Sur le manichéisme et autres essais (Paris, 1979). Although his lectures on the liturgy and rites of the Manicheans remain unpublished, his many articles and reviews listed in the bibliography included in his festschrift (Mélanges d’histoire des religions offerts à Henri-Charles Puech, Paris, 1974) are evidence of the range and depth of his scholarship.

Daniel Schlumberger (1904-72) a great archeologist and historian of art, was the director of the Délégation archéologique française en Afghanistan from 1946 to 1963 and carried out excavations at Sorḵ-kotal and Balkh, and, later, with Paul Bernard at Āy Ḵānom (q.v.). As a specialist in the late Hellenistic period in the Middle East, Schlumberger was well equipped to analyze Greco-Bactrian culture. His publications include important reports of excavations and finds by the Delegation, including his articles on numismatics in Trésors monétaires d’Afghanistan (ed. with Raoul Curiel, MDAFA 14, Paris, 1953). But Schlumberger’s most important contributions are probably his books on the Greco-Asiatic culture: a collection of articles published first in Syria was compiled as a book, Descendants non méditerranéens de l’art grec (Paris, 1960), and his major study L’Orient hellénisé: L’art grec et ses héritiers dans l’Asie non méditerranéenne (Baden-Baden, 1969; Paris, 1970), a synthesis of his original ideas on the Hellenistic art, finely illustrated. Surkh Kotal en Bactriane I: Les temples (MDAFA 25; Paris, 1983), written in collaboration with Marc Le Berre and Gerard Fussman was published posthumously.

Raoul Curiel (b.1913), worked with Schlumberger, as archeologist, epigraphist, and numismatist, participating in the Laškarī Bāzār and Sorḵ-kotal excavations. As cited above, he wrote on numismatics in the collection he co-edited with Schlumberger, on another hoard in his Le Trésor monétaire de Qunduz (in collaboration with Gérard Fussman, MDAFA 20, Paris, 1965) and in Une collection de monnaies de cuivre arabo-sasanides (in collaboration with Rika Gyselen, Paris, 1984). Also with Gyselen, he co-edited a volume of essays in honor of Claude Cahen (Itinéraires d’Orient: hommages à Claude Cahen, Res Orientales 6, Bures-sur-Yvette, France, 1995). He served in various official posts as a director of the Archaeological Survey of Pakistan, Assistant Director of the Musées de France, and curator in the department of Oriental coins at the Cabinet des Médailles of the Bibliothèque nationale.

Jean Maurice Fiey, O.P., (1914-95), was the undisputed authority on the historical geography of Syriac Christians. He lived in Mossul and Baghdad from 1939 to 1973 and later in Beirut. The reports of his many surveys of Christian archeological sites were published in his Assyrie chrétienne (3 vols., Beirut, 1965-68). He was a prolific contributor to CSCO as well as to several academic journals (for a list of his major works and collections of his articles see Mérigoux, pp. 123-27).

Gilbert Lazard (b. 1920), is both a linguist and a specialist in classical Persian literature, with a range and depth of learning reminiscent of Meillet and Benveniste. Much of his work, including his grammar of modern Persian and his invaluable historical and philological studies of early Persian poetry and prose, fall outside the scope of this article. His scattered articles on the formative period of Persian language have been collected in his La Formation de la langue persane (Paris, 1995). His knowledge of Persian dialects and particularly of Judeo-Persian combined with long familiarity with Persian literary sources have enhanced his contributions to both synchronic and diachronic studies of language, including that of the verbal system of Iranian languages and his studies on Persian prosody. He has also contributed to general linguistics. His contribution to general comparative grammar, L’Actance (Paris, 1994) has recently been translated into English (Berlin and New York, 1998.)

Although much of his work remains unpublished, Jean Perrot (b. 1920) has been an influential figure in French archeology in Persia. He was the director of the Délégation Archéologique Française from 1968 until the Revolution of 1979. During his directorship it was decided to keep all excavated objects in Persia rather than apportioning them between France and Persia (Bagherzadeh, pp. xv-xxi.) He was also instrumental in training young Persian archeologists in fieldwork. During his period at Susa, the foundation tables of the Darius palace (deciphered by F. Vallat) and the colossal statue of Darius bearing a quadrilingual inscription were discovered. He also founded a new archeological series, Cahiers de la Délégation Archéologique Française en Iran (CDAFI).

François Vallat and Father Marie-Joseph Stève are both epigraphists and have contributed authoritative articles on Elamite culture in general and its legacy in Iran.

Among the historian Marie-Louise Chaumont’s contributions to the history of Christianity in the Sasanian empire are her Recherches sur l’histoire d’Arménie de l’avènement des Sassanides à la conversion du royaume (Paris, 1969) and La Christianisation de l’empire iranien des origines aux grandes persécutions du IVe siècle (CSCO 499, LXXX, 1988).

Pierre Amiet (b. 1922), archeologist and art historian, was appointed curator of the department of oriental antiquities at the Louvre Museum in 1961, in succession to A. Parrot. His many books and articles (Vanden Berghe, pp. xiv-xxi) attest to his interest in many aspects of Iranian art and include the following: Glyptique susienne (MDAFI 43, 2 vols, Paris, 1972); Elam (1966); Collection David-Weill: Les antiquités du Luristan (Paris, 1976), and L’Art antique du Proche-Orient (Paris, 1977).

Jean Deshayes (1924-79), was an eminent archeologist and writer on prehistory, who as director of the Art and Archaeology Institute in Paris, promoted the study of oriental archeology. His Les Civilisations de l’Orient ancien (Paris, 1969) showed his wide learning. In his fieldwork in the Gorgān region, he excavated the site at Tureng Tepe (1960-77) and although he was above all interested in pre-historical layers, he discovered a small fire temple from the Islamic period. The report of his excavations were published in Fouilles de Tureng Tepe, sous la direction de Jean Deshayes I: Les périodes sassanides et islamiques, Paris, 1987.

Marijan Molé (1924-63), a specialist in Pahlavi and classical Persian literature and mysticism, was also a gifted historian of religion. He presented his very original views on Zoroastrian ritual and practices in a large and influential work, Culte, mythe et cosmologie dans l’Iran ancien (Paris, 1963), based on a wide reading of Gathic and Pahlavi texts. He was a supporter of the non-historicity of Zoroaster, a stance which was perhaps detrimental to his other well-founded theories. His researches on the Zoroaster’s legend were revised and published after his untimely death by Jean de Menasce as La Légende de Zoroastre selon les textes pehlevis (Paris, 1967). His other publications are valuable contributions to the study of Islamic mysticism and the history of Sufi orders.

André Maricq (1925-60), whose untimely death brought his short but highly promising academic career to an abrupt end, was first interested in the trilingual inscription of Šāpūr I. His joint work with Ernest Honigmann, Recherches sur les Res Gestae Divi Saporis (Brussels, 1953), showed great skill in tackling the intricate problems of historical geography involved in that inscription. After a long sojourn in the Middle East and Persia, where he began to collect Sasanian seal impressions, he wrote several articles which were published in Syria (1955-62) and later reprinted in Classica et Orientalia (Paris, 1965). He then served in the Délégation archéologique en Afghanistan and studied the famous Bactrian inscription of Kanishka, which he published in the Journal asiatique (1958). He discovered the Jām minaret (in the Harī-rūd valley) and published his findings with the collaboration of Gaston Wiet (Le Minaret de Djam: La découverte de la capitale des sultans Ghorides [XIIe-XIIIe siècles], Paris, 1959).

Paul Bernard (b. 1929), an authority on the diffusion of Hellenism in the east, was the director of the Délégation archéologique française en Afghanistan (1965-80). He excavated the great Hellenistic site of Āy Ḵānom (q.v.). Reports of these and his other excavations were published in several articles and in MDAFA (vols 21 and 28).

Philippe Gignoux (b. 1931), an epigraphist and historian of Zoroastrianism, has carried out research on classification and publication of sources for the Sasanian period. The primary sources, the only extant Iranian official documents, are the surviving rock-inscriptions, seals and clay sealings. Contemporary external sources come next, followed by evidence from later centuries. Using this methodology, he strove to study and publish the primary sources. He compiled the vocabulary of the inscriptions in Glossaire des inscriptions pehlevies et parthes (London, 1972), and published a short book on Les Quatre inscriptions du mage Kirdīr (Paris, 1991). Also in this connection, he collected thousands of inscriptions on Sasanian seals and clay sealings from different museums and private collections which were then published in several catalogues: Catalogue des sceaux, camées et bulles Sasanides de la Bibliothèque nationale et du Musée du Louvre II: Les sceaux et bulles inscrits (Paris, 1978); Sceaux Sasanides de diverses collections privées (Paris, 1982); and Bulles et sceaux sassanides de diverses collections (Paris, 1987); the last two in collaboration with Rika Gyselen. The numerous official titles and proper names found on these inscriptions were classified and published as “Noms propres sassanides en moyen-perse épigraphique,” in Iranisches Personennamenbuch II/2, 1986). As Father J. de Menasce’s successor to the chair of Religions of Ancient Iran, Gignoux has also worked on Pahlavi religious texts and published a French translation of the Ardā wīrāz-nāmag (Paris, 1984) and later, in collaboration with the late Ahmad Tafazzoli, edited the Anthologie de Zādspram (Paris, 1993). He has also written on Iranian apocalyptic and Syriac magical texts. His series of lectures on shamanistic traces in Iran, delivered as the Ratanbai Katrak Lectures at Oxford in 1996 is to be published as Man and Cosmos in Ancient Iran.

Pierre Lecoq (b. 1939), linguist, and a student of Jacques Duchesne-Guillemin, spent several years in Persia pursuing a study of central dialects. His thesis was published as Le Dialecte de Sivand (Wiesbaden, 1979). His studies on Old Persian have appeared in articles as well as in his recent book, Les Inscriptions de la Perse achéménide (Paris, 1997).

Pierre Briant, a historian of Greek antiquity, has also written on civilizations of the east. His publications include L’Asie centrale et les royaumes proche-orientaux du premier millénaire (Paris, 1984) and the monumental Histoire de l’empire perse de Cyrus à Alexandre (Paris, 1996), an indispensable source of reference.

Rika Gyselen (b. 1942), archeologist by formation, numismatist and historian of art, worked on new hoards and on sigillography. She has constituted a typology of the iconographical motifs on Sasanian seals. With Ludvik Kalus, she published Deux trésors monétaires des premiers temps de l’Islam (Paris, 1983) and with Raoul Curiel Une collection de monnaies de cuivres arabo-sasanides (Paris, 1984, see above). She has also compiled two Catalogues of seals and sealings with Ph. Gignoux (1982, 1987; see above). Using geographical data culled from the sealings inscriptions and combining them with the numismatic evidence, she has traced the picture of the administrative provinces of the late Sasanian period (La Géographie administrative de l’empire sassanide: les témoignages sigillographiques, Paris, 1989). She has also published two large catalogues, the Catalogue des sceaux, camées et bulles sassanides de la Bibliothèque nationale et du Musée du Louvre I: Collection générale, Paris, 1993, and L’art sigillaire dans les collections de Leyde: Rijksmuseum Het Koninlijk Penningkabinet, Leiden, 1996. Her Sceaux magiques en Iran sassanide (Paris, 1995) is a fine contribution to iconography and identification of magic seals.

Frantz Grenet (b. 1952), archeologist and a specialist of the East Iranian and Central Asian culture, was co-director of the Āy Ḵānom excavations from 1977 to 1981. His thesis on history of funerary practices in Sogdiana and Bactria, has been published as Les pratiques funéraires dans l’Asie centrale sédentaire de la conquête grecque à l’islamisation (Paris, 1984).

Finally it should be pointed out that the existence of several journals published by French institutions, including those specializing in archeology or linguistics (MDAF, MDAFI, CDAFI, BSL, etc) as well as the more wide ranging Studia Iranica, which began publication in 1972 under the editorship of Aubin and Gignoux and its bibliographial supplement, Abstracta Iranica,which began in 1978 under de Fouchécour, have provided convenient venues for the publication of research by scholars mentioned in our long but by no means exhaustive list.


P. Amiet, “Notice Nécrologique: Roman Ghirshman (1895-1979),” Stud. Ir. 9, 1980, pp. 142-45.

F. Bagherzadeh, “Jean Perrot ami de l’Iran: témoignage et hommage,” in F. Vallat, ed., Contributions à l’histoire de l’Iran: mélanges offerts à Jean Perrot, Paris, 1990, pp. XV-XXI.

J. Baldick, Homer and the Indo-Europeans, London and New York, 1994.

W. Belier, Decayed Gods: Origin and Development of Georges Dumézil’s “Idéologie tripartite,” Leiden, 1991 (contains a bibliography of Dumézil’s works).

É. Benveniste, “Bibliographie des Travaux d’Antoine Meillet,” BSL 38, 1937, pp. 43-68.

Bio-bibliographies de 134 savants, Acta Iranica 20, Leiden, 1979.

R. Boucharlat, “Notice nécrologique: Jean Deshayes (1924- 1979),” Stud. Ir. 8, 1979, p. 301-3.

R. Curiel, “En souvenir de Jean de Menasce,” Stud. Ir. 7, 1978, pp. 289-91. J. Duchesne-Guillemin, “Georges Dumézil (1899-1986) et l’iranologie,” Stud. Ir. 17, 1988, pp. 95-97.

C.-H. de Fouchécour and P. Gignoux, eds., Études irano-aryennes offertes à Gilbert Lazard, Studia Iranica, cahier 7, Paris, 1989.

E. Gran-Aymerich, Naissance de l’archéologie moderne 1798-1945, Paris, 1998.

P. Gignoux, “L’Iran Ancien,” in Cinquante ans d’orientalisme en France (1922-72), JA 261 (special issue), 1973, pp. 117-23.

Idem, “Notice nécrologique: Émile Benveniste (1902-1976),” Stud. Ir. 6, 1977, pp. 129-31. Idem, “James Darmesteter: His Contribution to the Mythology of the Amesha Spentas,” Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bombay 69, 1994, pp. 27-40.

G. Lazard, “James Darmesteter: His Life and Works,” Journal of the Royal Society of Bombay 69, 1994, pp. 5-18.

S. Lotringer and T. Gora, eds., Polyphonic Linguistics: The Many Voices of Émile Benveniste, Semiotica, Special Supplement, The Hague and New York, 1981.

M. Marefat, “The Protagonists who Shaped Modern Tehran,” in C. Adle and B. Hourcade, eds., Téhéran capital bicentenaire, Bibliothèque Iranienne 37, Paris and Tehran, 1992, pp. 95-125.

H. Massé, “André Godard (1881-1965),” JA 253, 1965, pp. 415-17.

A. Meillet, “Nécrologie: Robert Gauthiot,” BSL 20, 1916, pp. 127-32.

Mélanges d’histoire des religions offerts à Henri-Charles Puech, Paris, 1974.

J. de Menasce, Textes réunis, ed. M. Dousse and J.-M. Roessli, Bibliothèque cantonale et universitaire, Fribourg, 1998.

Idem, Études iraniennes, Studia Iranica, Cahier 3, Paris, 1985.

J.-M. Mérigoux, “Père Jean Maurice Fiey, OP (1914-1995),” Stud. Ir. 26, 1997, pp. 123-27.

M. Dj. Moïnfar, “Bibliographie des travaux d’Émile Benveniste,” Mélanges linguistiques offerts à É. Benveniste, Collection linguistique publiée par la Société de Linguistique de Paris 70, Paris, 1975, pp. ix-liii.

J. de Morgan, Mémoires de Jacques de Morgan, ed. A. Jaunay, Paris, 1997.

F. Olivier-Utard, Politique et archéologie: histoire de la Délégation archéologique française en Afghanistan (1922-1982), Paris, 1997.

G. Serbat et al, eds., É. Benveniste aujourd’hui, Actes du Colloque international du CNRS, 2 vols., Paris and Louvain, 1984.

C. Roche, “Jean Perrot et l’Iran,” in F. Vallat, ed., Contributions à l’histoire de l’Iran: mélanges offerts à Jean Perrot, Paris, 1990, pp. ix-xiii.

H. Seyrig, “André Maricq (1925-1960),” Syria 38, 1961, pp. 350-54 (repr. in Classica et Orientalia, 1965, pp. v-ix).

M. Tardieu, “Henri-Charles Puech (1902-1986),” JA 275, 1987, pp. 7-11.

F. Vallat, ed., Contributions à l’histoire de l’Iran: mélanges offerts à Jean Perrot, Paris, 1990.

L. Vanden Berghe, “Biographie et Bibliographie de P. Amiet,” Iranica Antiqua 23 (Mélanges P. Amiet I), 1988, pp. ix-xxi.

J. Vendryes, “Antoine Meillet,” BSL 38, 1937, pp. 1-42.


Beginnings. The history of French scholarship on modern Persia particularly in the field of social sciences was shaped by major external factors including the overall political relationship between the two countries and the radical changes which took place in the French university system and the organization of its scholarly missions to Persia in the latter half of this century.

Unlike Britain, Russia and later the United States, France has never exerted a sustained political influence in Persia. That mixture of political and economic aspirations and detailed first hand observations on local customs, geography and history encountered so frequently in British consular reports or journals of learned societies of London, Calcutta or Bengal and perhaps best exemplified on a grander scale in Lord Curzon’s Persia and the Persian Question (1892), is on the whole absent in French writings of the period. But this very detachment from day to day political entanglement fostered the creation of more balanced and long-lasting cultural relations between the two countries. The large number of Persian students who were sent to study in France, and the granting of the monopoly of archaeological excavations to France by the Persian government (1312/1894-95) are both a reflection of these cultural relations and a factor in their later progress and formation. The work of French archaeologists in Persia combined with an already existing strong and internationally recognized tradition of excellence in comparative philology and later linguistics in France, meant that French studies of Persia became dominated by the deep erudition and bold theoretical speculations of succeeding generations of French scholars of Indo-Iranian languages and culture including James Darmesteter, Antoine Meillet, Émile Benveniste, and Georges Dumézil, whose lasting influence on philology, linguistics and anthropology is recognized worldwide.

Nevertheless, tentative beginnings of a slowly emerging interest in the immediate social and economic conditions of the country can be traced to both direct official measures by the French government as well as in individual accounts of French travelers in the nineteenth and early twentieth century. For example, the observations made by Jean-Baptiste Feuvrier (q.v.) in Trois ans à la cour de Perse (Paris, 1900) are a valuable source for the social and economic life of the country after the debacle of the Tobacco Régie. Other and less well known travelers provided data for the burgeoning scientific theories of the time. Émile Duhousset, for example, made detailed anthropometric skull measurements of members of a Persian regiment in his Études sur les populations de la Perse et pays limitrophes pendant trois années de séjour en Asie (Paris, 1863) which were later used by Nicolas de Khanikoff (Chanykov) and Henry Field (Field, pp. 47-48, 57-58). To these must also be added the work of individual orientalists curious about all things eastern and ready to venture into different fields. Henri Massé’s Croyances et coutumes persanes (q.v., 2 vols., Paris, 1938) is perhaps his most lasting contribution to Persian studies, even though his primary interest was the teaching of classical Persian literature.

The most important example of a direct and official measure, apart from that of Flandin and Coste (q.v.), whose work included sketches of modern Persian scenes, was the scientific mission sent by the French government in 1890 under the leadership of Jacques de Morgan (q.v.), a mining engineer, to conduct a comprehensive survey of western Persia. The outcome was the monumental Mission scientifique en Perse (5 parts in 10 vols., Paris, 1894-1905) covering a multitude of topics: archaeology, botany, anthropology, demography as well as Mandean texts and Kurdish dialects (de Morgan, pp. 427-509, 540-41). French diplomatic, religious and educational archives of the period, including those of the Lazarists and the Alliance Israélite universelle, remain largely unexplored.

Post-war institutions. The gradual end of colonial rule after the Second World War and the concomitant growth of international organizations, and most notably UNESCO (with its headquarters in Paris) to some extent loosened the direct relationship between spheres of political and economic influence and academic and cultural concern. While Great Britain and the United States continued to play dominant parts in the political, military and economic life of the country, France embarked on new cultural initiatives of her own. An office of cultural relations, set up under the auspices of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, was responsible for the creation of the Institut franco-iranien de Téhéran with a Département d’iranologie directed from 1946 to 1975 by Henry Corbin (q.v.). A year later, in 1947, the Institut d’études iraniennes was created at the Sorbonne. But although the intended aim of both these institutions was to cover all aspects of Persian civilization, ancient and modern, in practice, the focus of interest remained on ancient Iran and to some extent and largely because of Corbin, on the study of Sufism and “Islam iranien.” The study of social sciences in Persia began, therefore, outside these two academic institutions. In this respect, the enlargement of the role of the Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS) in the 1960s, which provided an institutional framework for scholars to pursue their studies either individually or collectively, provided a much needed venue.

Geographers as pioneers. The first steps towards specialized and intensive study of modern Persia by French scholars was taken by the geographers Xavier de Planhol and Jean Dresch. The former began his research in Persia with fieldwork in Azerbaijan in 1958, and afterwards in the central Alborz region (Lārījān, Kalārdašt), culminating in the publication of his Géographie humaine de l’Iran septentrional (Paris, 1964). But it is de Planhol’s later and more theoretical works delineating the interaction between culture, history and geography in the Islamic world which have had a seminal impact on the study of geography (de Planhol, 1968 and 1993). Although widely different in his theoretical approach, Dresch has also had a strong influence on the succeeding generations of geographers. He organized the first French geographical expedition to Persia in 1958 within the framework of the CNRS. A later and much more important project, namely a detailed and comprehensive study of the Lūt desert (Kavīr-e lūt), began in 1968 as a joint venture with the CNRS under the leadership of Dresch and the Center for Geographical Research of the University of Tehran headed by Aḥmad Mostawfī. Although the project remained unfinished, several monographs based on the combined inter-disciplinary research of the French and Persian members of the project were published in Persian. This close co-operation between French and Persian researchers, particularly in the domain of social sciences during the middle decades of this century, was made possible partly because the CNRS system was inherently conducive towards collective projects and partly because of the continuing tradition of Persian students pursuing further education in France. Many Persian academics specializing in geography had been former students of Dresch and Planhol in France (Hourcade 1988, pp. 51-52), including Moḥammad-Ḥosayn Pāpolī Yazdī, Parīdoḵt Fešārakī, Aṣḡar Nāżerīān, and Sīrūs Sehāmī.

A new generation of French geographers began their field work in the 1970s, and their work extends from the last decade of the Pahlavi regime to the present. They include Marcel Bazin (studies on Qom and Ṭāleš), Bernard Hourcade (on the central Alborz region and on urban geography in post-revolutionary Persia), Hubert de Mauroy on the Assyro-Chaldean community and their internal migration to Tehran and Daniel Balland on Afghanistan (see under individual authors in the bibliography below).

Sociological studies. The development of modern sociological studies of Persia by French scholars was even more closely connected with the development of research institutions in Persia and the active contribution of UNESCO. The Institut d’études et de recherches sociales (IERS, Moʾassassa-ye taḥqīqāt-e ejtemāʿī) was founded in 1955 as part of the Faculty of Social Sciences of the University of Tehran. It was chaired by Ḡolām-Hoṟsayn Ṣadīqī (Gh. Sadighi) and directed by the French trained sociologist Eḥsān Narāqī (Ehsan Naraghi) and partly staffed by French sociologists who were employed through UNESCO. For example Jean-Claude Chasteland produced several demographic studies which remain indispensable tools of reference and trained a number of Persian demographers who later dominated the field for two decades (Hourcade 1988, pp. 52-53). Another influential scholar associated with the institute, Paul Vieille, was the first French sociologist to specialize on Persia. He also collaborated very closely with his Persian colleagues and wrote influential works on urban sociology during his long residence in Persia. After his return to France as a CNRS research scholar he has continued to publish studies on Persian social history and class structure from a Marxist perspective and in 1977 founded the journal Peuples méditerranéens, which remains the only journal published in France with regular studies on the social sciences in Persia.

Ethnology and the establishment of the research group on contemporary Persia (“Iran contemporain”): Vincent Monteil’s monograph on the tribes in Fars (Monteil, 1957) was perhaps the first French anthropological monograph on Persia. In 1969, Jean-Pierre Digard began his research on the Baḵtīārī tribe. He was also part of a small group of ethnographers at the CNRS who formed a research unit in 1972 to establish ethnographic charts of Persia: Programme d’établissement de cartes ethnologiques de l’Iran” (PECEI). This was an important landmark. For the first time a French academic institution had undertaken to support a diversified project in social sciences related to Persia. The young scholars who participated included, apart from Digard, the anthropologists Christian Bromberger and Anny Tual and, slightly later, the geographers Marcel Bazin and Bernard Hourcade, all of whom knew enough Persian to carry out their fieldwork without the need for interpreters and maintained close collaboration with their Persian colleagues, including Aṣḡar Karīmī and Anūš ʿAskarī Ḵānaqāh. The results of their research were published both in French and Persian in the journal Mardom-šenāsī wa farhang-e ʿāmma-ye Īrān and later as monographs (for list of topics, see Hourcade, 1988, pp. 54-55). From 1975, the PECEI group expanded to include other scholars and new research topics from other disciplines including sociology, modern history, political science. After becoming a full fledged équipe de recherche of the CNRS in 1982, it was given the comprehensive title of Sciences sociales du monde iranien contemporain and included almost all those scholars engaged in research on social sciences relating to Persia and Afghanistan.

Recent conferences. In 1985, an international colloquium, the first ever in France on ethnicity in Persia and Afghanistan, was organized by the research team “Iran contemporain” under the direction of J.-P. Digard, and its proceedings were published in 1988 (Digard, 1988). Research on contemporary Persia from a more historical perspective was the subject of a conference on questions of cultural tradition, assimilation and modernity, organized by Yann Richard in 1987 (Richard, 1989). The proceedings of another multi-disciplinary conference, on various aspects of the social history of Tehran, were published by the Institut Français de Recherche en Iran (IFRI) in 1992 (Adle and Hourcade, 1992). Thierry Coville edited the proceedings of a seminar on Persian economy after the Islamic revolution (1994). French scholars have also contributed detailed and pioneering articles on various topics on modern Persia and Afghanistan in this encyclopaedia, the article on the political history of Afghanistan by Daniel Balland (see AFGHANISTAN x) and Charles M. Kieffer’s contribution to the languages of present day Afghanistan (see AFGHANISTAN v) have already become established works of reference.

The Islamic Revolution. From its very inception and as a result of its world wide repercussions, the Islamic Revolution in Persia has inspired a plethora of publications in French, ranging from first hand accounts by journalist like Paul Balta and Pierre Blanchet to general works of historical analysis by academics such as L’Iran au XXe siècle (Paris, 1996)byJean-Pierre Digard, Bernard Hourcade, and Yann Richard, which studies Persian history over the entire century. Side by side these overviews and šuvres de synthèse, French historians and social scientists have also published monographs on various personalities and movements and aspects of contemporary Persia such as on the Fedāʾīān-e Eslām (Richard, 1985), on ʿAlī Šarīʿatī (Yavari-d’Hellencourt, 1985), on women after the Revolution (Adelkhah, 1991), and on urban problems and internal migration, as well as the sociology and political discourse in Persia after the Revolution (Khosrokhavar, 1980, 1993; with Vieille, 1990).

The study of contemporary Persia is at last firmly established on the academic map in France. The CNRS research team on contemporary Persia and Afghanistan does not have an equivalent in the academic world outside Persia. In 1995, when Yann Richard succeeded Charles-Henri de Fouchécour as Professor of Iranian Studies at the Sorbonne and Bernard Hourcade succeeded Jean-Paul Digard in Social Sciences, further general reorganization of Persian studies also took place in Paris. The research groups working on social sciences, history, and language and literature, were amalgamated into a single research team under the name of Monde iranien, jointly sponsored by CNRS, Sorbonne Nouvelle, Institut National des Langues et Civilisations Orientales, and EPHE. The range of topics studied by the members of this research group encompasses the whole gamut of Iranian culture and civilization, from ancient to contemporary societies in the entire Iranian world (Persia, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and Central Asia as a whole, as well as studies on Baluchi, Pashto and Kurdish studies). Although the vagaries of contemporary politics remain a perennial problem, the resumption of its public activities by the Institut français de recherche en Iran (IFRI) in 1993 with a resident director (initially Rémy Boucharlat, succeeded by Christophe Bala) is a hopeful sign for further research and new opportunities for younger scholars.


F. Adelkhah, La révolution sous le voile, femme islamiques d’Iran, Paris, 1991.

Ch. Adle and B. Hourcade, eds., Téhéran, capitale bicentenaire,Paris and Tehran, 1992.

D. Balland, ed., Les eaux cachées: études géographiques sur les galeries drainantes souterraines, Paris, 1992.

M. Bazin, La vie rurale dans la région de Qom (Iran central), Paris, 1974.

Idem, Le Tâlech: une région ethnique au Nord de l’Iran, 2 vols., Paris, 1980.

J.-C. Chasteland et al., Étude sur la fécondité et quelques caractéristiques démographiques des femmes mariées dans quatre zones rurales d’Iran, Tehran, 1968.

T. Colville, ed., L’économie de l’Iran islamique, entre l’État et le marché, Paris and Tehran, 1994.

J-P. Digard, Techniques des nomades Baxtyâri d’Iran, Paris, 1981.

Idem, ed., Le fait ethnique en Iran et en Afghanistan, Paris 1988.

J-P. Digard, B. Hourcade, Y. Richard, L’Iran au XXe siècle, Paris, 1996.

H. Field, Contributions to the Anthropology of Iran, Anthropological Series 29/1, Chicago, 1939, rep. New York, 1968.

B. Hourcade, “Iranian Studies in France,” Iranian Studies 20/2-4, 1987, pp. 1-51; Idem, “La découverte de l’Iran contemporain,” Luqmān 4/2, 1988, pp. 47-64.

B. Hourcade et al., Documents pour l’étude de la répartition de queleques traits culturels dans la région de Téhéran: l’Alborz central, Paris, 1979.

B. Hourcade and F. Khosrokhavar, “L’habitat révolutionnaire à Téhéran, 1977-1981,” Hérodote 31, 1983, pp. 62-83.

B. Hourcade, H. Mazurek, M-H. Papoli-Yazdi, and M. Taleghani, Atlas d’Iran, Paris, 1998.

F. Khosrokhavar, “Hassan K., paysan dépaysanné, parle de la révolution iranienne,” Peuples méditerranéens 11, 1980, pp. 3-30.

Idem, L’utopie sacrifiée, sociologie de la révolution iranienne, Paris, 1993.

F. Khosrokhavar and P. Vieille, Le discours populaire de la Révolution islamique, 2 vols., Paris, 1990.

H. de Mauroy, Les Assyro-Chaldéens dans l’Iran d’aujourd’hui, Paris, 1978.

V. Monteil, Les tribus du Fars et la sédentarisation des nomades, Paris and The Hague, 1966.

J. de Morgan, Mémoires de Jacques de Morgan 1857-1924: Souvenirs d’un archéologue, ed. A. Jaunay, Paris, 1997.

E. Naraghi (E. Narāqī), Enseignement et changements sociaux en Iran du VIIe au XXe siècle, Paris, 1992.

X. de Planhol, Les fondements géographiques de l’histoire de l’islam, Paris, 1968.

Idem, Les nations du Prophète: manuel géographique de politique musulmane, Paris, 1993.

Idem, Minorités en Islam, géographie politique et sociale, Paris 1997.

Y. Richard, “L’organisation des fedāʾiyān-e eslām, mouvement intégriste musulman en Iran (1945-1956),” in O. Carré and P. Dumont, eds., Les radicalismes en Islam I, Paris, 1985, pp. 23-82.

Y. Richard, ed., Entre l’Iran et l’Occident: adaptation et assimilation ses idée techniques occidentales en Iran, Paris, 1989. Idem, L’Islam chi’ite, croyances et idéologies, Paris, 1991.

P. Vieille, Marché des terrains et société urbaine. Recherche sur la ville de Téhéran Paris, 1970.

Idem, La féodalité et l’état en Iran, Paris, 1975. N. Yavari-d’Hellencourt, “Le radicalisme shiʿite de ʿAli Shariʿati,” in O. Carré and P. Dumont, eds., Les radicalismes en Islam, vol. 1, Paris, 1985, pp. 83-118.


The Institut français de recherche en Iran (IFRI) was established in its present form and under the above name in 1983, although in Persia it is usually referred to as Anjoman-e īrān-šenāsī-e farānsa dar Īrān. Since then it has been concerned with the study of the Iranian world, and thus not only with Persia, but also with countries and areas where the Persian language has been, or still is, in use (Afghanistan, the Indian subcontinent in the Mughal period, and parts of Central Asia in collaboration with the French Institute in Tashkent).

The Institut was the result of the amalgamation of the Délégation archéologique française en Iran (q.v.), founded in 1897 and especially active in Šūš (Susa) and Ḵūzestān until field activities were stopped in 1979, and the Département d’iranologie de l’Institut franco-iranien de Téhéran en Iran, founded in 1946 by Henry Corbin (q.v., 1903-78) and directed by him until 1975. Corbin and his Persian colleagues including Moḥammad Moʿīn, Sayyed Jalāl-al-Dīn Āštīānī, Moḥammad Mokrī, and Sayyed Ḥosayn Naṣr, edited medieval and modern Persian and Arabic texts, mainly philosophical, mystical and religious, including some early Ismaʿili texts. Many of the works edited belonged, according to Corbin’s interpretation as developed fully in his En Islam iranien (q.v.), to a distinctly Iranian trend in theosophy with a long and evolving tradition of its own. The authors whose works were edited and commented on either by him alone or in collaboration with others included Šehāb-al-Dīn Yaḥyā Sohravardī, Rūzbehān Baqlī Šīrāzī, Mollā Ṣadrā Šīrāzī, and Ḥaydar Āmolī (q.v.). Apart from philosophy, other fields were also studied in Tehran by Gilbert Lazard, Marijan Molé (1925-60), and Jean Aubin (1927-98), and the results of their often pioneering research were also published by the Institute. From the early seventies, the Institut d’iranologie became more concerned with social and human sciences in the Persian world, reflected in the field research of Christophe Bala, Jean-Pierre Digard, Bernard Hourcade, Yann Richard, and other visiting or resident scholars of the institute. The annual publication Abstracta Iranica was founded in 1978 during the directorship of Charles-Henri de Fouchécour (1974-79) and published in Tehran and Paris. It contains a comprehensive annotated bibliography of current articles and books in different languages concerning Iranian studies. The trend towards a better coverage of social and human sciences in the Institute was further reinforced under Bernard Hourcade (director, 1979-93), and Rémy Boucharlat (1993-98).

The present day institute is one of the twenty-six French research centers throughout the world, supported by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It is supervised by a board of about twelve academic members which advises the director on the research programs and elects from three to five research fellows, usually doctoral candidates from France or other countries of the European Union, for periods of one to three years.

The institute has three main functions: research, library and documentation, and publications.

Research is carried out by resident fellows, including some Persian associate members, as well as researchers on short-term scholarships, and scholars visiting Persia for their fieldwork. All of them work in close contact with the Persian institutions related to their research topics (ministries, universities, foundations, etc.). In the last decade, the major fields of study have been modern history, classical and modern literature, history of sciences and techniques, anthropology, economy, and urban and social studies. Apart from research undertaken by individual members or groups, the institute also organizes meetings and international conferences in collaboration with Persian institutions and provides support for conferences in France. A recent example was the conference entitled “La Science dans le monde iranien,” held in Tehran from 7 to 9June 1998, organized by IFRI and Pažūhašgāh-e tārīḵ-e ʿolūm of the University of Tehran. Among the topics discussed were history of texts, history of techniques, mathematics, alchemy, mineralogy, astrology and medicine.

The original holdings of the library and documentation center were related to the needs of its two founding branches, archaeology and classical Persian literature and philosophy. Since then the collection has expanded to include social and other human sciences. About 110 current periodicals are available, about half in Persian, and the rest in foreign languages, mostly English and French; some going back to the early 20th century. The library contains more than twenty thousand volumes in the same ratio of languages as well as microfilms, maps, and photographs (related to art and archaeology only). The library does not have a manuscript collection.

Publications by the institute include the already mentioned Abstracta Iranica and three series of publications all printed in Tehran and distributed in Persia and in the West. The Bibliothèque iranienne, was founded by Corbin. Its well-known series of twenty-two volumes of predominantly philosophical texts were published between 1949 and 1975. They have often been reprinted, some up to five times, or re-edited with the addition of a Persian translation of the French introduction and commentary. Starting with volume 23 (1980), Marcel Bazin’s Le Tâlech: une région ethnique au nord de l’Iran, the series expanded to include social and human sciences, publishing original studies in French by Iranian and French scholars, as well as collections of conference papers organized or supported by the Institute( e.g. J. Calmard, ed., Études safavides, published in Tehran and Paris as vol. 39 in 1993). Volume 51 was in press in 1998. In 1980 the Bibliothèque iranienne en persan began publication of the recent series in Persian. Another accompanying series, Traductions, provides Persian translations of scholarly works and collected papers on Persian philosophy, music, crafts, and on Afghanistan (7 vols. published so far). Both Persian series are sometimes published in conjunction with Iranian academic institutions, such as Markaz-e našr-e dānešgāhī, or private publishers, including Tūs and Moʿīn publishing houses. The institute also offers advisory support to local publishers on the publication of Persian translations of French works on Iranian studies. IFRI also supported the publication of the last volumes of the archaeological studies of Susa (Mémoires de la Délégation archéologique en Iran and Cahiers de la DAFI); two volumes in each of the two series are to be published.

Functioning more and more as a European and international research center, IFRI is able to welcome researchers from all countries and accommodate a handful of them for variable lengths of stay. Since 1994, many nationalities have been represented and put in touch with Persian colleagues and institutions and given access to facilities and library services. With the academic institutions, the close links are based more on practical grounds and specific joint projects than on general or official agreements. Basically, the primary aim of the institute is to facilitate collaborative research in the field of Iranian studies.


B. Hourcade, “Iranian Studies in France,” Iranian Studies 20/2-4, 1987, pp. 1-51.

Idem, “La découverte de l’Iran contemporain,” Luqmān 4/2, 1988, pp. 47-64.

Y. Richard, “L’Institut français de recherche en Iran,” Luqmān, 3/2, 1987, pp. 11-22.



French schools, along with their American, British, German, and Russian counterparts, were the main channels through which modern elementary and secondary education were brought to ethnic minorities and middle class Persians for almost a century extending from the 1830s to 1920s (Table 1). They had more varied roots than other foreign schools, originating from three distinct sources: Catholic, Jewish, and secular. Catholic schools were established by Lazarist missionaries, Jewish schools by the Alliance Israélite Universelle, and lay schools by Alliance Française. A considerable number of Persian political and cultural elite of the 20th century studied at French schools in Tehran, including St. Louis, Alliance Française, Jeanne d’Arc, Franco-Persane and Razi (usually referred to as Lycée Razi), and Alliance Israélite schools.



FIGURE 1. Lazarist Catholic Mission School in Tabrīz, 1904. After Nāṭeq, p. 346.FIGURE 1. Lazarist Catholic Mission School in Tabrīz, 1904. After Nāṭeq, p. 346.

Lazarist missionaries began their educational work in the 1840s in Western Azerbaijan and gradually extended their activities to Tabrīz, Isfahan, and Tehran in the latter half of the 19th and early 20th centuries.

The beginning. In 1837 Eugène Boré came to Persia as the representative of the French Académie des Inscriptions, with the support of the French foreign minister, François Guizot. Two years later he founded an elementary school in Tabrīz with fourteen Muslim and Armenian students, the first time pupils of two different religions were brought together in one school in Persia. The aim was to teach modern sciences and French to Persian children (Boré, II, p. 362). In 1840 Boré founded another school in Isfahan with 31 students, five of whom were Muslims (de Bode, I, p. 45).

Before he left the country, Boré persuaded the French Lazarist fathers to send a mission to Persia (Boré, II, p. 362; cf. Curzon, Persian Question I, p. 542). The Lazarists and the Daughters of Charity (Filles de la Charité), both orders founded in France by St.Vincent de Paul in the 17th century, arrived in Persia in 1840 and 1856 respectively. The Persian government welcomed the Lazarist mission, as relations with England were strained over the occupation of Herat in 1838 and with Russia over the construction of port facilities at Anzalī (q.v.). The Lazarists also received a friendly reception from the governor of Urmia, Malek-Qāsem Mīrzā, who knew French well and was a member of the Société asiatique in Paris (Dehqān, p. 151). The arrival in 1839 of Félix Édouard Comte de Sercey as French ambassador to the Persian court brought the Lazarists unprecedented advantages. In June he obtained from Moḥammad Shah an order (farmān) affirming the principle of freedom of conscience in Persia (de Sercey, pp. 260-61). Thenceforth, Roman Catholics were to enjoy the same rights and privileges as Muslim Persians (Eqbāl, p. 65).

Lazarist Schools in Urmia. In 1840, Father Cluzel and Father Darnis founded a boys school in Ḵosrowābād, a village near the largely Christian town of Salmās in the Urmia region of western Azerbaijan. The Lazarists at first worked mainly among the Assyrian Christians, but later they expanded their sphere to include the Armenian Catholic community and remained active in the Christian areas of Azerbaijan until 1930s. By the end of Moḥammad Shah’s reign in 1848, there were twenty-six schools for boys, with a total of four hundred pupils, and six schools for girls operating in the region (Nāṭeq, pp. 163, 171). In 1863, the Lazarist sisters founded the St. Vincent de Paul schools for girls in Urmia and Salmās; in 1867, the school in Urmia enrolled 150 pupils. Beginning in 1874, after a famine and recurrent pillage of the Urmia region by Kurdish tribes, which led to the closing of most schools, new Lazarist elementary schools were opened in the area with 400 pupils in the city and 731 in the surrounding villages. According to Father Salomon, in 1882 the Lazarists were operating a total of seventy-four elementary schools and two schools for orphans in the Urmia region (Nāṭeq, pp. 183, 190, 197). In 1894, the Lazarists also founded a school in Sana (Sanandaj) and another one in Naqada with 50 students with the Assyrian Antoine Ṣāleḥ as principal. In the academic year 1906-7, Urmia had a total of three Lazarist schools, with 16 teachers and 290 students, and in the surrounding villages there were 49 schools with 965 students. In some of these schools Jewish and Muslim children studied alongside Armenian and Assyrian children. The curriculum for Lazarist secondary schools for boys was four years, with courses in ancient and modern Assyrian, Persian, French, arithmetic, geography, church history, philosophy, theology, and hymns. In comparable girls schools Assyrian, Persian, French, knitting, sewing, cotton spinning, soap making, and baking were taught (Ḡaffārī, p. 152; Nāṭeq, p. 171).

Lazarist schools in Tabrīz. In 1863 a Lazarist school for boys and a Saint Vincent de Paul school for girls were opened in Tabrīz, followed two years later by another school for girls run by the Daughters of Charity. In 1901, Father Auguste Malaval founded a school in Tabrīz with 65 students, increased to 95 in 1904 (Nāṭeq, pp. 203-4, 215-18; Ḡaffārī, p. 154).

Lazarist Schools in Isfahan. In 1863, the sisters founded the St.Vincent de Paul school for girls in Jolfā. Supported by Prince Ẓell-al-Solṭān, a Lazarist school for boys, a school for girls, and a medical clinic were also established at Isfahan in 1875 to serve the Armenian community (Nāṭeq, p. 191). The Roman Catholic school for girls at Jolfā was founded in 1904 with 115 students; it was later renamed Rūdāba School. In the same year, a school with an enrollment of 60 boys was founded, expanding to include 120 boys and 130 girls by 1910. Madrasa-ye setāra-ye ṣobḥ, a coeducational elementary school with five grades and fifty students, was established in 1910 near the Čahārbāḡ (q.v.) in Isfahan, with help from local teachers (Ḡaffārī, p. 155). During the last decades of their existence (until the revolution of 1979), Rūdāba had twelve grades (supplemented by a coed kindergarten), and Setāra-ye ṣobḥ operated a standard six-grade elementary school that taught French in the morning and Persian in the afternoon hours to more than one hundred students.

Lazarist Schools in Tehran. The Lazarists founded two well known schools in Tehran, St. Louis and Jeanne d’Arc, which enrolled both Christian and Muslim pupils. Compared to their counterparts in Azerbaijan and Isfahan, the Lazarist schools in Tehran were more concerned with educating students in modern sciences and French literature than in religious matters.

St. Louis School. Founded in 1862, with the encouragement of the French minister to the Persian court, Joseph-Arthur Comte de Gobineau, St. Louis was the first Catholic Mission school to be established in Tehran. It started with fifteen pupils, several of whom were Muslim. In 1909 the enrollment was 140 pupils, including 90 boarders; in 1910, it was 150, with 50 boarders. In 1909 the school purchased Šojāʿ-al-Salṭana’s mansion, which had thirteen rooms and adequate space for 350 students. The elementary program was similar to the five-year system of French primary education. The curriculum included French literature, Persian, world history and geography, history and geography of Persia, arithmetic, calligraphy, and painting (Nāṭeq, pp. 179-81; Ḡaffārī, pp. 152-54). In 1913 the school opened a two-year high school program which later expanded to four-year. In 1912, the school received one hundred tomans financial aid from the Ministry of Education; this was increased to two hundred tomans in 1921 when the school expanded teaching Persian language courses and accepted up to fifty needy students who were recommended by the ministry. By 1928, there were 170 pupils and 15 teachers at the school. St. Louis was closed in 1941 along with other foreign schools. It soon reopened, but without permission from the ministry. Reportedly, the school experienced internal problems and mismanagement during the 1950s and 1960s (Šayḵ-Reżāʾī, pp. 95-96).

Jeanne d’Arc School. Jeanne d’Arc, the well-known school for girls to which many of the members of the upper classes sent their daughters, was in operation until the 1979 revolution. In the early 1960s, it had about a thousand pupils in the secondary school and about fifty in its junior school. However, instruction at its secondary school terminated at the tenth grade (Komīsīūn-e mellī-e Yūnesko, II, p. 1211). Many of the more affluent pupils were then sent abroad or continued their studies for the school-leaving certificate at Lycée Razi which offered mixed classes for boys and girls up to the twelfth grade. According to Anīsa Šayḵ-Reżāʾī (pp. 97-98,) the origins of the Jeanne d’Arc school can be can be traced to two Lazarist schools. The first school was the St. Vincent de Paul school for orphaned girls founded in 1865 by the Daughters of Charity and later renamed Jeanne d’Arc. In the 1920s, the school offered both primary and secondary education at separate classes for Muslim and Armenian students. The Ministry of Education granted the school one hundred tomans per month to support teaching of Persian and financial aid for needy students. The curriculum of the school at the elementary level included arithmetic, dictation, sewing, history and geography, a study of Farāʾed al-adab, and acquaintance with elementary sciences (ʿelm al-ašyāʾ). At the secondary level the curriculum included algebra, geometry, natural sciences, Persian (grammar and reading the text of Kalīla o Demna), hygiene, sewing, and home economy. In 1931 Sister Pauline was the principal of both Jeanne d’Arc and St. Joseph schools indicating the close links between the two institutions.

The second school was St. Joseph, a four-year elementary school for girls founded in 1880 by the sisters of Saint Vincent de Paul in the Armenian neighborhood of the Qazvīn Gate quarter (Maḥalla-ye darvāza-ye Qazvīn) with more than two hundred students. Later, the school admitted boys in separate classes. The school enrolled ninety-nine girls and thirty-three boys in 1929. The curriculum included arithmetic, history and geography, sciences, Persian, and French (Nāṭeq, pp. 194, 201, 203). A government grant was given to the school to support teaching of Persian and the admission of fifteen non-paying pupils. Later, in the mid-1930s, this school was renamed Manūčehrī Elementary and High School. In the late 1930s it had an enrollment of about one hundred students and about ten teachers. In 1941, the school closed its Persian program, but its French program continued for foreign pupils. In 1953, its Persian program was revived under the name of Jeanne d’Arc (Dabīrestān-e Žāndārk) with Badr-al-Molūk Pāzārgādī as its principal (Šayḵ-Reżāʾī, p. 97; Wezārat-e farhang, pp. 32-33).


In a meeting on 12 July 1873 in Paris between Nāṣer-al-Dīn Shah and Adolph Cremieux and other members of the central committee of the Alliance Israélite Universelle (q.v.) the shah agreed to the opening of Alliance schools in Persia (see Bulletin de l’Alliance Israélite Universelle, first semester, 1873). But it was twenty-five years later, in 1898, that the Alliance finally succeeded in opening its first school for boys in Tehran. Joseph Cazès was appointed as the head teacher of its 350 pupils. Cazès also opened a school for girls with 150 pupils. The Alliance was warmly received by Persian authorities: Moẓaffar-al-Dīn Shah donated two hundred tomans to the school and Mīrzā Moḥsen Khan Mošīr-al-Dawla, the foreign minister, gave an audience to a hundred of the school’s pupils and donated five hundred tomans to the school. In 1905-6, the enrollment of the Tehran school rose to 750 boys and 400 girls. In 1927, the school had a total of 545 students and 18 teachers. In the same year total enrollment at the school for girls was 390, with 11 teachers (Nāṭeq, pp. 130-34; Ḡaffārī, pp. 175-76; Šayḵ-Reżāʾī, pp. 97-98).

The Alliance also opened five schools in provincial towns in the early 1900s: in Hamadān (1900) with 350 boys and 250 girls, increased in 1905 to 600 and 300 pupils respectively; in Isfahan (1901) with 220 boys and 75 girls increased to 400 boys and 270 girls three years later; in Shiraz (1903) with 600 pupils, including 150 Jewish and non-Jewish girls, in Sanandaj (1903); and in Kermānšāh (1904) with about 250 boys and about 150 girls. The Alliance also helped other Jewish communities to establish schools: Tūyserkān and Nehāvand in 1906, Kāšān in 1911, and Golpāyagān in 1914. In 1905-6, the Alliance schools had an enrollment of 2,875 boys and 1275 girls (Nāṭeq, pp. 134-50; Ḡaffārī, p. 176).

In 1941, the Alliance operated 15 schools with 6,376 pupils. This increased to 23 schools with 7,500 pupils a decade later. On the eve of the 1979 revolution, the Alliance operated 7 schools in Tehran with 1,800 pupils and 4 schools in Hamadān, Yazd, Kermānšāh, and Borūjerd with 1,286 pupils (Nāṭeq, pp. 134-50; Aubin, p. 307; Ḡaffārī, pp. 175-76).


The Alliance Française (Association nationale pour la propagation de la langue française), was founded in Paris in 1883 to promote French cultural, political, and commercial interests in foreign countries. The Persian committee of the Alliance was formed in 1889-90 with a number of Persian high ranking officials, including Kāmrān Mīrzā Nāyeb-al-Salṭana, Mīrzā ʿAlī-Aṣḡar Khan Amīn-al-Solṭān, the grand vizier, Mīrzā ʿAlī Khan Amīn-al-Dawla, a noted reformist statesman, and Jaʿfarqolī Khan Nayyer-al-Molk, the principal of Dār al-fonūn (q.v.). The French ambassador was also a founding member and Dr. Feuvrier (q.v.) was elected as its chairman. However, the actual creation of the Alliance’s schools proved a slow process owing to Nāṣer-al-Dīn Shah’s fears and suspicions of Western liberal institutions, as well as British, Russian, and German rivalry and intrigues against French interests in Persia. Furthermore, the school suffered from chronic budgetary shortages and lack of efficient management (Nāṭeq, pp. 83-94).

Only in 1899, when Dr. Jean-Etienne Justin Schneider, private physician to Moẓaffar-al-Dīn Shah, became chairman of the Alliance Française in Persia and appointed Vizioz, a capable administrator, as the principal, did the Alliance school turn a new leaf and become an active educational institution with eighty-five students. In 1904, when the number of pupils reached 130, the Shah contributed ten thousand tomans to the school, and it moved to a new spacious building with an annex for the teachers’ residence. The school’s enrollment increased to 215 pupils in 1910. Almost all of them, with the exception of a few Jewish and Armenian pupils, were Muslims between the ages of eight to thirty-five and even forty. The older students were enrolled in French language courses. The Alliance school offered the six-year French elementary school curriculum. The courses included French, English, mathematics, geography, physics, and chemistry. The school had a small laboratory for physics and chemistry. The Alliance school was still active in the 1920s, with a high school program and about 100-120 students of whom 50 were non-paying pupils. The Ministry of Education provided the school with some financial aid. Alliance Française also established a school in Tabrīz in 1903 with 76 students; it was operating with a budget deficit until the 1910s (Nāṭeq, pp. 94-114; Ḡaffārī, pp. 172-74).

Franco-Persane and Lycée Razi. The Franco-Persane girls elementary school was founded in 1908 in Tehran by Yūsof Khan Rīšār Moʾaddab-al-Molk, teacher of French at Dār al-fonūn. In 1914, 215 students were enrolled in the school. Franco-Persane founded a boys high school and around 1916 it also began to offer, for the first time in Persia, a three-year high school education for girls to train them for teaching at elementary schools. The courses included French, Persian, Arabic, English, mathematics, physics, chemistry, natural sciences, history, and geography. Franco-Persane received financial aid from the Ministry of Education to cover the tuition of non-paying students recommended by the ministry and to pay the salary of teachers of Persian sent from the ministry. The enrollment in 1929 included 150 girls and 103 boys. In the early 1930s, the school was renamed the Mission laïque française lycée Razi and operated until the 1979 revolution (Šayḵ-Reżāʾī, pp. 96-97; Nāṭeq, pp. 102-3).

École Supérieure. In 1911, the idea of establishing a French institution of higher education (école supérieure) in Tehran was discussed between French representatives and Persian authorities. Nāṣer-al-Molk, then the regent, donated a site adjacent to the grounds of the Majles in Bahārestān for developing a campus for the college, but the project was aborted because of the First World War (Ḡaffārī, pp. 176-77; Nāṭeq, p. 205).


Based on valuable archival material, the main sources for French schools in Persia from 1840s-1910s are the following well-documented but not meticulous or well-organized works: H. Nāṭeq, Kār-nāma-ye farhangī-e farangī dar Īrān, Paris, 1375 Š./1996; and A. Ḡaffārī, Tārīḵ-e rawābeṭ-e Īrān o Farānsa az teror-e Nāṣer-al-Dīn Šāh tā jang-e jahānī-e awwal, Tehran, 1368 Š./1989.

French schools in the 1920s-30s are briefly treated in A. Šayḵ-Reżāʾī, “Madāres-e farānsavī dar Īrān,” in Ganjīna-ye asnād 2/3-4, 1371 Š./1992, pp. 95-103.

Information on French schools in the 1940s-70s is scanty.

E. Aubin, La Perse d’aujourd’hui, Paris, 1909.

ʿA. Bahrāmī, Tārīḵ-e ejtemāʿī wa sīāsī-e Īrān, Tehran, 1344 Š./1965.

B. de Bode, Travels in Arabistan and Loristan, 2 vols., London, 1845.

E. Boré, Correspondance et mémoires d’un voyageur en Orient, 2 vols., Paris, 1850.

A. Cuenca, “L’oeuvre scolaire de l’Alliance en Iran,” Les Cahiers de l’Alliance Israélite Universelle, July-August, 1954, pp. 27-34; October 1962, pp. 12-18; October 1966, pp. 16-21.

ʿA. Dehqān, Sarzamīn-e Zardošt, Tehran, 1348 Š./1969.

ʿA. Eqbāl, “Dāstānī az moballeqīn-e ʿĪsawī dar Īrān,” in Yādgār 3/6-7, Bahman-Esfand 1325 Š./February-March 1947, pp. 60-66.

Komīsīūn-e mellī-e Yūnesko (UNESCO), Ketāb-e Īrānšahr, 2 vols., Tehran, 1343 Š./1964.

L. Rosen, “Les écoles de l’Alliance en Iran,” Les Cahiers de l’Alliance Israélite Universelle, September-October 1959, pp. 16-33.

F. E. de Sercey, Une ambassade extraordinaire: La Perse en 1839-40, Paris, 1928.


The gradual entry of a large number of loan words into Persian from European languages and most notably from French began in the 19th century and continued through the 20th century as part of the process of modernization of culture and society in Persia. Several political and educational factors played a significant part in the selection and provenance of these borrowings. Although France did not have the perennial political and military influence of Russia or Britain on Persia, it served, particularly in the 19th and early part of the 20th century, as the most important model of modern secular culture for Persia as well as many other countries of the region. French was not only the language of the corps diplomatique and haute couture but was also used as a second language in European royal courts and aristocratic circles particularly when refinements of cuisine, manners, and etiquette were discussed.

As well as these somewhat nebulous and universal factors, there were specific historical events including the creation of modern educational institutions like the Dār al-fonūn in 1851, which strenghtened the position of French as the main vehicle for the introduction of modern European culture and technical and scientific vocabulary into Persian (Rouhbakhshan, p. 33). This process continued into the 20th century with the educational system at all levels modeled on the French system, in organization as well as curricula, and with the textbooks, particularly in the sciences, based on translations from French. French was virtually the only language secondary-school students took for six years to meet the European-language requirement, until it was replaced by English after the Second World War. At the University of Tehran (founded in 1935, see EDUCATION xvii), virtually all the professors in the scientific and technical fields, and not a few in others, had studied in French-speaking countries (Maḥbūbī, Moʿassasāt I, pp. 320-66), or otherwise received a French-influenced education in Persia. Persian literature, political discourse and personal dairies in the last two centuries, from the writings of Amīr (-e) Kabīr (Rouhbakhshan, pp. 53-53) and many minor Qajar poets (see, e.g. Browne, Lit. Hist. Persia IV, p. 323) to the satirical works of Taqī Dāneš, Īraj Mīrzā, and Moḥammad-ʿAlī Jamālzāda (Zomorrodīān, pp. 10-11; Shakoor Ahsan, pp. 74-78) provide many illustrations of the use of French vocabulary in Persian to convey modern concepts, and they often poke fun at its excessive and unnecessary employment by those eager to flaunt their knowledge of the French language and European ways.

These developments are reflected in the large number of French loan words in modern Persian vocabulary, in spite of the efforts of official institutions like the Farhangestān to curb this flow. The number of French words in Persian dictionaries are estimated at 820 (Dehḵodā), 1700 (Moʿīn), 1600 (ʿAmīd) and 1200 (Mošīrī). A detailed study of the subject completed in 1982 estimates the number at three thousand to four thousand (Tabatabaʾi, p. 165). French loan words exist in all domains of life. In the following list of examples, each word is listed in one semantic category, and English meanings are given only if not clear from the cognate terms or loan words in English. It should be noted that in the examples cited, a full philological description tracing the word’s complete etymology is not given. Most of the words cited have their origin in Latin or Greek or may have first been used in some other European or non-European language, before entering French as loan words, as for example, the word belof ‘bluff’ cited below, which may be Dutch in origin and perhaps entered French through English, or ūrāngūtān ‘orangutan’ which is derived from Malay. What is significant for our study and the reason for their inclusion is that it was typically through the French language that they were transmitted into Persian, and in this the similarity of accent patterns in French and Persian as well as historical and cultural factors briefly mentioned above have played a significant part.

Animals: šampānza, gūrīl, pangūan, ūrāngūtān.

Arts: romān “novel,” teʾātr, ātolīa “workshop,” operā, konservātūār, konsert.

Bureaucracy (būrokrāsī): dosīa, pārāf “initials,” gīša “ticket or information window.”

Business and economics: ešāntīyon “sample,” vītrīn “store window, display window,” būrs “stock exchange,” būdja.

Clothing: bolūz, māntow, kerāvāt “necktie,” šāpo “felt brimmed hat,” dekolta “in low cut style,” mīnīžūp “miniskirt.”

Communications and transportation: otobūs “bus,” telegrāf, telefon, ābūnomān “subscription,” tīrāž “circulation numbers,” tambr “stamp,” post.

Education: kelās, konkūr “competitive entrance examination,” dīplom, līsāns “bachelor’s degree,” doktorā, būrs “scholarship.”

Food: sālād, omlet, sūp, rāgū, bīftek “steak,” kompot, servīyet, sos, sosīs “sausage,” žāmbon “ham.”

Government (politics, diplomacy, law and order): senā “senate,” kāndīdā, žāndārmerī, mānovr, āttāša, šāržedāfer, ājūdān.

Health and medicine: mīkrob, kelīnīk, āpāndīs, āsm “asthma,” vāksan, kūrtāž “abortion,” epīdemī, doktor, vīzīt (a doctor’s charge for a visit), mālārīā, tīfūs, seflīs, āmpūl.

Housing: āpārtmān, āsānsor, korīdor, dūš “shower,” komod “chest of drawers,” mobl “furniture.”

Organized activity: komīta, komīsīūn, sandīkā, federāsīūn, demonstrāsīūn.

Personal life: fāmīl, rāndevū, mānīkūr, mātīk “lipstick,” rǖ.

Science: šīmī, atom, sīnūs “sine,” logarītm.

Style and format: pārāgrāf, vīrgūl “comma,” parāntez, gīoma “quotation marks.”

Technology: pīston, sūpāp “valve,” volt, vāt, asīd.

Plants: gelāyol, okālīptūs, kāmelīā.

Recreation: sīnemā, kāfa, bīstro, bālmāska, gerāmāfon.

Other: mersī “thank you,” sǖa “subject,” sūrprīz, alkolīsm, peransīp “principle,” belof “bluff,” fanātīsm “fanaticism,” mūza “museum,” serī “series,” bež “beige,” rezerv “reservation.”

Practically all French loanwords have been adopted from written sources, as evidenced by the fact that the final consonant letters and the initial letter h, silent in French, are pronounced in Persian, e.g. konsert, pāsport, hotel.

The major phonological change, as far as the consonants are concerned, involves initial consonant clusters, where the vowel e is added after the first consonant, except in the case of s, where e is added before the consonant; e.g., “drame” > derām, “cravate” > kerāvāt, “sport” > esport. Sometimes, especially in rapid speech, vowels other than e are added, usually in assimilation to the vowel of the following syllable; e.g. kīlīnīk “clinic,” porogrām “program,” boros “brosse.” Nasal vowels are rendered as vowels followed by n or m, e.g., “antenne” > ānten, “timbre” > tambre (also tamr). Otherwise the French consonants all have counterparts in Persian, and cause no difficulty. The only one needing a relatively substantial phonetic adjustment is the French uvular fricative which is rendered as Persian alveolar liquid r. More substantive changes occur in the vowels, involving several which have no counterparts in Persian: /y/ > /ū/: “musical” > mūzīkāl, “cellule” > sellūl, sūksa <“succès”; /oe/ > /o/: āsānsor; ‘meubleδ > mobl; /ə/ is rendered as /e/, /u/, /o/, or /a/, depending on the phonetic context. Factors affecting vowel changes in general include the written forms of the words (both in French and in Persian), as well as the optional Persian rule of assimilation to the vowel of the following syllable. These changes are found in “gelée” > žela, “refusé” > ro/ū/efūza, “monsieur” > mo/ū/so, “marmelade” > mārmālād. Each nasalized vowel changes to a vowel followed by the consonant /n/ or /m/: “antenne” > ānten, “salon” > sālon; “ampoule” > āmpūl, “ampère” > āmper.

Relatively few semantic changes have occurred since most French borrowings are in science and technology. The few changes include sīgār “cigar,” kotlet “côtelette,” žīgolo “gigolo,” pākat “paquet,” which all have either different or additional semantic associations in Persian (Tabatabaʾi, pp. 70-71).

A less readily noticeable type of French impact is found in the relatively large number of loan translations or calques (garta-bardārī), e.g.: rāh-āhan “railroad” < "chemin de fer; ašk-e temsāḥ “crocodile tears” < larmes de crocodile;zīr-e cāp “in the press” < sous press; noqta-ye naẓar “point of view” < point de vue; esm-e ḵāṣṣ “proper noun” < nom propre; rūy-e kasī ḥesāb kardan “to count on” (someone or something) < compter sur qulequ’un, and čerā na from French pourquoi pas or English “why not.” Scholars of stylistics and language, from Moḥammad-ʿAlī Forūḡī to Parvīz Nātel Ḵānlarī and Abu’l-Ḥasan Najafī, have repeatedly pointed out with convincing examples in their influential works (see bibliography) that in clear, elegant, modern Persian prose these calques can normally be replaced by already existing Persian equivalents which do not play havoc with the syntax. But the trend continues, particularly in the mass media, where hasty translations from French or English are often riddled with new loan translations.

The French borrowings have not all had the same fate. In some cases, a French loanword and a Persian counterpart are both used; e.g. bīyoložī and zīst-šenāsī, fenomen and padīda. In others, the French loanword is more common, e.g., hotel, līsāns, doktor, te’ātr (rather than tamāšā-ḵāna). In most cases, there are no Persian counterparts, e.g., post, šīmī, bānk, (Deyhime, p. 91).

The reason for borrowing words is not always the same. In some cases it is necessity, as is the case, in general, with the words dealing with the material culture, including those in science and technology. In some cases, a borrowed word does not represent an entirely new concept, but a greatly changed version of an existing one; e.g. restorān and kāfa versus the old qahwa-ḵāna. Similarly, the terms in the area of government (including beaurocracy) represent greatly revised versions of existing institutions, requiring, inter alia, new techniques e.g. pārāf, dosīa.

Of special significance, in cultural terms, are French words borrowed in the general vocabulary for concepts already represented in Persian, often with more than one word. Thus, mersī “thanks” has virtually replaced the many synonymous words and phrases—certainly in urban areas. So has, to a lesser degree, kādo “gift.” Berāvo! is now a fairly common expression of praise and approval. Māmān “mommy’ is now commonly used in many families. The degree to which this word has been integrated into the language is seen in the colloquial māmānī “dainty, delicate, cute,” derived from it.

The era of the preponderance of French linguistic influence on Persian came to an end after the Second World War, when it was replaced by English. While it seems unlikely that many new French words will be borrowed, it appears that of those already borrowed many will remain in the language, in most cases perhaps as synonyms of native words or words from other sources.


Ḥ. ʿAmīd, Farhang-e ʿAmīd, Tehran, 1365 Š./1986.

L. Bouvat, “L’Evolution moderne des langues musulmans,” RMM 10, 1910, pp. 47-69.

G. Deyhime, “Les emprunts du persan au français,” Luqmān 4/1, 1987-88, pp. 87-103.

Idem, “Les emprunts du français au persan,” Luqmān 5/1/ 1988-89, pp. 39-58.

Ch. Dutt, “Loan Words in Persia,” Indian Linguistics 17, 1957, pp. 114-120.

Ḵ. Faršīdvard, “Nokāt-ī čand da bāra-ye taʾṯīr-e zabān-e farānsavī wa engelīsī dar fārsī,” Waḥīd 1/9, 1964, pp. 16-19; 1/10, pp. 36-44.

Idem, “Vāžahā wa ʿebārāt-ī ka az zabān-e farānsavī wa engelīsī tarjama šoda-and,” Waḥīd 2/2, 1965, pp. 17-23; 2/4, pp. 71-80; 2/5 pp. 65-68; 2/6 pp. 40-43.

M.-ʿA. Forūḡī, “Nofūḏ-e zabānhā-ye bīgāna dar zabān-e fārsī,” in Maqālāt-e Forūḡī I, ed. Ḥ. Yaḡmāʾī, Tehran, 1353 Š./1974, pp. 80-90.

W. Giese, “Französische Lehnwörter im modernen Persischen,” Zeitschrift für Französische Sprache und Literatur 67, 1956, pp. 69-77.

P. Horn, “Neupersische Schriftsprache,” in Grundriss I, pp. 1-9.

M. A. Jazayeri, “Western Influence in Con temporary Persian: A General View,” BSO(A)S 29, 1966, pp. 79-96.

Idem, “Western Loan Words in Persian, with Reference to Westernization,” Islamic Culture 40, 1966, pp. 207-20; 41, 1967, pp. 1-19.

M. N. M. Khan, Barrasī-e loḡāt-e Orūpāʾ’ī dar zabān-e fārsī, Islamabad, 1362 Š./1983.

P. N. Ḵānlarī, Zabān-šenāsī wa zabān-e fārsī, 2nd.ed., Tehran, 1343 Š./1964.

R. Lescot, “La réforme du vocabulaire en Iran,” REI 13, 1939, pp. 75-96.

M. Moʿīn, Farhang-e fārsī, 6 vols., Tehran, 1342-52 Š./1963-73.

M. Mošīrī, Farhang-e zabān-e fārsī, alefbāyī-qīāsī, Tehran, 1369 Š./1990.

A. Najafī, Ḡalaṭ nanevīsīm (farhang-e došvārī-hā-ye zabān-e fārsī), 3rd. ed., Tehran, 1370 Š./1992.

A. Rouhbakhshan, “Le rôle du Dār ol-Fonūn dans l’éxpansion du français en Iran,” Luqmān 3/2 1987, pp. 33-54.

A. Shakoor Ahsan, Modern Trends in the Persian Language, Islamabad, 1976.

M. K. Shirazi, “A List of 138 New Words, Chiefly European, that Constantly Occur in Modern Persian News papers …” J(R)SB III, 1907, pp. 9-13.

ʿA. A. Siassi, La perse au contact de l’Occident: Étude historique et sociales, Paris, 1931.

M. Tabatabaʾi, “A Linguistic Survey of French Borrowings in Modern Persian: The Adaptation, Innovation, and Identification of French Loan Words,” Ph.D. diss., Georgetown University, Washington, D. C., 1982.

R. Zomorrodīān, Farhang-e vāžahā-ye daḵīl-e orūpāʾī dar fārsī, Mašhad, 1373 Š./1995.

FRANCE xvii. Persian Community in France

The emergence of a Persian community in France can perhaps be traced back to 1272/1855-6, when Farrok Khan Ḡaffārī, Amīn-al-Molk, later Amīn-al-Dawla (q.v.) was sent to Paris as the shah’s envoy (īlcī-e kabīr). During his embassy, a group of forty-two Persian students, who became known as les enfants de Perse (Thieury, p. 39) and who were chosen mostly from the graduates of the recently founded Dar al-fonūn (q.v.), were sent to France. Meanwhile, in the course of the latter part of the 19th century, the Persian upper classes gradually began to send their sons to Europe and especially to France to pursue higher studies (Maḥbūbi, Moʾassasāt I, pp. 320-39).

According to accounts given by travelers, such as Ḥājī Sayyāḥ (Sayyāḥ Maḥallātī, pp. 134-254) and Ḥājī Pīrzāda (I, pp. 183-290), by the late 19th century, a Persian community of students, intellectuals, and diplomats was aiready established in Paris. These intellectuals played a prominent role in conveying liberal ideas of the Enlightenment and concepts associated with the French Revolution to Persia and participated in laying down the theoretical groundwork for the Constitutional Revolution. While in Paris, Mīrzā Yūsof Khan Mostašār-al-Dawla wrote, in 1287/1870-71, the influential pamphlet, Yak kalama (One word), a free adaptation of the French Constitution (Āryanpūr, AzṢabā ta Nīmā I, p. 282); and Malkom Khan, who had been sent to France as a child and graduated from the Polytechnic in Paris (Balay, p. 23). was influenced by Auguste Comte’s positivism, traceable in his later polemical work. Sayyed Jamāl-al-Dīn Asadābādī, known as “Afganī” (q.v.), the religions reformist, was received in Paris as a prominent personage in 1883. He wrote several articles in Arabic and French journals on the necessity of reform in Islam and the pernicious influence of Western imperialism on Oriental countries (Pakdaman, p. 77). In collaboration with his Egyptian disciple Moḥammad ʿAbdoh, he also published a journal in Paris called al-ʿOrwa al-woṯqā. It is in this short-lived newspaper, which was published for less than a year in 1884, that his pan-Islamic aspirations first appeared in print (Mirad, p. 110).

Towards the end of the 19th century. the Persian community in France was enlarged by the arrivai of politicians and intellectuals opposed to the despotic regime of Nāṣer-al-Dīn Shah. Small in number, but containing some important personalities, this community provided a ready forum for political activists. A second wave arrived in 1326/1908 when Moḥammad ʿAlī Shah’s coup against the constitutional government (the estebdād-e ṣaḡīr; see constitutional revolution ii) forced many men of letters and politicians to flee abroad. The majority settled in Paris and included the eminent Persian scholar Moḥammad Qazvini as well as Ḵalil Khan Ṯaqafī Aʿlam-al-Dawla, who had been Moẓaffar-al-Dīn Shah’s physician. The latter was responsible for the formation of a group of political activists {anjoman-e Irān-e javān) who distributed propaganda against Moḥammad-ʿAlī Shah’s regime and established contacts with the famous socialist and editor Jean Jaurès, whose articles against despotism in Persia appeared in his newspaper L’Humanité (Ṯaqafī Eʿzāz, pp. 28-29).

The continuing social and political turmoil in Persia in the first decades of this century led to further enlargement of the community. From 1912-14, the newspaper Irānšahr was published in Paris by Ebrāhīm Pur-e Dāwūd. The avowed aim, as stated in the first issue, was “to found a journal of information for compatriots living in Persia.” Before the publication of the journal, meetings were organized in which French and Persian scholars gave lectures on different topics relating to Persian culture. This initiative gave them the opportunity to attract the attention of Europeans to Persia and its problems (Ṣadr Ḥāsemī, Jarāʾed o majallāt, no. 253; Parvīn, pp. 103-16). There is no evidence to suggest that the more widely-known periodical, aiso called Irānšahr, which began its publication in Berlin in 1922 (Ṣadr Ḥāsemī, Jarāʾed o majallāt, no. 252) was a continuation of the Paris journal.

In 1925 Aḥmad Shah, aiready in de facto exile in France, was officially deposed. He soon fell ill and was hospitalized from 1928 in the Parisian suburb of Neuilly until his death in 1930. At this time, his mother, Malaka-ye Jahān settled in Saint-Cloud near Paris with her entourage and family members (Kadjar, pp. 328-29). Thus, the Qajar court joined the Persian community

in France, where many of their descendants réside to this day (Kadjar, pp. 328-31).

In 1928, during Reżā Shah’s reign, a parliamentary law provided for govemment scholarships abroad for at least a hundred students (see education xxi). The candidates came from different social backgrounds and were selected on grounds of academic merit. Many studied in French universities, as well as in the prestigieux Grandes Écoles and the St. Cyr military school. During the 1930s until the outbreak of Worid War II, the number of Persians visiting Europe continued to increase, and France was the main center of attraction for tourists, merchants, and students.

In the course of the next forty years, during which Persian students were trained in France, the great majority returned home, and many became leading figures in Persia. In the 1960s and 1970s, however, a group of students became actively involved in political movements opposed to the Persian government. Eventually their activities led, in 1961, to the formation of the Confederation of Iranian Students: National Union (q.v.). Their meetings and publications had a strong impact both on international public opinion and on the educated younger generation at home. In spite of some internai quarrels, their perseverance in opposition was a contributory factor in shaping the events whieh led to the 1979 Revolution.

In October 1978, France authorized Ayatollah Khomeini (Rūḥ-Allāh Ḵomeynī) to take up residence in the Paris suburb of Neuphle-le-Château. There he was received and acclaimed by both the French and international media, as well as by Persian opposition groups in Europe.

Since the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Bahman 1357 Š./February 1979, hundreds of thousands of Persians have left their homeland—the most important exodus in the history of Persia (see diaspora viii). Among the post-revolutionary emigrants, oniy a small percentage has gone to France, but their importance far exceeds their number, owing to the high percentage of intellectuals and politicians among them; and Paris has been host to almost ail Persian opposition leaders in the post-revolutionary era.

Persian immigrants in France can be classified on the basis of their political, socio-cultural, religions, and individual situations. Political immigrants include the ruling classes of the former regime, joined later by the revolutionary intelligentsia rejected by the Islamic government. Socio-cultural immigrants include those who, although not politically active, chose to leave the country because of their anxieties or dissatisfaction with the new policies of the government on education and the restrictions imposed on women.

In 1978 the number of Persians in France, according to the statistics of the Ministry of the Interior, was 5,941, mainly consisting of students. In 1979 their number doubled with the arrivai of the first group of post-revolutionary immigrants. Subsequent events, such as the Iran-Iraq War, the exile in July 1981 of President Abu’l-Ḥasan Banī-Ṣadr and Masʿūd Rajavī, the leader of the Mojāhedīn-e ḵalq, to France, and finally the banning of Tudeh party in February 1983, gradually increased the number of immigrants and refugees. But the total number has never exceeded 30.000. The French national census in 1982 put the number of Persians in that country at 6,000, a lower figure than that given by the French Ministry of the Interior. This discrepancy may be due, perhaps, to figures relating to those Persians who have a French residency permit (carte de séjour) but usually reside in Persia.

Since 1990 the Persian community in France has been declining in numbers. The causes may be related partly to the economic recession in France and partly to the policy of the Islamic govemment in encouraging Persians with professional skills to retum home. Another possible reason is the return of parents to Persia, especially single parents, who had only left home to be with their chiidren and see them through their education abroad. The acquisition of French nationality may be another factor.

The Persian immigrants are concentrated in a few areas: half of the Persian immigrants live in Paris, the rest being dispersed mainly on the French Riviera, Montpellier, Grenoble, and Aix-en-Provence.

In 1986 a survey was conducted on various aspects relating to the Persian immigrants in Paris (Nassehi-Behnam, 1989; 1990; 1991) focusing on demography, living conditions, family relations, problems, and aspirations. The results showed that 63 percent were ordinary residents with Persian passports, 27 percent political refugees, 3.5 percent holders of ordinary resident permits and French travel documents (mostly political personalities who did not wish to be considered as refugees), and 4.5 percent had acquired French nationality. The reasons for emigration were: 30 percent political, 37 percent socio-cultural, 13 percent economic (loss of employment), and the remainder a combination of the three factors. The choice of France was attributed by almost 50 percent to their affinity with France, 22 percent to visa and political refugee facilities, and the remainder to factors such as the presence of their family members and the opposition movements, or the possibility of receiving temporary residency.

Persians have settled in various parts of Paris according to their means. The Tower Blocks of the 15th arrondissement, often referred to jokingly by Persians as “Téhéran-sur-Seine,” contain a well-known concentration of Persians, and provide a focus for communal gatherings. There are shops owned and managed by educated, upper class ex-diplomats, engineers. architects, and administrators, who find moral support in this ethnie setting where their former status is recognized and acknowledged by their clients.

Socio-demographic situation. The Persian househoids rarely exceed four persons in Paris. Larger families usually live in the suburbs, where rents are cheaper. The structure of the househoids shows that immigration has been most of ail on a family basis. Nearly half of them consist of nuclear families (38 percent with, and 9.5 percent without, chiidren), 37 percent can be considered as separated families, including divorced or widowed individuals or single-parent families. In the last category (17.5 percent) are mostly women who live with their chiidren in Paris, having left their husbands in Persia or eisewhere for political or economic reasons. The remainder are celibates or nuclear families with relatives (such as parents, sisters, brothers, cousins).

A distinctive feature of the community is the high-level of education of its members: 78.5 percent have at least one university degree. Prominent among them are many skilled experts and specialists in various scientific and technical areas who had formerly held key posts. In Paris, however, statistics point to a high level of unemployment among Persian immigrants (46 percent) and to the inability of many highiy qualified immigrants to find suitable jobs.

The gender ratio in the working groups is about equal, despite the lower professional qualifications of women, who, in comparison with their pre-emigration position, are more active than men. Having family responsibilities as head of the household and being the breadwinner or sharing the status of breadwinner have contributed to female emancipation and upward mobility in family status while living abroad (Mansur, 1992; Nassehi-Behnam, 1994, 1998).

Another problem confronting the parents is the education of their chiidren. Wishing to preserve their cultural roots while facing the need for integration, they are often caught in the dilemma of either allowing their children to be absorbed in the French educational and cultural system or placing strong pressure on them to retain their native language and identity. Attempts at a harmonious synthesis between the cultures are not aiways successful. The results of a study among the younger generation of immigrants reveals that, as expected, they are more adaptable and malleable towards bi-cultural attitudes (Allami-Saraskanrood, p. 282), while the fear of deculturation and loss of ethnic identity is far more strongly feit among the older generation, many of whom, particularly the political refugees, persevere in regarding their stay abroad as a mere sojourn, before an eventual return home.

Cultural activities. During the first years of the exodus, the Persian community on the whole withdrew into itself, due to post-revolutionary trauma and political disputes. Since the mid-1980s, the desire to maintain and partake in their ethnic identity has encouraged them to develop cultural associations. To promote and disseminate Persian culture, they have organized concerts, conferences, exhibitions, and film shows; some have added mutual help services and Persian language classes for children. In Paris there are at least ten active associations of this kind; similar associations aiso exist in other French cities with sizable Persian communities.

A new phenomenon in the Persian community is the attraction to Sufi brotherhoods established outside Persia, especially after the Revolution. Their gatherings provide solace for some immigrants in a Persian atmosphere with common, non-political, interests. At present, there are three main spiritual groups active in Paris and a few other cities. These include the followers of Rāh-e kamāl (the Path of Perfection) whose spiritual master, Bahrām Elāhī, resides in Paris; the followers of Ṭarīqat-e Owaysī (the Owaysi Order), whose spiritual master Nāder ʿAnqā lives in Califomia; and a branch of the Neʿmat-Allāhīya, following Dr. Jawād Nūrbaḵš, who llves in London. Although most members of these groups are Persian, they have aiso attracted increasingly large numbers of non-Persians to their meetings.

More than forty periodicals have been published in France during the last décade (Mahvi Foundation, 1986; and Iranian Center for Documentation and Research, 1989), of which twenty-six can be considered as political, thirteen cultural, and the remainder of general interest. Political periodicals are published by various groups, but many have been forced to suspend publication due to financial difficulties or political disagreements. The most important cultural and academic periodicals in Paris are Ruzegār-e now, edited by Esmāʿīl Pūrwālī, a professional journalist. and Češmandāz, edited by Nāṣer Pākdāman and Moḥsen Yalfānī. Two other noteworthy joumals, Dabīra, edited by Homā Nāteq, and Aḵtar, edited by ʿAbdī Aḥmadī and Bīžan Ḥekmat, have ceased publication.

Political activities. Most Persian opposition leaders reside in Paris. In the period 1979-96, five of them were assassinated, including the last shah’s nephew, Šahrīār Safīq (7 December 1979), and the last prime minister before the revolution, Šāpūr Baḵtīār (6 August 1991). Nevertheless, numerous groups, ranging from the extreme left to extreme right, have been active, creating a highiy politicized atmosphere that involves most Persians in political issues and induces dissension even within families. The best-known and well-organized among them has been the Iranian National Resistance Movement (Nahżat-e moqāwemat-e mellī-e Irān). formed in March 1980 by Šāpūr Baḵtīār. Its members included both constitutional monarchists and liberal republicans. Since the assassination of Baḵtīār, their activities have diminished, and one of their newspapers, Rūz-nāma-ye Nahżat, has ceased publication, while their other journal, Qīām-e Irān, is published intermittently.

A constitutional-monarchist organization, the Front for the Liberation of Iran (Jabha-ye najāt-e Irān,) was founded in January 1981 by ʿAlī Amīnī (1907-92), a former prime minister. It published a monthly review, Irān wa jahān and the journal Nahzat-e Iran. Il has undergone several internai changes: it was renamed Sāzmân-e derafs-e kāvīânī in 1986 under the leadership ofManūcehr Ganji. In 1992, it once again adopted a new name, the Organization for Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms for Iran (Sāzmān-e ḥoqūq-e bašar wa āzādīhā-ye asāsī barā-ye Irān). Since then, it has published several free newsletters. A third organization is the National Resistance Council (Šūra-ye melli-e moqāwemat), founded in July 1981 by former President Abu’l-Ḥasan Bani-Ṣadr and Masʿūd Rajavī with the aim of establishing a Democratie Islamic Republic. This council has served as the front organization for the Mojāhedin-e ḵalq. Their publications in France include a periodical called Šūrā-ye moqāwemat and the weekiy Mojāhed. Later, in 1984, Banī-Ṣadr left the Mojāhedīn and launched the newspaper Enqelâb-e eslāmī (q.v.).

The Iranian left in France aiso consists of the Democratie Party of Iranian Kurdistan, the Fedāʾīān-e ḵalq, and the Tudeh party, its splinter groups, and activists. The Fedāʾīān have aiso split into numerous groups. A dissident group from the Tudeh party, led by Bābak Amīr-Ḵosravī and former army ofncer Ferīdūn Āzarnūr. both exiles in France since 1983, have founded the Democratie Party of the People of Iran, with a monthly review called Rāh-e āzādi.

This list is by no means exhaustive, as there are numerous Persian opposition groups in France, both of the left and the right, as well as humanitarian associations, such as the League for the Defense of Human Rights in Iran founded in 1980 by former leading activists of the Confederation of Iranian Students: National Union, presided over by Karīm Lahījī since 1983.


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D. Allami Saraskanrood, “Acculturation et problématique de la double culture chez les ressortissants iraniens en France,” Ph.D. diss., Université de Lyon, 1994.

C. Balay and M. Cuypers, Aux sources de la nouvelle persane, Paris, 1983.

Iranian Center for Documentation and Research, Listing of Persian Periodicals Outside Iran (1978-1989), Paris, 1989.

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Mahvi Foundation, Listing of Persian Periodicals, Geneva, 1986.

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Hajī Moḥammad-ʿAlī Pīrzāda, Safar-nāma-ye Ḥājī Pīrzāda, ed. H. Farmān-farmāʾīān, 2 vols., Tehran, 1342-43 Š./1963-64.

Moḥammad-ʿAlī Sayyāḥ Maḥallātī, Safar-nāma-ye Ḥāj Sayyāḥ ba farang, éd. ʿA. Dehbāšī, Tehran, 1363 Š./1984.

Ḥ. Ṯaqafī Eʿzāz, “Waraqī az tārīḵ-e mašrūṭa: marḥūm Doktor Ḵalīl Ḵān Aʿlam-al-Dawla wa mašrūṭīyat-e Irān,” Yadgār 4/7, pp. 23-34.

J. Thieury, La France et la Perse, Evreux, France, 1866.

Cite this page
Jean Calmard, Florence Hellot-Bellier, Marie-Louise Chaumont, Massoud Farnoud, Mohammad Tavakoli-Targhi, Anne-Marie Touzard, Nader Nasiri-Moghaddam, Jacques Duchesne-Guillemin, Christophe Balay, Yves Porter et al., “FRANCE”, in: Encyclopaedia Iranica Online, © Trustees of Columbia University in the City of New York. Consulted online on 20 March 2023 <http://dx.doi.org/10.1163/2330-4804_EIRO_COM_10379>
First published online: 2020
First print edition: 20001215

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