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Globalizing the national or vice versa?: Iranian readings of ‘order’ and the Paris Peace Conference

Abstract : In late 1918, after their country had been a battleground of the Great War in spite of its declared neutrality, the government of Iran, acting against the explicit advice they had received on the matter from both Britain and France, sent on its way to Paris a delegation tasked with gaining access to the deliberations of the upcoming Peace Conference. For the Iranian delegation’s younger members, their conference experience would become a major formative moment in terms of both political thought and practice leading to most of them becoming cabinet, and even, Prime ministers in later years. Representing a non-European country from the periphery of the (then) world-system, these Iranian delegates were in good company. Indeed, the advent of the Conference raised high hopes across the non-western world. The promise of a new world order excited colonial subjects. It also inspired the imagination of those non-western peoples that although having been impacted upon heavily by the economic, political, and cultural expansionism of Imperialist powers, had so far just about managed to avoid formal colonization. In 1919, one notion characterises more than any other the aspirations of all those non-westerners: sovereignty. It’s a question of achieving sovereignty for colonial (or de facto colonial) subjects, like e.g. the Egyptians, as well as for those for whom the war had led to the collapse of the Empires that had until then reigned over them, e.g. the formerly Russia-ruled Georgians, Armenians, and Azerbaijanis, or the non-Turkish populations of the Ottoman lands. However, for those having so far escaped formal colonialization but whose independence had been hanging by a tread, like e.g. the Chinese or indeed the Iranians, its about maintaining, and above all, consolidating their utterly fragile sovereignty. Thus, starting with an examination of how Iran’s foreign-policy makers in 1919 grappled with the concept of sovereignty, this paper will proceed to an analysis of the underlying question of how different readings of order informed the Iranian approach to the Peace Conference. In this context, drawing on the presenter’s research on Iran’s ‘peace aim diplomacy’ 1917-1921 based on Iranian, Russian, French, British, and American archives while also bringing to bear the fruits of a discursive analysis of a number of further Persian-language primary sources that have become available only very recently, we will decrypt the complex web of interaction and interdependency between Iranian notions of order at the national level, which had been moulded by discourses arising from the experience of the Constitutional Revolution (1906-1911) with its achievements and short-comings, if not (perceived) failure, and those pertaining to the international order, which, in Iran’s then social imaginary, were far from limited to the region but, as we will be shown, truly and utterly global. It will be argued that the latter impacted much more on the former than vice versa, making Iran’s experience with the Paris Peace Conference a particularly distinct, though not necessarily unique – compare e.g. Korea, as per Schmid (2002) – case for assessment within the conceptual perspective developed in the call for papers.
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Contributor : Oliver Bast <>
Submitted on : Tuesday, March 24, 2020 - 11:37:05 PM
Last modification on : Wednesday, October 14, 2020 - 3:56:17 AM


  • HAL Id : halshs-02518131, version 1


Oliver Bast. Globalizing the national or vice versa?: Iranian readings of ‘order’ and the Paris Peace Conference. The Paris Peace Conference of 1919 and the Challenge of a New World Order (colloque international), German Historical Institute Paris (DHIP); Université Paris 1 - Panthéon Sorbonne; UMR 8138 SIRICE - Sorbonne - Identités, relations internationales et civilisations de l’Europe (CNRS - Paris 1 - Paris 4); Le Centre de recherche du château de Versailles, Jun 2019, Paris, France. ⟨halshs-02518131⟩



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