The XVII C. Safavid Diplomatic Envoy to Siam: A Politics of Knowledge Formation

Arian, A., 2019, [Groningen]: University of Groningen. 350 p.

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In 1685, a Persian embassy from the Safavid Empire (Iran) embarked upon a diplomatic mission to Siam (Thailand). During its journey and mission, the envoy encountered various peoples and visited numerous places. This dissertation examines how this Persian envoy encountered three peoples and their cultures: the Khārijites in Muscat, the English in Madras, and the Siamese in Siam. It analyzes what the envoy’s observations, experiences and assessments were about these encountered peoples and how this was reported in the account of the Safīna-i Sulaimānī for the Iranian king and political elite. The dissertation illustrates that the envoy was not impressed with these peoples and their cultures. Instead, it considered them as inferior to Iran while it advanced at the same time the idea that Iran was the most civilized country in the world. With this insight, the dissertation makes a significant contribution to debates about Orientalism and ethnocentrism, which is often considered a practice in which only Westerners engage. The dissertation also provides an insight into how the Persian envoy in Thailand practiced diplomacy and what the similarities are between Persian and European diplomatic practices. Finally, the dissertation also illustrates how the perceptions, observations and experiences of the envoy about the encountered peoples and cultures was influenced by the political order of the Safavid Empire and by various power relations within Iran and between it and other polities. For this reason, this research also contributes to (historical) studies about the relationship between power and knowledge, especially in the case of a non-Western realm in the seventeenth century.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
Award date28-Nov-2019
Place of Publication[Groningen]
Publication statusPublished - 2019

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