Set at the foot of the Alborz mountains, Tehran, once an agricultural enclave characterized by forests and abundant mountain water, developed at the site of a citadel since medieval times. Tehran was first walled during the Safavid era, in the mid-sixteenth century. With the decline of other regional centers, Tehran replaced Shiraz as the capital of the Zand dynasty in the mid-eighteenth century, before being proclaimed the capital of the succeeding Qajar dynasty in 1795. Tehran flourished under Qajar patronage, and the city gained the addition of various gardens and complexes, perhaps the most notable being the Kakh-i Gulistan, or Gulistan Palace.
By the early twentieth century, these walls were subsumed by the continually expanding city, as the population growth reached half a million. From 1870-2/1287-9 AH, Nasir al-Din undertook the city's modernization, extending the city walls, adding decorative towers and twelve new, tiled gates. Inspired by the urban development of Paris under Napoleon III, which al-Din had witnessed personally on a visit abroad in 1873, the new walls were designed with the work of Sebastien Leprestre de Vauban in mind, and the area north of the original city transformed to the likeness of the Boulevard Haussman. New avenues and squares were constructed, among them; Meydan-e Tupkhane (Cannon Square) , Avenue Lalezar (Tulipbed Street), and Ala Od Dwale Under al-Din's direction the city quadrupled in size, and many of the gardens surrounding the city were used for further construction. The Kakh-i Gulistan was rebuilt, and became the centerpiece of the city, with the addition of turreted towers, supervised by Dust 'Ali Khan Nizam al Dawla. Polychrome tiles replaced the painted ornamentation in much of the complex, as did carved stucco and decorative mirror-work. In addition to the Kakh-i Gulistan, summer palaces were constructed in the Shimiranat villages in the city's northern suburbs.
Tehran yet again underwent expansion and modernization efforts in the mid-twentieth century, as the prosperity that accompanied the exploitation of oil from the 1950s accelerated the growth of the city. In 1979, Tehran became a hub for revolutionary activities, aimed at concluding the reign of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. The city has continued to be a site of development, with over half of Iran's total industry being based in Tehran, and the construction of many research and educational centers.
Esmailpour Ghouchani, Iradj. “English abstract of 'Old Tehran'". Translated by Niki Akhavan. In Cities as Built and Lived Environments: Scholarship from Muslim Contexts, 1875 to 2011, by Aptin Khanbaghi, 147. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2014.
Hasan Baigi, Muhammad Reza. Tihran-i Qadim. Tehran: Qiqnus, 1988, 480pp.
This book is a summarised form of articles published under the same title in the magazine Itila’at-e Haftigi from its Iranian New Year edition in 1984 to the corresponding edition in 1985. The work begins with an etymology of the word “Tehran” and demonstrates that its Arabic version, which is spelled differently, is distorted and has no historical basis. Using travellers’ accounts as the source, the book goes on to explain how Tehran became the capital and provides a smooth and pleasant description of the gates, neighbourhoods, traditions, and people of the city.
This book is in essence an overall monograph of “old Tehran” along with a collection of supplemental narratives. With the exception of the news sources, the references for these have not been noted within the text. Instead the sources are included within a bibliographic index of books consulted for the work. Of course, there are parts of the text which are based on what the author has himself seen and heard. As such, like Jafar Shahri’s book (titled also Tihran-i Qadim, 1370), these segments do not need to reference sources. For example, in describing the Tup-i Morvari (The Pearl Cannon), the author speaks of his own recollection of seeing the Shah’s order and the signature of the Iranian maker on the barrel of the cannon. This eliminates historical doubts about whether the cannon was made by the Portuguese and whether it was made by order of Fath-Ali Shah.
The author has also used readers’ letters to the editor in correcting and completing this work. To some extent, this makes his approach similar to the anthropological method of the late Anjavi Shirazi. That is to say, some information is gathered from local informants and the researcher then organises or summarises it.
The best assessment for Tihran-i Qadim is to consider it a narrative of how Iran’s urban society entered modernity and modernisation and how it showed cultural resistance or reception in facing it. The introduction of the first automobile to Tehran, the establishment of the first hospital and electrical plant, and the history of the postal service, cinema, and banking in Tehran are all sections in Tihran-i Qadim which may not have been gathered according to the most academic of methods but have content that is of anthropological interest.