Persia and the Persian Question


George Nathaniel Curzon (1859‒1925) was a British politician, traveler, and writer who served as viceroy of India from 1899 to 1905 and foreign secretary from 1919 to 1924. As a young man he traveled extensively and wrote several books that drew on his travels, including Russia in Central Asia (1889), Persia and the Persian Question (1892), and Problems of the Far East (1894). Persia and the Persian Question, presented here, is two-volume work, based on a six-month stay in Iran that Curzon began in late 1899 as a correspondent for the London newspaper, the Times. The author’s intent, as he states in the preface, is to produce “the standard work in the English language” on the subject. After two introductory chapters, chapters 3‒12 document Curzon’s visits to and observations concerning different parts of the country, including the journey from Ashkabad (present-day Ashgabat, Turkmenistan) into Iran and stays in Kuchan, Meshed, Khorasan, Seistan, Tehran, and elsewhere. Volume one concludes with individual chapters devoted to the shah and the royal family; the government; institutions and reforms; the northwest and northwestern provinces; the army; and railroads. Volume two begins with another seven chapters (19‒25) recounting journeys to different parts of the country, including Isfahan, Shiraz, Bushir (present-day Bushehr), and the eastern, southeastern, and southwestern provinces. The remaining chapters (26‒30) deal with the navy; the Persian Gulf; revenue, resources and manufactures; commerce and trade; and British and Russian policy in Persia. For Curzon, the essence of “the Persian question” is the rivalry between the Russian and British empires for influence in Persia, which he discusses in detail in the final chapter. This chapter also deals with Persia’s “two Asiatic neighbours,” Afghanistan and the Ottoman Empire, both of which “held large tracts of territory that were once included within the Persian dominions.” Curzon ends on a hopeful note regarding the future development of the country, but he cautions patience and warns that “colossal schemes for the swift regeneration of Persia … will only end in fiasco.” He also warns against a dominant role for foreign concessions: “Persian capital must be interested in the exploitation of Persian resources, for a monopoly of the finance by foreigners excites jealousy, and suggests the idea of usurpation.” The book includes illustrations and maps.

Date Created

Subject Date

Publication Information

Longmans, Green & Company, London


Title in Original Language

Persia and the Persian question

Type of Item

Physical Description

2 volumes : illustrations, portraits, maps ; 23 centimeters

Last updated: September 30, 2016