New Books Network

Behnaz A. Mirzai

A History of Slavery and Emancipation in Iran, 1800-1929

University of Texas Press 2017

New Books in HistoryNew Books in Intellectual HistoryNew Books in Middle Eastern StudiesNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in the Indian Ocean WorldNew Books Network September 3, 2020 Ahmed Yaqoub AlMaazmi and Robyn Morse

Behnaz A. Mirzai’s book A History of Slavery and Emancipation in Iran, 1800-1929 (University of Texas Press, 2017) contributes to the growing field of...

Behnaz A. Mirzai’s book A History of Slavery and Emancipation in Iran, 1800-1929 (University of Texas Press, 2017) contributes to the growing field of slavery in the Middle East is a growing field of study, but the history of slavery in a key country, Iran, has never before been written. This history extends to Africa in the west and India in the east, to Russia and Turkmenistan in the north, and to the Arab states in the south. As the slave trade between Iran and these regions shifted over time, it transformed the nation and helped forge its unique culture and identity. Thus, a history of Iranian slavery is crucial to understanding the character of the modern nation.

Drawing on extensive archival research in Iran, Tanzania, England, and France, as well as fieldwork and interviews in Iran, Mirzai offers the first history of slavery in modern Iran from the early nineteenth century to emancipation in the mid-twentieth century. She investigates how foreign military incursion, frontier insecurity, political instability, and economic crisis altered the patterns of enslavement, as well as the ethnicity of the slaves themselves. Mirzai’s interdisciplinary analysis illuminates the complex issues surrounding the history of the slave trade and the process of emancipation in Iran, while also giving voice to social groups that have never been studied—enslaved Africans and Iranians. Her research builds a clear case that the trade in slaves was inexorably linked to the authority of the state. During periods of greater decentralization, slave trading increased, while periods of greater governmental autonomy saw more freedom and peace.

Behnaz Mirzai is an professor of Middle Eastern history at Brock University in Canada. She is a co-coordinator and member of the preparatory committee for the Slave Trade Route project, UNESCO, and the founder of the website Brock/UNESCO Project for the Study of the Slave Trade and Slavery in the Mediterranean, Middle East, and Indian Ocean.


Ahmed Yaqoub AlMaazmi is a Ph.D. candidate at Princeton University. His research focuses on the intersection of law and the environment across the western Indian Ocean. He can be reached by email at almaazmi@princeton.edu or on Twitter @Ahmed_Yaqoub.

Robyn Morse is a History PhD student at the University of Virginia (UVA). Within her focus on the Indian Ocean World and the Middle East, her research interests broadly include archival memory, slavery, and socio-economic history. She can be reached at rmm9hf@virginia.edu.