The Imperial Frontier: Tribal Dynamics and Oil in Qajar Persia, 1901-1910
Cohoon, Melinda Marie
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University of Washington Abstract The Imperial Frontier: Tribal Dynamics and Oil in Qajar Persia, 1901-1910 Melinda Cohoon Chair of the Supervisory Committee: Assistant Professor Arbella Bet-Shlimon Department of History By using the Political Diaries of the Persian Gulf, I elucidate the complex tribal dynamics of the Bakhtiyari and the Arab tribes of the Khuzestan province during the early twentieth century. Particularly, these tribes were by and large influenced by the oil prospecting and drilling under the D’Arcy Oil Syndicate. My research questions concern: how the Bakhtiyari and Arab tribes were impacted by the British Oil Syndicate exploration into their territory, what the tribal affiliations with Britain and the Oil Syndicate were, and how these political dynamics changed for tribes after oil was discovered at Masjid-i Suleiman. The Oil Syndicate initially received a concession from the Qajar government, but relied much more so on tribal accommodations and treaties. In addressing my research questions, I have found that there was a contention between the Bakhtiyari and the British company, and a diplomatic relationship with Sheikh Khazal of Mohammerah (or today’s Khorramshahr) and Britain. By relying on Sheikh Khazal’s diplomatic skills with the Bakhtiyari tribe, the British Oil Syndicate penetrated further into the southwest Persia, up towards Bakhtiyari territory. I argue that the Oil Syndicate’s presence initiated this grab of power between the tribes and the rise of Reza Khan, ultimately leading to the loss of sovereignty of the Arab tribes of Khuzestan, and the rise of a few Bakhtiyari elites.