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TAGS: Edward Granville Browne; Iran, General history; Reform
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Browne, Edward Granville:
Persian Constitutional movement

by Kamran Ekbal

published in Encyclopaedia Iranica, Volume 4
New York: Columbia University, 1990
E. G. Browne was incomparably more sympathetic and devoted to the Persian Constitutional movement than was any other European. Through his numerous publications, his lectures, and the letters he published in daily newspapers, he took an active part in organizing and influencing British opinion. The Persia Committee, founded in October, 1908, by Browne and H. F. B. Lynch and composed of prominent members of both houses of Parliament, as well as writers and journalists, functioned as an active and influential pressure group both inside and outside England.

Browne’s deep interest in politics had begun in the early years of his life. His admiration for the Turks in their losing struggle against Russia in the war of 1877-78 first attracted his attention to the East. It was this political commitment to weaker nations struggling against political and military penetration by the European powers that led him to begin learning Turkish, followed by Arabic and Persian, and thus laid the foundations for his brilliant academic career (see i above). Nevertheless, Persia soon supplanted Turkey as the focus of his interest and came to dominate not only his scholarly but also his political activities. He admired the “stability of national type, and power of national recovery” of Persia throughout its long history and was fascinated by such ideals as the “interdependence of all mankind” and the “obligation of tolerance towards those of other religions” that he discovered in the classical Persian epics (Browne, 1917-18, pp. 312, 313).

His own profound and humane yearning for a “universal brotherhood of mankind” (Nicholson, p. viii) corresponded to the basic principles of the Babi and Bahai religions (see ii above). It was this same deep-­rooted humanitarianism, rather than any reasoned theory of nationalism, that led Browne to identify himself with popular movements striving for liberty. Independent in forming his views and fearless in expressing them, he generally found himself in oppo­sition to the official policy of his government (see i above). His belief in a plurality of nations, each preserving its distinctive character, all coexisting freely and aiding one another, was decisive in his special dedication to the Persian cause. His manifold writings on the Constitutional movement, as well as his publi­cation of its authentic documents, were aimed at arous­ing sympathy for the Persian reformers (Browne, 1909, p. 5). He asserted the Persians’ right of self-determination (1917-18, p. 320) and consistently de­plored the means employed by England and Russia to crush the movement, especially revealing the atrocities committed by the Russians in Persia (1912a, pp. 6, 15; 1912b). A vehement opponent of the Anglo-Russian Convention of 1907, which had established Russian and British zones of influence in Persia, Browne demanded complete abolition of these zones (1917-18, p. 329), comparing partition of Persia with that of Poland (1912a, p. 17). He perceived the Constitutional move­ment as essentially a nationalist, rather than a demo­cratic (1917-18, p. 323), cause, and the Persians thus fighting for their very existence as a nation (1910, p. xix).

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