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Title: The question of freedom within the horizon of the Iranian Constitutional Movement (1906-1921)
Author: Hashemi, S. Ahmad
ISNI:       0000 0004 5353 2684
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2014
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The present DPhil research attempts to develop an appropriate method for the historiography of ideas by taking into consideration cultural, linguistic and socio-political limitations and obstacles to free thinking in a predominantly closed society like Qajar Iran. By applying such a method the study then investigates the history of the idea of freedom in Iran during one of the most important periods in the evolution of this concept. The research method is grounded in a hermeneutical interpretation of Collingwood's logic of question and answer. It also employs MacCallum's meta-theoretical frame of analysis which states that freedom is always of something (an agent or agents), from something (conditions), to do something (actions). Using this methodological framework, the research shows how most locutions about freedom uttered in the last century of the Qajar period were formed within the horizon of the question of decline and were somehow related to remedy such situations. It then explores how late Qajar interpretations of the three variables of freedom manifest themselves in the socio-political life of early 20th century Iran. During the first constitutional period (August 1906-June 1908), the major concern of the first majlis was to establish the rule of law. In legislating the constitution and its supplement, the majority of the majlis believed that the main obstacle to freedom was arbitrary rule. Therefore, they endeavoured to restrain the government’s illegal and arbitrary interferences in the people's freedom. However, they did not develop a rational criterion for identifying legitimate and justifiable legal interferences. During the second constitutional period (July 1909– February 1921), the main concern of the second majlis was to restrain chaos and to strengthen the central government in order to put an end to domestic insecurity and foreign threats. To rectify such a situation, the majlis empowered the government to interfere even in the freedoms guaranteed by the constitution. As a result, the situation began to turn from chaos towards arbitrary rule. The research also argues that in most of their interpretations of the aim of freedom, constitutionalists considered an action permissible only if it was compatible with public interest as well as the material and spiritual progress of individuals and society. Theoretically, the aim of freedom could not have been the doing of an action that harmed another person or violated his/her freedom. Furthermore, 'the right to be wrong,' even if it harmed no one, was never defended. Nonetheless, in practice, freedom turned into chaos and licence in both the first and in the second constitutional periods. Finally, this study investigates how the Iranian pioneers of the freedom-seeking movement responded to the question of the eligibility of the agent of freedom, and the question of the equality of agents in having freedom. Iranian society was taking its first steps in experiencing the rule of law and had a long way to go to rectify its discriminatory culture and to establish equal rights. In such conditions, accepting a set of equal fundamental rights for all Iranians should be considered a great achievement for the constitutional movement.
Supervisor: Katouzian, Homa; Cronin, Stephanie Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Intellectual History ; Islam ; Civil Rights ; Rights (development) ; Constitutional & administrative law ; Human rights ; Political science ; History of Ideas