ISAW Professor Dan Potts publishes two books on Persian history

By Lily Wichert

In combing through 18th and 19th century sources on early archaeological discoveries and antiquarian scholarship on Iran, ISAW Professor Dan Potts realized that while modern scholars often mine those sources for information on finds and monuments, they tend to pay less attention to the actual people who made those discoveries, or to the wider social reception of contemporary Iranian affairs in the West. Those sources are full of information on the hundreds of Europeans and Americans who were in Iran for one reason or another, and conversely Western newspapers in both Europe and North America contained a steady stream of news reports about goings on in Iran.

His interest in this material has produced two books. The three volume Agreeable News from Persia, which takes its title from an 1807 report of a Russian victory over Persian forces in the First Russo-Persian War, edits and commentates upon over 2000 newspaper reports that appeared in over 600 different American newspapers between 1712 and 1848. Revealing the wealth of reporting on current events in Iran, these sources chart a tumultuous century and a half of Persian history and demonstrate the remarkable extent to which American readers were informed about events in the wider world.

The second book, A Nook in the Temple of Fame, was inspired by reports of French military officers employed by the Persian Crown Prince and his brother in the early 19th century, that cropped up in the newspaper sources. As Persia tried to contend militarily with the technologically superior forces of the Russian Empire and the perennial Ottoman enemy, a dozen or so French officers — some sent by Napoleon, others exiles following his downfall — established cannon foundries, taught cavalry maneuvers, designed and built fortifications, drilled the infantry and surveyed the land from top to bottom with one eye on the anticipated but never undertaken invasion of Great Britain's possessions in India via the Iranian plateau. Some of these French officers, like Hilarion Truilhier and Claude Auguste Court, left behind descriptions of important archaeological sites and monuments, written when they were not busy training and fighting on behalf of their Persian paymasters.

Agreeable News from Persia edited by ISAW Professor D.T. Potts follows historical newspaper reports on Persian history in the 17th and 18th centuries. 

Cover page of "Agreeable News from Persia" edited by ISAW Professor Dan Potts

A Nook in the Temple of Fame by ISAW Professor D.T. Potts is inspired by French military officer reports in the early 19th century. 

Book cover for "A Nook in the Temple of Fame" by ISAW Professor D.T. Potts