EʿTEMĀD-AL-SALṬANA, MOḤAMMAD-ḤASAN KHAN MOQADDAM MARĀḠAʾĪ, also known by his earlier title, ṢANĪʿ-AL-DAWLA, Qajar statesman, scholar, and author (1259-1313/1843-96).

Moḥammad-Ḥasan Khan Eʿtemād-al-Salṭana’s father, ʿAlī Khan Ḥājeb-al-Dawla (Sanīʿ-al-Dawla I), was from the Moqaddam tribe of Marāḡa which had served the Qajars in their early campaigns (Hedāyat, Rawżat al-ṣafā X, pp. 279-80; Ḵān-Malek Sāsānī, I, pp. 169-70). His mother was of Qajar lineage (Eʿtemād-al- Salṭana, Rūz-nāma-ye ḵāṭerāt, pp. 1123, 1143). ʿAlī Khan was the chief ferash (farrāš-bāšī) during the early Nāṣer-al-Dīn Shah period and gained notoriety as the executioner of Amīr(-e) Kabīr (q.v.) and for persecuting the early Babis (Bāmdād, Rejāl II, pp. 374-79).

Moḥammad-Ḥasan Khan was among the first students to enter the Dār al-fonūn (q.v.) in 1267/1851 where, as an infantry cadet (wakīl), he excelled in the study of the French language (Eʿtemād-al-Salṭana, Merʾāt al-boldān, ed. Navāʾī, II, p. 1096; Maḥbūbī, Moʾassasāt I, p. 304, citing Waqāyeʿ-e ettefāqīya, 34, 9 Moḥarram 1275/20 August 1858). He was first employed in the retinue of two of Nāṣer-al-Dīn Shah’s crown princes (Eʿtemād-al-Salṭana, Merʾāt al-boldān, ed. Navāʾī, II, pp. 1096-97; idem, Rūz-nāma-ye ḵāṭerāt, p. 301; for his early promotion see also Šaraf 81, 1308/1890) and then under his own father for three years (1275-78/1858-61) as a deputy-governor and provincial military commander in ʿArabestān (Ḵūzestān) and as an aide in the newly-established Ministry of Justice (Eʿtemād-al-Salṭana, Merʾāt al-boldān, ed. Navāʾī, II, p. 1097). In 1280/1863 he was assigned to serve under Ḥasan-ʿAlī Khan Garrūsī (later the Amīr Neẓām, q.v.) as the second secretary and military attaché of the Persian mission to Paris where, in addition to his official duties, he refined his French and “acquired the useful manners and customs of the age” (Šaraf, 22, Ḏu’l-qaʿda 1301/September 1884). Upon his return to Persia in 1284/1868 he became a royal attendant (pīšḵedmat), and shortly after, the “dragoman in royal attendance” (motarjem-e ḥożūr), a post in which he first gained recognition and which he maintained for the rest of his career. In 1287/1870-71, at the outset of Ḥosayn Khan Mošīr-al-Dawla’s reforming administration, Moḥammad-Ḥasan first became the director of the Government Press Bureau (Edāra-ye rūz-nāmajāt-e dawlatī) and a year later added to this post the directorship of the Government Translation Bureau (Dār al-tarjama-ye ḵāṣṣa-ye dawlatī) and received the title Ṣanīʿ-al-Dawla. After 1290/1873, he was also appointed to a number of posts including the deputy minister of justice in charge of presenting public petitions (ʿarāyeż) to the shah; protocol officer for presenting foreign envoys to the shah (moqdam al-sofarāʾ); and director of the department of government gardens, qanāts, and urban and suburban thoroughfares which in 1297/1879 was augmented to the office of the city manager (šahrdār-e dār-al-ḵelāfa) in charge of the capital’s beautification. In 1299/1881-1882, Ṣanīʿ-al-Dawla became a member of the Government Consultative Council (Majles-e [dār al-]šūrā-ye dawlatī) and a year later was promoted to the rank of minister of press and publication (wazīr-e enṭebāʿāt), which he maintained to the end of his life. In 1304/1886-87, after some hesitation, Nāṣer-al-Dīn Shah granted him the high-ranking title of Eʿtemād-al-Salṭana (which had previously belonged to Moḥammad-Ḥasan’s father), but his promotion to higher offices was halted, among other reasons, because of the rise to power of Mīrzā ʿAlī-Aṣḡar Khan Amīn-al-Solṭān (see ATĀBAK-E AʿẒAM), another court official with superior political élan. Eʿtemād-al-Salṭana accompanied the shah on his three European tours in 1873, 1878, and 1889 and on most of his internal tours (Šaraf, 81, 1308/1890; Bāmdād, Rejāl III, p. 334) and was present in nearly all official functions at home and abroad (on the royal tours, see Eʿtemād-al-Salṭana, Maʾāṯer wa’l-āṯār, pp. 180-83). He also briefly presided over Maktab-e mošīrīya, a training school for civil servants supported by Mošīr-al-Dawla (Eʿtemād-al-Salṭana, Maʾāṯer wa’l-āṯār, p. 160). Eʿtemād-al-Salṭana, who suffered from a number of real and imaginary diseases, died a few months before Naṣer-al-Dīn’s assassination, a coincidence which led to unproven speculations of foul play instigated by Amīn-al-Solṭān and his camp.

Cultural and publication activities: Up to 1298/1880-81 the press and publication bureau, still under ʿAlīqolī Mīrzā Eʿteżād-al-Salṭana’s general supervision but with Moḥammad-Ḥasan Khan as director, continued to publish the official gazette entitled Rūz-nāma-ye Īrān [-e solṭānī] and afterwards Rūz-nāma-ye dawlatī-ye Īrān. The bureau also published at least ten other newspapers and journals including the popular Rūz-nāma-ye mellatī, the military journal Merrīkò, the scientific ʿElmī, later the weekly Eṭṭelāʿ, and for a brief period the French paper Journal echo de Perse (Ṣadr Hāšemī, Jarāʾed o majallāt I, pp. 305-11, IV, pp. 44-45, 203, 237-40; Browne, Press and Poetry, pp. 49-51, 88-91, 96-97, 138). Eʿtemād-al-Salṭana also published a number of journals of royal tours including Merʾāt al-safār (1288/1871), chronicling a trip to Māzandarān, and Rūz-nāma-ye ordū-ye homāyūn (1300/1883), published in the royal encampment during the second royal tour of Khorasan (reprinted together by Ī. Afšār and ʿA. Forād, Tehran, 1363/1984). From 1300/1882-83, he also produced the illustrated biographical journal, Šaraf, which appeared irregularly up to 1309/1891 and was designed to glorify the Qajar elite (see also Eʿtemād-al-Salṭana, Maʾāṯer wa’l-āṯār, pp. 142, 710-12).

The publication bureau also produced historical, geographical, literary, and lexicographical volumes as well as almanacs (sāl-nāmas) and biographical dictionaries commissioned by Eʿtemād-al-Salṭana and often prepared under his general supervision. They were of three categories: First, translations and adaptations from European languages as well as from Turkish and Arabic by Persian and foreign translators (a list of translators and aides employed in the Government Translation Bureau appears in Eʿtemād-al-Salṭana, Maʾāṯer wa’l-āṯār, pp. 409-10; see also Monzawī, Nosḵahā VI, pp. 4060-70). Second, collective works written and compiled by Persian scholars in the service of the Ministry of Publication. Of these the best known is the Perso-Islamic biographical dictionary Nāma-ye dānešvarān (Tehran, 1296-1324/1877-1906), in seven volumes up to the letter šīn, which first started under ʿAlīqolī Mīrzā Eʿteżáād-al-Salṭana but continued under Eʿtemād-al-Salṭana (for its chief authors and editors see Mošār, Fehrest, cols. 3234-35). Third, works written, translated, and edited by Eʿtemād-al-Salṭana himself, including the almanacs, general histories, geographies, and novels. Some of his works were printed, and thus available outside the elite circles, but others, especially European histories, travels and popular literature, remain unpublished. They were mostly for the private use of Nāṣer al-Dīn Shah and often were read to him by Eʿtemād-al-Salṭana.

The authorship of some of the works by Eʿtemād-al-Salṭana has been questioned by later scholars. However, the accusation that he was a “charlatan and a scoundrel, ignorant, illiterate and pretentious” who “could not even spell decently” and published in his own name the work of “men of learning acting under compulsion and prompted by fear of his malice” (Browne, Persian Revolution, p. 405, “Note 2” from MoḥÂammad Qazvīnī) is unjustifiably harsh. Eʿtemād-al-Salṭana was certainly instrumental in the selection, execution, and final presentation of works produced by his team. Yet as the general editor who laid claim to the compilation (taʾlīf) and editing (taṣnīf) of these works, he did fail to give due credit to his aides and subordinates (see also Qazvīnī, 1946, p. 36; reprinted in Yāddāšt-hā-ye Qazvīnī VIII, pp. 151-52; comments by the editors in Eʿtemād-al-Salṭana, Merʾāt al-boldān, ed. Navāʾī, I, pp. ix-xxxi; and Ḵalsa, pp. 225-32 with additional sources cited there).

Among his associates was Mīrzā Moḥammad-Ḥosayn Forūḡī Ẕokāʾ-al-Molk, who apparently compiled the first drafts of al-Tadwīn fī aḥwāl jebāl Šarvīn, a historical geography of Māzandarān(supplemented by a Sāl-nāma of 1311/1894-95) and al-Dorrar al-tījān fī taʾrīḵ banī Aškān, a history in three volumes of the Parthian period written in collaboration with ʿĀref Efendī (it also contains Taṭbīq-e loḡāt-e joḡrāfīāʾī-e qadīm wa jadīd, an etymological dictionary of geographical place-names, as a supplement to its last volume). Though unacknowledged by Eʿtemād-al-Salṭana, Šams-al-ʿOlamā ʿAbd-al-Rabbābādī contributed to the biographical section of the well-known al-Maʾāṯer wa’l-āṯār, published on the fortieth anniversary of Nāṣr-al-Dīn Shah’s accession, and to Maṭlaʿ al-šams (3 vols., Tehran, 1301-3/1884-86; repr. in one vol, Tehran 2535 = 1355 Š./1976), a historical geography of Khorasan written in collaboration with Forūḡī (see Maʾāṯer wa’l-āṯār, pp. 5-13 and II, pp. vii-xii citing a note by Moḥammad-ʿAlī Forūḡī, p. x). The original draft of Ṣadr al-tawārīkò, a history of premiers of the Qajar period, has been attributed to the joint effort of Mīrzā Ḡolām-Ḥosayn Adīb, an early author of Nāma-ye dānešvarān, and Forūḡī, but the final editing was no doubt by Eʿtemād-al-Salṭana (see his marginal note to the original manuscript in the library of the Majles in Mošīrī’s introduction, p. 3 and Ādamīyat, p. 755). Other works produced under close supervision of Eʿtemād-al-Salṭana include a general history of the Qajar period, Tārīḵ-e montaẓam-e nāṣerī, and the useful but incomplete historico-geographical dictionary, Merʾāt al-boldān-e nāṣērī, which is in part based on his own observations and in part on data collected from the provinces in the 1880s by order of the shah. He also compiled Loḡat-e nāṣerī, the first French-Persian dictionary to be published in Persia (only vol. one was published, Tehran, 1299/1881-82, under Nāṣer-al-Dīn Shah’s name).

Among Eʿtemād-al-Salṭana’s translations and adaptations were Ḵayrāt al-ḥesān, a biographical dictionary of celebrated (mostly Muslim) women based on a Turkish original by Sayyed Moḥammad Ḏehnī Efendī, Tārīḵ-e enkešāf-e Yangī donyā (History of the discovery of the New World), and a number of European travels and fictional travel accounts published in various papers under his editorship. He also published an adaptation of Mémoires d’un âne (by Sophie Rostopchine, Comtesse de Ségur, Paris, 1860) as Manṭeq al-waḥš (“Language of beasts”; Tehran, 1306/1888; Eʿtemād al-Salṭana, Rūz-nāma-ye ḵāṭerāt, pp.572 and 604, refers to it as Sargoḏašt-e ḵar). He also translated from French the Mémoires of Anne Marie Louise d’Orléans Montpensier, which exposed the scandals of the court of Louis XIV, as Sargoḏašt-e Mādamowāzel do Monpansīa (Tehran, 1312/1894). Both accounts, which were veiled criticisms of despotic rule, corruption of the court, and the threat of popular revolt, stirred some dismay in the minds of the shah and his conservative courtiers (Ḵān-Malek Sāsānī, I, pp. 180-81). Eʿtemād-al-Salṭana’s aides in the Ministry of Publication also translated allegorical tales and historical works by Fénélon, Voltaire, and other European writers critical of royal autocracy. They also routinely translated from French, English, and Russian press articles about European politics, affairs of Persia, and topics of general interest (see Monzawī, Nosḵahā VI, 4060-70 for a list).

Eʿtemād-al-Salṭana’s most important work, and undoubtedly one of the most crucial sources for the history of the late Qajar period, was his secret journal published as Ruz-nāma-ye ḵāṭerāt-e Eʿtemād-al-Salṭana which, in its extant version, covers nearly seventeen years of his career (the years 1292/1875 and 1298-1313 /1880-96; see Afšār’s introduction, pp. i-xxiv, for details of the manuscript and summary content analysis). Written mostly in the hand of his wife, Ašrāf-al-Salṭana, in more than 1200 printed pages, the journal covers a vast array of important, as well as mundane, topics ranging from Eʿtemād-al-Salṭana’s own personal activities and thoughts to the affairs of the court (which he attended daily), the private life of Naṣer-al-Dīn Shah (including important details about his harem and his favorites, particularly Ḡolām-ʿAlī ʿAzīz-al-Solṭān, Malījak, q.v.), the shah’s tours and excursions, hunts, entertainment, preoccupations, and his political conduct, the private and public lives of other statesmen and officials of the period, and important internal and external affairs of the country. Written in a simple language, the candid, observant, and self-critical tone of the author, and his often cynical perspective, reflect something of the cultural refinement of a Qajar notable, his sorrows for his country’s weaknesses, and his criticism of corruption and petty rivalries among the bureaucratic elite. The shah emerges in the Rūz-nāma as a more sagacious ruler than his conventional image suggests but also more child-like and melancholy in his private life. Eʿtemād-al-Salṭana himself was not free of personality flaws but he was often conscious of them and courageous enough to record them for posterity. Thanks to his Rūz-nāma and the profiles he rendered of his contemporaries, we know many details which would otherwise have been entirely lost (however, the editor’s occasional omissions in the published text have added to the mystery caused by some posthumous deletions in the manuscript of this work).

Another anonymous work, apparently by Eʿtemād-al-Salṭana, is Ḵalsa yā ḵᵛāb-nāma (lit: Trance or a dream-book), a political satire written on the old model of dream-books (ḵᵛāb-nāmas). In his fantastic dream, the author makes the great rulers of Persian history interrogate and mostly absolve premiers of the Qajar era with the one exception of Mīrzā ʿAlī-Aṣḡar Khan Amīn-al-Solṭān, the contemporary premier and a subject of the Eʿtemād-al-Salátana’s perennial envy and secret resentment. The author has Āqā Moḥammad Khān Qājār condemn Amīn-al-Solṭān for bringing decay to the state and misery to the nation.

Eʿtemād-al-Salṭana was the closest approximation to an official historian of the late Nāṣer-al-Dīn period. He combined the techniques and methods of traditional chronicles and modern historiography. Yet his historical writings marked a decline in the genre even compared to the court chronicles of a generation earlier. By his time the publication of the official gazettes and other periodicals had made traditional chronicles obsolete but without a new historiographical synthesis ever emerging under the auspices of the state. Eʿtemād-al-Salṭana’s Montaẓam-e nāṣerī is no more than a comparative chronology based on headlines of the Persian gazette and similar material from European almanacs. Yet his works were among the first to utilize modern European as well as ancient Greek and Roman sources. In his histories of Parthian and Sasanian periods, Eʿtemād-al-Salṭana’s command of French works often outweighs his use of Arabic accounts, a language in which he never excelled. Though his works are not free from inaccuracies, they should be credited for relative objectivity and for avoiding obvious exaggerations. His geographical scholarship, particularly in the Merʾāt al-boldān, demonstrated a new awareness of topography and the boundaries of Persia as a national entity. He was also instrumental in collecting a substantial body of unpublished geographical data about the provinces of Persia which apparently was intended for use in Merʾāt al-boldān (see Afšār, 1958, pp. 5-37 for the contents of this collection).

In Maʾāṯer wa’l-āṯār (p. 131) under the heading “remedying historiography” (taṣḥīḥ-e ʿelm-e tārīḵ) Eʿtemād-al-Salṭana implicitly credited himself for rectifying “absurd superstitions” in the annals of ancient Persia, for comparative use of traditional Perso-Arabic and Western sources, and for employing numismatics in the study of Persian history. In the same work, he also lists some of the cultural achievements under his auspices, including teaching of European languages (p. 127), modern geographical studies and methods (p. 127), state-sponsored publications and almanacs (pp. 149, 173), and improved type faces and printing techniques (p. 138). Eʿtemād-al-Salṭana was a member of both the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and the Société Asiatique of Paris mostly in recognition of his geographical works. He also received a prestigious decoration from the Russian government for his translation into Persian of the history of Alexander III and the house of Romanov, which he presented to the tsar in 1895 (Eʿtemād al-Salṭana, Rūz-nāma-ye ḵāṭerāt, pp. 1153-54, 1161).

As the minister of publication Eʿtemād-al-Salṭana was instrumental in enforcing government censorship on all internal publications and imported books and newspapers mostly in accordance with the political wishes of the monarch. He was not the first to introduce censorship (q.v.) to Persian but credited himself for regulating it. Though not always effective, since the mid-1880s the government censor was able to obstruct dissemination of material most critical to the Qajar state. He also was responsible for introducing for the first time the rudiments of copyrights (Eʿtemād al-Salṭana, Maʾāṯer wa’l-āṯār, pp. 159, 161).

Political career. In spite of his extreme closeness to the shah and his control of government’s press and publication, Eʿtemād-al-Salṭana was convinced that his political career was seriously undermined by the shah’s undue favor in his later years to men of little consequence and poor education, most of them from his inner court. The shah treated him with off-handed beneficence but did not feel he had the necessary acumen and political following to occupy higher offices. In spite of Eʿtemād-al-Salṭana’s impeccable loyalty and his support for enlightened absolutism, the shah was wary of his mild reformist tendencies. Unable to surpass a much shrewder Amīn-al-Solṭān, or to enter the premier’s inner circle, Eʿtemād-al-Salṭana increasingly sought alternative patronage first in the shah’s powerful son, Masʿūd Mīrzā Ẓell-al-Solṭān, and later from the Russian legation in Tehran. His close tie with the Russian legation was condoned, if not encouraged, by the shah, who viewed it as a necessary counterbalance to the premier’s Anglophile tendencies and used Eʿtemād-al- Salṭana as a go-between in secret dealings with the Russians. Eʿtemād-al-Salṭana’s ambitions for higher office—and for the benefits (madāḵel) associated with it—also engaged him in much jockeying in the treacherous court politics of the time.

Like many European-educated statesmen of his time, Eʿtemād-al-Salṭana was in favor of restrained absolutism in the form of an “enlightened” monarchy committed to strong government and material progress but mindful of the old nobility and its interests. Earlier he was influenced by Mīrzā Malkom Khan (q.v.) and his school of thought, but over the years he became increasingly disillusioned with prospects of political change. He may have also shared some of the anti-British sentiments of Jamāl-al-Dīn Asadābādī Afḡānī (q.v.) and was instrumental in inviting him to Persia in 1304/1886-87. They maintained an amiable though distant association which lasted up to Afḡānī’s second visit to Persia in 1309/1890. Even later Eʿtemād-al-Salṭana secretly relished the sharp criticism pointed from London by Afḡānī and Malkom Khan against the Persian premier, Amīn-al-Solṭān, though he publicly criticized Malkom at Amīn-al-Solṭān’s behest (see Teymūrī, 1954, pp. 69-70 for the text). He also shared Malkom’s advocacy of creating monopolies and granting concessions as a feasible means of economic development and increasing government revenue. In 1303 /1885-86 he produced for the first time a plan for creating a tobacco monopoly entitled kelīd-e esteṭāʿat (Eʿtemād-al-Salṭana, Rūz-nāma-ye ḵāṭerāt, p. 461; see also Teymūrī, 1972, pp. 11-22).

Eʿtemād-al-Salṭana’s efforts to enlighten the shah politically often proved futile (as did his efforts to teach him proper French). He often complained that his master was more interested in the sensational and entertaining aspects of the European press and publications rather than in their serious historical and moral value. His sneering criticism of the shah’s “arbitrary rule” (salṭanat-e mostaqella), whimsical reform measures, and the prurient court ambiance remained buried within the pages of his diaries. At the close of his career in 1895 he was deeply frustrated with his thankless task as the minister of publication and other court duties (see his private correspondence with the shah in Rūz-nāma-ye ḵāṭerāt, pp. 1190-92).


Bibliography (for cited works not given in detail, see “Short References”):

A relatively complete list of Eʿtemād-al-Salṭana’s works, including translations and works under his general editorship, appears in the new edition of his Taṭbīq-e loḡāt-e joḡrāfīāʾī-e qadīm wa jadīd, ed. M. Moḥaddeṯ, Tehran, 1363/1984.

Eʿtemād-al-Salṭana himself produced a list in Šaraf, 81, 1308/1890. See also Ī. Afšār’s introduction to Eʿtemād-al-Salṭana, Rūz-nāma-ye ḵāṭerāt, pp. xiii-xiv (lists 25 works), xviii (lists 29 works read to the shah), and p. 1256); Mošār, Moʾallefīn II, pp. 595-99; Monzawī, Nosḵahā, especially VI, parts 32-35.

Works by or attributed to Eʿtemad-al-Salṭana: al-Dorrar al-tījān fī taʾrīḵ banī Aškān, 3 vols., Tehran, 1308-11/1890-94.

Ḵalsa mašhūr ba ḵᵛāb-nāma, ed. M. Katīrāʾī, Tehran, 1348 Š./1969.

Ḵayrāt al-ḥesān, 3 vols., Tehran, 1304-7/1886-89.

al-Maʿāṯer wa’l-āṯār, ed. Ī. Afšār as Čehel sāl tārīḵ-e Īrān dar dawra-ye pādešāhī-e Nāṣer-al-Dīn Šāh, 3 vols.; comments by Ḥ. Maḥbūbī Ardakānī, Tehran, 1363-68/1984-89.

Merʾāt al-boldān-e nāṣerī, 4 vols., Tehran, 1294-97/1877-80; ed. ʿA.-Ḥ. Navāʾī, 3 vols., Tehran, 1368-69 Š./1989-90.

Ṣadr al-tawārīkò, ed. M. Mošīrī, Tehran, 1349 Š./1970.

al-Tadwīn fī aḥwāl jebāl Šarvīn, Tehran, 1311/1893-94.

Tārīḵ-e enkešāf-e Yangī donyā, Tehran, 1288/1871.

Other references: F. Ādamīyat, Amīr Kabīr wa Īrān, Tehran, 1348 Š./1969.

Ī. Afšār, “Fehrest-e nosḵahā-ye ḵaṭṭī-e Ketāb-ḵāna-ye Wezārat-e dārāʾī,” FIZ 6, 1337 Š./1958, pp. 5-37.

Bāmdād, Rejāl III, pp. 330-48.

A. Ḵān-Malek Sāsānī, Sīāsatgarān-e dawra-ye Qājār, 2 vols, Tehran, 1338-46 Š./1959-67.

M. Qazvīnī, “Wafayāt-e moʿāṣerīn,” Yādgār 3/3, 1325 Š./1946, pp. 27-39.

Idem, Yāddāšthā-ye Qazvīnī, ed. Ī. Afšār, 8 vols., Tehran 1332-45 Š./1953-66.

E. Teymūrī, ʿAṣr-e bīḵabarī yā tārīḵ-e emtīāzāt dar Īrān, Tehran, 1333 Š./1954).

Idem, Taḥrīm-e tanbākū: Awwalīn moqāwamat-e manfī dar Īrān, 3rd ed., Tehran, 1361 Š./1972.

(Abbas Amanat)

Originally Published: December 15, 1998

Last Updated: January 19, 2012

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