International Review of Social History


Popular Protest, Disorder, and Riot in Iran: The Tehran Crowd and the Rise of Riza Khan, 1921–1925 1

Stephanie Cronin 


This article looks at the continuing political vitality of the urban crowd in early Pahlavi Iran and the role it played in the crises which wracked Tehran in the first half of the 1920s, examining, as far as possible, the ways in which crowds were mobilized, their composition, leaderships, and objectives. In particular it analyses Riza Khan's own adoption of populist tactics in his struggle with the Qajar dynasty in 1924–1925, and his regime's attempts to manipulate the Tehran crowd in an effort to overcome opposition, both elite and popular, and to intimidate formal democratic institutions such as the Majlis (parliament) and the independent press. In attempting to rescue the Tehran crowd from obscurity, or from condemnation as a fanatical and blindly reactionary mob, this article hopes to rectify the imbalance in much older scholarship which views early Pahlavi Iran solely through the prism of its state-building effort, and to introduce into the study of Iranian history some of the perspectives of “history from below”.


1 An earlier version of this paper was presented at the Fifth Mediterranean Social and Policy Research Meeting, Florence and Montecatini Terme 24–28 March 2004, organized by the Mediterranean Programme of the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies at the European University Institute.