Iran and a French Empire of Trade examines the understudied topic of Franco-Persian relations in the long eighteenth century to highlight how rising tensions among Eurasian empires and revolutions in the Atlantic world were profoundly intertwined. Conflicts between Persia, Turkey, India and Russia, and European weapons-dealing with these empires occurred against a backdrop of climate change and food insecurities that destabilized markets. Takeda shows how the French state relied on “entrepreneurial imperialism” to extend commercial activities eastwards beyond the Mediterranean during this time, from Louis XIV’s reign to Napoleon Bonaparte’s First Empire. Organized as a collection of microhistories, her study showcases a colourful set of characters—rogue merchants from Marseille, a gambling house madam, a naturalized Greek-French drogman, and a bi-cultural Genevan-Persian consul, among others—to demonstrate how individuals on the fringes of French society spearheaded projects to foster ties between France and Persia.
Considering the Enlightenment as a product of a connected world, Takeda investigates how trans-imperial adventurers, merchants, consuls, and informants negotiated treaties, traded commodities and arms, transferred knowledge, and introduced industrial practices from Asia to Europe. And she shows the surprising ways in which Enlightenment debates about regime changes from the Safavid to Qajar dynasties and Persia’s borderland wars shaped French ideas about revolution and policies related to empire-building.