Persian accounts of travels within Iran and to the neighboring Muslim countries served to shape and enhance official concepts of history and topography. Yet, opinions regarding the function of nineteenth-century travelogues within imperial agendas differ. Was their production driven by ideas of inclusion and reclamation or were they meant to project and cement boundaries? This article explores the ways in which Qajar envoys, military officers and officials portrayed the lands and people north and east of Astarabad and Mashhad. The texts at hand offer parallel formulations of the Iranian space. The projection of an expansive “Ur”-terrain coincides with the reinvention of Iran as a modern, narrowly bounded entity. These two levels of argumentation are analyzed within the framework of three thematic clusters. First, observations on geography and their connotations of inclusion and exclusion. Secondly, exchanges with local elites bring regional relationships into focus and thus document the problem of Iranian statehood, its self-definition and the political claims arising therefrom. The third field concerns the uses of the past.
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