The provincial town of Huwayza in Arabistan/Khuzistan, southwestern Iran, was a minting center from the early days of the Safavid period. Huwayza became an especially productive mint in the course of the seventeenth century, issuing a silver coinage, the mahmudi, that became the most widely circulating of all currencies throughout the Persian Gulf basin. A combination of extant mahmudis and written records about these coins permits an analysis that views the coinage of Huwayza through the prism of the economic problems that plagued Iran in the later Safavid period. The focus of the present article is twofold. The first part examines the place of Huwayza in the general consolidation of mints in seventeenth-century Iran and seeks to explain why Arabistan was somewhat of an exception to this trend. Part two makes an effort to substantiate the alleged deterioration of the Huwayza coinage as of the 1660s through numismatic techniques, relates this to the overall monetary situation in the country, and speculates on the causes and reasons for the demise of the Huwayza mahmudi at the turn of the eighteenth century. Huwayza, centre provincial situé en Arabistan/Khuzistan, au sud-ouest de l'Iran, possédait un atelier de monnaie dès le début de l'époque safavide. L'atelier monétaire de Huwayza atteignit son essor productif dans la seconde moitié du XVIIe siècle, avec la frappe d'un monnayage d'argent, le mahmudi, qui devint la monnaie la plus repandue dans le bassin entier du golfe Persique et jusqu'aux côtes occidentales de l'Inde. L'étude des pièces de monnaie preservées et des données écrites qui leur sont consacrées, nous permet d'analyser le mahmudi de Huwayza à la lumière des difficultés économiques qui accablaient l'Iran vers la fin de l'époque safavide. Le présent article a un double objectif. La première partie s'interroge sur la place de Huwayza dans l'unification des ateliers de frappe iraniens au XVIIe siècle, et sur les raisons pour lesquelles Huwayza ne s'était pas conformé à cette tendance générale. La seconde partie tente de vérifier, par des techniques numismatiques, la détérioration prétendue de la monnaie de Huwayza à partir de 1660. Enfin, en établissant un rapport entre le mahmudi de Huwayza et les conditions monétaires générales dans le pays, nous évoquons les causes de l'arrêt de l'émission de cette monnaie au tournant du XVIIIe siècle.
When dealing with the domestic merchants of Safavid Iran, modern scholarship has largely confined itself to Armenians. But Armenians were by no means the only indigenous traders to engage in commercial and financial transactions. This article looks at Armenians along with the other merchant groups active in Iran's domestic trade-Jews, Banians, and Muslims-from three different angles. Part one, an overview of the types of activities these groups were involved in, finds that, while Jews acted as bankers, they also were active in the long-distance commodity trade. Muslims played a crucial role in the transportation business, but also provided credit to foreign merchants operating in Iran. Part two discusses a topic that has received a great deal of attention in Mughal studies, but that remains neglected in the Safavid context: the position of merchants in society, in particular their relationship with the state. Were merchants an integral part of the state, or did they operate as an autonomous class whose interests differed from those of the political elite? Part three probes this issue further by examining how the state perceived merchants and the group consciousness of merchants themselves. The Safavid state had an eye for trade and its benefits, but there was no fundamental convergence of interests between politics and trade. Merchants, in turn, achieved high levels of status and wealth, yet were not holders of power. Though vulnerable to oppression by local officials, they often offered stiff resistance to those who contravened them.
This essay takes a fresh look at the voluminous yet understudied Western travel writing about 17th-century Iran. It argues that, after this material is properly subjected to close scrutiny for authorial bias, interest and intertexuality, it remains exceedingly valuable for the information it provides on Safavid Iran. Early modern European travelers to Iran brought remnants of past religious and cultural prejudice with them, yet the best explored the country with an open eye, an appreciation for difference, and even a critical perspective on their own culture. They also provide remarkable, at times unique information about Iran and it inhabitants, opening up aspects of Safavid left uncovered by indigenous sources.
This essay analyzes the incontrovertible weakening of the Safavid state in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century by putting it in a larger context. It does so by comparing various manifestations of Iran’s “decline” at the time to conditions and developments in the adjacent Ottoman and Mughal states, where similar processes were playing out in the same period. In order to arrive at a measured and balanced view of similarities and differences between these three early modern Islamic empires, it singles out and focuses on four areas: geographical/environmental and economic conditions, political developments, the state of the army, and ideological characteristics.
This paper examines the organizing ideological and infrastructural principles of the Safavid state structure and questions whether the Safavid state had the capacity and universality to qualify as an empire. Until now, the Safavid state has only been given equal status to the Ottoman and Mughal state as a “gunpowder empire”. But with this approach some other aspects tip the balance towards the cohesion and coherence that enabled the Safavid Empire to function as an empire in spite of exiguous economic resources and the limitations of ideological underpinnings. When some of these aspects lost their force, this contributed to the dissolution of the glue that kept Iranian society together and to the demise of the Safavid state in the early eighteenth century.Le cadre de cette contribution est l’État safavide et elle en explore les principes de la structure étatique au niveau de l’organisation, de l’idéologie, et de l’infrastructure pour établir si cet état a été un véritable empire au niveau de ses capacités et de son caractère universel. Jusqu’à maintenant l’État safavide s’est vu attribuer le statut ‘d’empire de poudre à canon’, pareil aux États ottoman et moghul. Mais en abordant ce thème du côté structure on aperçoit quelques aspects qui font pencher la balance vers une cohérence interne. C’est qu’en dépit de ses faibles ressources économiques et tenant compte des limites du support idéologique en général, l’Empire safavide savait remplir son rôle d’empire. À mesure que la force cohésive s’affaiblissait, la société iranienne se dissolvait de façon à sonner le glas de l’État safavide au début du dix -huitième siècle.