Houchang Esfandiar Chehabi


Houchang Esfandiar Chehabi is a professor emeritus of international relations at the Pardee School of Global Studies, Boston University, and an honorary professor in the School of History of the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. He received his undergraduate education in France and his PhD at Yale, and before being appointed at Boston University taught at Harvard and UCLA. In recent decades his research has focused on the history of cultural practices in Iran, his most recent publication in this area being Onomastic Reform: State Building and Family Names in Iran.


The Iranian State and Abolishing Capitulations in Qajar & Pahlavi Iran In 1828 the Russo-Persian Treaty of Turkmenchay inaugurated an era in which Iran was forced to sign unequal treaties with European powers in order to secure its sovereignty at a time when most non-Western states lost their independence to imperial European powers. These unequal treaties exempted the subjects of the European states from local jurisdiction, an arrangement that was known as “capitulation.” This was justified by the incompatibility of the Iranian legal system with European norms of due process. In addition, European powers managed to extend this exemption from local law to their Iranian employees or friends, who became known as protégés. This limitation on the national sovereignty became increasingly irksome to Iranians as their diplomatic and commercial contacts with Europe increased in the late nineteenth century. The only way to abolish the capitulations was to institute legal reforms, an effort that began in earnest with the Constitutional Revolution. Their success allowed the Iranian government unilaterally to abolish the capitulations in 1928.

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