Revolution and Constitutionalism in the Ottoman Empire and Iran

Revolution and Constitutionalism in the Ottoman Empire and Iran

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In his book on constitutional revolutions in the Ottoman Empire and Iran in the early twentieth century, Nader Sohrabi considers the global diffusion of institutions and ideas, their regional and local reworking and the long-term consequences of adaptations. He delves into historic reasons for greater resilience of democratic institutions in Turkey as compared to Iran. Arguing that revolutions are time-bound phenomena whose forms follow global models in vogue at particular historical junctures, he challenges the ahistoric and purely local understanding of them. Furthermore, he argues that macro-structural preconditions alone cannot explain the occurrence of revolutions, but global waves, contingent events and the intervention of agency work together to bring them about in competition with other possible outcomes. To establish these points, the book draws on a wide array of archival and primary sources that afford a minute look at revolutions' unfolding.
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Product details

  • Electronic book text | 456 pages
  • Cambridge University Press (Virtual Publishing)
  • Cambridge, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 1139210505
  • 9781139210508

Table of contents

1. Introduction; 2. The state of revolution; 3. The Young Turk Revolution and the global wave; 4. Constitutional struggles and struggle for the constitution; 5. Government within the government: the purges; 6. Counterrevolution; 7. Iran: reform and patrimonialism in comparative perspective; 8. The unlikely revolution: the constitutional revolution of 1906 in Iran in light of the Young Turks; 9. Concluding remarks.
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Review quote

'Revolution and Constitutionalism is a masterful account of class-based grievances, revolutionary developments, shifts in political stances, counter-revolutionary backlashes, regime changes and their institutional legacies. Artfully reconstructing multiple temporalities as they get intertwined in highly contentious times, this book offers the rare combination of comprehensiveness and precision thoroughly documented by an impressive range of primary and contemporary sources. A remarkable achievement. Ivan Ermakoff, University of Wisconsin-Madison 'At the beginning of the 20th century, three revolutions broke out almost at the same time in Eastern Europe and the Middle East: the Russian (1905), Iranian (1906), and Ottoman (1908) revolutions. All three had the same objective: to establish a constitution in order to end arbitrary and despotic regimes. Taking head-on the last two revolutions, the Iranian and Ottoman, Dr. Nader Sohrabi has written a landmark book in contemporary historiography. Based on an intimate knowledge of Ottoman and Persian sources, this is a carefully written book which opens new perspectives on the history of Iran and the Ottoman Empire. The way the author uses different scales and levels of analysis - local, regional and global - throws a bright light on the origins and the course of these revolutionary movements. In a very illuminating way, he shows the role of the actors on the spot and the underlying political, economic, social, cultural forces at stake. He draws enlightening comparisons between the situation in Iran and in the Ottoman Empire. Sohrabi's wonderful book brings the reader to think deeply about revolutions in non-European contexts, and it provides essential keys for understanding events unfolding before our eyes, unlike so many essays written after the fact. This is a seminal work: it will be essential for any reader who wants to understand the past as well as the present.' Francois Georgeon, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique 'This highly analytical study aims at situating the Young Turk Revolution of 1908, one of the momentous political developments of the early twentieth century and a topic of importance not only for Turkey but for all the territories in Europe, Asia, and Africa that formed part of the Ottoman Empire at that time, in the larger sociological context of revolutions. The study is also revolutionary in that it ascertains the importance of two major early twentieth-century revolutions (the 1905-06 Iranian and 1908 Young Turk revolutions) generally overlooked by major theoreticians. With meticulous archival research, Dr. Sohrabi ably and in great detail reinterprets important episodes of late Ottoman history and society.' M. Sukru Hanioglu, Princeton University 'The depth of research and the breadth of vision that have shaped this book are truly breath-taking. Sohrabi places the Young Turk and the Iranian revolutions in their temporal and regional context and evaluates them from a comparative perspective. Sohrabi's command of the Middle Eastern and Western European sources and his theoretical sophistication combine to make this a powerful and persuasive book. It is unlikely that anything that even comes close to Revolution and Constitutionalism in the Ottoman Empire and Iran will be published for a very long time. Resat Kasaba, University of Washington 'Nader Sohrabi's Revolution and Constitutionalism in the Ottoman Empire and Iran is a major contribution to the literature on the history to the late Middle East ... Sohrabi's book offers an excellent framework not only for analyzing the covered region but for comparative studies as a whole. It throws new light on the effects of constitutionalism and the rise of the middle class in the Middle East. It sets the bar high for future research, with its command of archives combined with scrutiny for the multi-disciplinary scholarship, I urge every scholar interested in the region or the era to read this exemplary study.' Berke Torunoglu, International Journal of Turkish Studies 'By forcing the readers to reevaluate their assumptions about revolutions and constitutionalism, it scrutinizes two of the most important revolutions in a region that is once again going through radical political transformation. Sohrabi, pointing toward the importance of the interaction between the global zeitgeist and local dynamics, makes a very strong case for historicizing revolutions 'by considering the times - and the ideologies associated with those times - as a chief organizing principle' (p. 2). Revolution and Constitutionalism is a most timely book that can help us understand not only the historical roots of revolution in the Middle East, but also its present-day incarnations.' Burak Kadercan, Comparative Political Studies 'To put it bluntly and succinctly, Nader Sahrabi's book is an impressive tour-de-force of sociological analysis and historical contextualization ... This review very much doubts that anything better will ever be produced on this subject.' M. Sukru Hanioglu, Middle East Journal 'Sohrabi's rigorous and in-depth comparison of these revolutions offers fascinating insights into the processes of political and social change, while his highly readable historical accounts of revolt and counterrevolution restores agency to the Middle Easterners who pushed the limits of constitutional monarchy in the decade that preceded the Bolshevik Revolution. Given the events in the region, one hopes that the publisher will soon reissue this volume in a paperback edition so this pathbreaking study will reach the wide, multidisciplinary audience it deserves.' Ariel Salzmann, American Journal of Sociology 'In the end, Sohrabi's work should be regarded as a major contribution to the historiography of revolutions, constitutionalism, late Ottoman history, and Iranian history. The book is a must for every graduate student, scholar, historian and social scientist interested in exploring the different dimensions of revolutions and the consolidation of constitutional regimes. Sohrabi's book has charted new ground and displays a level of scholarship equal to the sophisticated studies that have been undertaken by the likes of William H. Sewell Jr, Marshall Sahlins, and James C. Scott in their respective fields.' Bedross Der Matossian, Review of Politics 'What Sohrabi has undertaken is very original in three aspects. First, he historicizes revolutions by considering contemporaneous ideologies as the chief organizing principle. Second, he approaches the 1908 Young Turk and 1906 Iranian revolutions not chronologically, but as comparative cases in relation to how each one negotiated ideologies. And third, he simultaneously engages the insights provided by the social sciences, history, and area studies on the one side and global, regional, and local level analyses on the other.' Fatma Muge Goecek, American Historical Review 'This book provides a brilliant interpretation of the first two decades of the Young Turk Revolution (1902-18) and of the constitutional period of the Qajar Dynasty in Iran. Further, Sohrabi embeds this comparative constitutional study in the wider global history of constitutional movements, especially the 1905 Russian Revolution that greatly impacted the Young Turk and Iranian movements ... Summing up: highly recommended.' R. W. Olson, CHOICE 'On the whole this book is a major contribution to the historiography and sociological analysis of constitutional revolutions in the Ottoman Empire and Iran and will be essential reading for future scholarship.' Ali Gheissari, Iranian Studies
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About Nader Sohrabi

Nader Sohrabi is an Associate Research Scholar at the Middle East Institute, Columbia University. He has taught Middle East History and Sociology at the University of California, Berkeley, the University of Iowa, Columbia University and New York University.
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