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A Modern Contagion

Imperialism and Public Health in Iran's Age of Cholera

Amir A. Afkhami

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How deadly cholera pandemics transformed modern Iran.

Pandemic cholera reached Iran for the first of many times in 1821, assisted by Britain's territorial expansion and growing commercial pursuits. The revival of Iran's trade arteries after six decades of intermittent civil war, fractured rule, and isolation allowed the epidemic to spread inland and assume national proportions. In A Modern Contagion, Amir A. Afkhami argues that the disease had a profound influence on the development of modern Iran, steering the country's social, economic, and political currents.

Drawing on archival documents…

How deadly cholera pandemics transformed modern Iran.

Pandemic cholera reached Iran for the first of many times in 1821, assisted by Britain's territorial expansion and growing commercial pursuits. The revival of Iran's trade arteries after six decades of intermittent civil war, fractured rule, and isolation allowed the epidemic to spread inland and assume national proportions. In A Modern Contagion, Amir A. Afkhami argues that the disease had a profound influence on the development of modern Iran, steering the country's social, economic, and political currents.

Drawing on archival documents from Iranian, European, and American sources, Afkhami provides a comprehensive overview of pandemic cholera in Iran from the early nineteenth century to the First World War. Linking the intensity of Iran's cholera outbreaks to the country's particular sociobiological vulnerabilities, he demonstrates that local, national, and international forces in Iran helped structure the region's susceptibility to the epidemics. He also explains how Iran's cholera outbreaks drove the adoption of new paradigms in medicine, helped transform Iranian views of government, and caused enduring institutional changes during a critical period in the country's modern development.

Cholera played an important role in Iran's globalization and diplomacy, influencing everything from military engagements and boundary negotiations to Russia and Britain's imperial rivalry in the Middle East. Remedying an important deficit in the historiography of medicine, public health, and the Middle East, A Modern Contagion increases our understanding of ongoing sociopolitical challenges in Iran and the rest of the Islamic world.

Reviews

Reviews

Easily the most definitive study of a sadly ignored episode of history. The narrative is bold in its claims, meticulous in its research, and seamlessly able to move from the minutiae of bacteriology to the machinations of Great Britain and Russia in the Big Game. I marvel at the author's acute erudition, his endearing humanism, and his ability to forge a narrative that is at once sobering and suspenseful, detailed in texture, but almost breezy in tone. Revelatory; a gem of a book.

An original contribution to the history of epidemic diseases and the development of modern sanitary measures in Iran during the period of the Qajar dynasty. Scholars and students of Persian studies, the history of medicine, and sciences in Iran and the Muslim world will want to read this book. Warmly recommended.

This book masterfully fills a crucial gap in our understanding of Iran's modern history. Relying on an array of archival and other primary sources, Afkhami demonstrates how in the face of deadly transregional pandemics and a host of other health issues, the Qajar state's nascent public heath regime could only partially cope with depopulation, malnutrition, and endemic diseases that ravaged Iran in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Afkhami highlights an important (but often neglected) series of events in the history of human cholera. His tale of the arrival of pandemic cholera to Iran and the Persian Empire over the span of a century is a tour de force and represents a major contribution to the history of medicine literary cannon.

Amir Afkhami has brilliantly broken new ground in the scholarship on epidemics and society. A Modern Contagion is a splendid and enlightening book.

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Book Details

Publication Date
Status
Available
Trim Size
6
x
9
Pages
296
ISBN
9781421427218
Illustration Description
19 b&w illus., 1 line drawing, 9 maps, 2 graphs
Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Chronology of Major Events
A Note on Transliteration and Style

Introduction 1
Chapter 1. Cholera and the Globalization of Health in Iran, 1821-1889
Chapter 2. The 1889-1893 Cholera

Acknowledgments
Chronology of Major Events
A Note on Transliteration and Style

Introduction 1
Chapter 1. Cholera and the Globalization of Health in Iran, 1821-1889
Chapter 2. The 1889-1893 Cholera Epidemics
Chapter 3. Epidemics and Sanitary Imperialism, 1896-1904
Chapter 4. Cholera, Germs, and the 1906 Constitutional Revolution
Chapter 5. Wars, Plagues, and Institutional Developments in Health, 1906-1926
Epilogue

Appendixes
A. Nasir al-Din Shah's 1879 Decree on the Hygiene of Tehran
B. Muzaffar al-Din Shah's 1897 Decree Regulating Sanitary Stations and Quarantines on Iran's Eastern Frontiers
C. Medical Practice Act of 1911
D. 1914 Sanitation Ordinances for Tehran

Notes
Select Bibliography
Index

Author Bio
Amir A. Afkhami
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Amir A. Afkhami

Amir A. Afkhami is an associate professor with joint appointments in psychiatry, global health, and history at George Washington University. He is also a lecturer at the US Department of Defense's Joint Counterintelligence Training Academy and the author of the US State Department's Iraq Mental Health Initiative.