Third Annual Conference of the International Qajar Studies Association (IQSA),

Cantonal Hospital (Hopital Cantonal), Policlinics Auditorium (Auditoire des Policliniques)

Geneva, June 20, 2003


Health and Hygiene in the Qajar Era


List of Speakers and Abstracts:

Dr. Said Sabeti (Mozaffari-Kadjar): Opening Remarks: A Conference on Health and Hygiene in the Qajar Era

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Dr. Sahar Khosravani: An Overview of the State of Health and Hygiene in the Qajar Era: (Abstract Forthcoming)

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Dr. Reza Tahmasbpour: Pictures from the Golestan and other Collections on Health and Hygiene during the Qajar Era:

1-Medicine and Hygiene
2-Iranian and Foreign Doctors
4-Drugists, Drugs and Pharmacies
5-Medical Advertisings in Qajar era Newspapers
6-Novel methods in medicine in the Qajar era (operations and X-ray)
7-Cartoons and Caricatures on Medicine and Doctors
8-Food and Sale of Foodstuffs
9-Baths and Hygiene

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Dr. Farzad Nekoogar: Pahlevani: The Ethic of Spiritual and Bodily Health in Qajar Times:

Varzesh-e Pahlavani has its roots in pre-Islamic Iran, specifically in the Parthian era (247 BC- 228 AD) of Iranian history. In over three thousand years it acquired, and was enriched with, different components of moral, ethical, philosophical, and mystical values of the Iranian civilization. As a result, Varzesh-e Pahlavani emerged as a unique institution having incorporated the spiritual richness of Sufism, traditional rituals of Mithraism, and heroism of Iranian nationalism.

This paper traces the origin, development and aspects of this ancient art and practice and explores the various dimensions of the discipline as well as explaining the tools used in this art and their origin and meaning. Specific emphasis is put on the champions or Pahlevaans of the Qajar era. This paper also stresses how Qajar rulers, specifically Nasser-ed-Din Shah, and Qajar princely families were connected to this ancient art and that they were its chief supporters and patrons. Of interest is also that many of the champions of Pahlevaani came from Qajar princely families, and that the court was, for the longest time, not just a patron of the discipline but also, literally, a training ground for future champions.

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Prof. Anna Vanzan: Italians' Perception and Experience of Health & Hygiene in Qajar Iran:

There is ample evidence of an Italian experience in Iran throughout the Qajar period, when many Italians went to work in Iran as physicians, military advisors or merchants. They left little written testimony of their Persian experience until the second half of the 19th century, when the number of Italians who went to Iran increased and with them the bulk of recorded data. Some of these Italian accounts were written by scientists who were in Iran on official mission in order to compile a non Ðexploitative recognition of Iranian natural resources and who also commented on the people and the situations they encountered; naturally, the hygienic and healthy conditions of the foreign country were of much interest to them.

Not less interesting are the observations of the Italian military advisors employed by the Persian authorities, as some of them spent many years in the Persian army and gave us first hand information on the outburst of epidemics in the army and the way Persian authorities would deal with these problems. The most salient aspect of these accounts is that their authors, though critical of certain events and situations, were not usually affected by the current prejudices and preconceptions. Also, the information was provided by politically impartial observers, as Italy had no immediate or direct interest in the European powers' rivalry in Iran.

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Dr. Hormoz Ebrahimnejad: Institutional and Epistemological Study of Modernization of Medicine in Qajar Iran:

Colonialism in the nineteenth century has been influential in shaping historical research on the development of modern medicine in non-European countries. Although Qajar-Iran was not a colonised country the medical modernization that took place at that period was seen in terms of "transplantation" of modern medicine. From such a perspective one cannot see two fundamental points: First the introduction of modern medicine within the framework of institutional and political system and second, the process of theoretical integration of modern medicine that was in tandem with the epistemological (or internal) change of traditional medicine. In this paper I will analyse epistemological and institutional process of medical modernization and address their interconnection.

The classical historiography has totally neglected the pivotal role of local physicians in the transmission of modern medicine in 19th century Iran. In practical terms modern theories were integrated through two processes: 1- the translation of Western modern medicine by physicians who were initiated in traditional theories. 2- the collaboration of traditional physicians with Western doctors within the framework of the court patronage.

The intellectual contact between modern and traditional medicine was carried out within an institutional framework created as a result of the development of the Qajar state. The position of the hakim-baashi, just as that of munajjem-baashi and vaqaaye-negaar were restored under Agha M. Khan by the end of the 18th century. Throughout the 19th century the Qajar princes further expanded the patronage of physicians. By the integration of some specific part of medical profession into the state, the Qajars undertook in fact the institutionalisation of medicine. With the introduction of modern medicine, the court patronage brought together both traditional and modern medicine. Due to such institutional network there was no political or social impediment to the intellectual contact of traditional and modern medicine. For instance, unlike in India where British physicians worked under the Indian Medical Service (the state medical service of colonial India), European physicians in Iran did not have their own medical institutions. They were therefore constrained to work within the local structure and to collaborate with Iranian traditional doctors employed by the Qajar court. As a result, while in colonized countries modern medicine was the symbol of Western domination, in Qajar Iran it was seen politically neuter.

In sum, modernization of medicine went through epistemological change in traditional theories as well as integration of modern theories by traditional physicians. This intellectual dynamism was grounded in the above-mentioned institutional and political development linked to the establishment of the Qajar state.

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Prof. Shireen Mahdavi: Some Aspects of the Introduction of Western Medicine in to Persia:

By mid-nineteenth century the impact of the West was felt in many walks of life in Persia, ranging from the intellectual, cultural, political, social to the economic sphere. In general it was the ideas and ideologies emanating from the West which finally affected every social institution and outlook on life. One of the fields affected was that of traditional medicine. The agents of this impact were twofold. First the European doctors of the Qajar Shahs and those assigned to diplomatic missions second the students who were sent abroad to study medicine and who returned to Iran to practice it. The European doctors played various roles. The royal doctors were to a certain extent able to overcome the general suspicion of Western medicine through their treatment of the Shahs and their courtiers whilst the doctors of the missions particularly that of the British through their Charitable Dispensaries were able also to fulfill the same function for the poor.

Simultaneously through their access to the Shah, his harem and those holding important political office the European doctors were able to act as an intermediary between the Shah and either their mission or their government. A number of them accompanied the Shahs on their European trips. The European doctors were of different nationality and personal characteristics. Some stayed for a short time. Some made Iran their home. Some engaged in business and became rich. Others concentrated on studying the social and political institutions of the country and wrote books and memoirs. The paper will attempt, through Persian and foreign primary material of the period, memoirs, diaries, travel books and British foreign Office papers, to portray these colorful European doctors and their roles and motives in addition to their impact upon Persian society in general and medical practice in particular

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Fatemeh Soudavar Farmanfarmaian: Haft Qalam Arayesh: Cosmetics During the Qajar Period:

This article is an abbreviated version of a more extensive study on the history of cosmetics in the Iranian World, originally published by Iranian Studies, Volume 33, numbers 3-4 Summer/Fall 2000. The emphasis here will be on the Qajar era, which is particularly rewarding in that more documentary and iconographic information is available on the 19th century than on all previous periods. A number of illustrations will accompany the discussion which, after a brief overview of the development of cosmetics in the Iranian world since prehistory, will examine the concept and composition of the seven items that were traditionally included under the Haft Qalam.

In the second part, the article will discuss each item separately, and describe the substance, the methods of preparation and the application according to the changing whims of fashion, before the introduction of modern cosmetics in the 20th century radically transformed the external appearance of Iranian women after a remarkably uniform pattern, both in terms of time and space, since well before Islamic times.

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Ali Jalali: Herbal Remedies and Traditional Medicine in Qajar Iran: (Forthcoming)


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Prof. Mehdi Amani (Prof. Emeritus, University of Tehran): La situation gŽnŽrale de la mortalitŽ, natalitŽ et accroissement dŽmographique en Iran durant les 50 dernires annŽes de la dynastie Kadjar (1876-1925). (Tentative)

Sans entrer dans les dŽtail techniques et mathŽmatico-dŽmographiques, pour reconstituer la situation et l'Žvolution dŽmographique de notre pays pendant les 50 annŽes sus-mentionnŽes, les estimations présentés dans cet article sont basŽes sur la technique de la retro-polation dela population de l'Iran au premier recensement de 1956 (1335 solaire),

Pendant le dernier quart du 19e sicle(1876-1901) ces calculs donnent un taux de mortalitŽ de l'ordre de 36 pour mille (36 dŽcs pour 1000 individus durant un an), ce qui est dans le meme registre et fourchette que l'Egypte, l'Inde et territoire Ottoman (ancetre de la Turquie actuelle). En ce qui concerne la natalitŽ, on peux avancer selons ces estimations et avec grande certitude un taux de 40 pour 1000. La rŽsultante dŽmographique de ces deux taux donne un taux d'accroissement naturel de l'ordre de 4 pour mille, et il en ressort un temps de doublement thŽorique de la population iranienne ˆ cette date Žgal ˆ 173 ans. C'est cette situation prŽ-transitionnelle de la population iranienne qui a donnŽ une population de prs de 10 millions en 1900.

En tenant compte de ce rythme d'accroissement naturel on peut avancer un chiffre de 6 000 000 ˆ 6500 000 individu en Iran dans ses prŽsentes frontires en l'an 1800. Mais compte tenu des provinces du Caucase et de Harat on peut parler d'au mois 8 000 000. Depuis 1900 grace aux premiers pas dans l'application de la mŽdecine moderne le taux de mortalitŽ a sensiblement baissŽ pour s'Žlever ˆ 32 pour 1000 vers 1925. Cette baisse a continuŽ pour descendre ˆ 23 pour mille en date du premier recensement de l'Iran en 1956 . On peut donc dire que les premiers signes de la baisse du taux de la mortalitŽ en Iran se concrŽtise pendant le dernier quart de la dynastie Qajar de 1900 ˆ 1925 grace aux efforts du gouvernement de modernisation dans les domaines d'hygiene et de medecine moderne.