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Isfahan Population during Qajar era

Isfahan Population during Qajar era

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Official and local information about Isfahan's population has been generally unavailable in past, with both Iranians and Europeans complaining about lack of reliable information. (Morier, p. 110) The demographics presented for the Qajar era are very different and are largely based on speculation by European diplomats.

These statistics are usually based on alternative and auxiliary methods, such as the number of conjectures and the average occupant of each traditional house in Isfahan, the daily consumption of city bread, or even the number of slaughtered sheep. Although taxes were based on local ownership, it was still not easy to obtain accurate information even with local information.

The number of minorities (Jews and Armenians) has also fluctuated. In 1828, David d'Beth Hillel estimated the number of Jewish families to be about 300, these families used to live in their old house accommodation in Isfahan, while in 1686, according to a British estimate, there were about 1,500 old house in Isfahan in minorities names.

Mohammed Mehdi Arab, stated that by the time Nasser al-Din Shah was enthroned in 1848, the city had a population of 200,000, up from 80,000 in the pre-colonial time, up to 12,000 during the reign of Zul al Sultan had dropped. (Moḥammad-Mahdi, pp. 82-281) Apparently, he trusted the reports and writings of Europeans, all of whom had achieved similar results in population growth by the end of the century. The figure of 200,000 seems to have its roots in the writings of Thomas Herbert in 1620. In 1785, Louis Francis de Ferrières-Sauveboeuf estimated the city's population at about 300,000; in 1810 John Malcolm suggested that the city population is about 200,000, a figure later discovered by most travelers who used to live either in luxury hotels in Isfahan or in old house accommodations in Isfahan. Trusted in his credibility, repeated without any reference. In 1809, James Morier estimated the population to be over 40,000, but in 1811 it changed to 60,000. (Morier, p. 110) In the same year, William Ouseley, based on earlier Malcolm and Morier statistics, declared the population to be about 200,000. (Quoted in Curzon, II, p. 43)

British estimates of the population of Isfahan, based on government revenue records of 1867-68, only estimated 60,000 people in Isfahan. (Income and Population Report, Thomson, January-June, 244/248) In 1875, Arthur Arnold estimated the population to be 90,000, but only half of it was realistic. In the early 1880s, Ernst Höltzer, resident in a luxury boutique house in Isfahan Jolfa, estimated Isfahan's population of 90,000. ("Beschreibung", Folder 1, p. 9) In 1891, Corzon, using the information of British representatives, declared this number from 70,000 to 80,000. (Curzon, II, p. 43) In 1911, another British survey of Isfahan, as well as Jolfa and neighboring villages, numbered 80,000, including 74,000 Muslims, 4,000 Jews, about 1500 Armenians, 35 Zoroastrians, and 55 British and Indo-British and 60 Europeans knew from other nations. (Isfahan News, No. 43, November 28, 1911) In a traditional government census conducted in 1870/1287, just one year before the famine of 1871 provides perhaps the most credible statistics, 25 neighborhoods with 9176 households and 76088 residents counting. As shown in Table 1, the census also includes the gender and upper and middle classes of the city.

The number of minorities (Jews and Armenians) has also fluctuated. In 1828, David d'Beth Hillel estimated the number of Jewish families to be about 300, while in 1686, according to a British estimate, there were about 1,500 households. The 1870 government census counted 1935 Jews (1,027 men with 587 adults and 440 boys and 908 women with 577 adults and 331 girls) residing in 180 households. Various counts during the 1880s numbered about 3,000 Jews, while church counts in 1907 numbered 6,000 Jews. Subsequent censuses by the British in 1911 numbered 4,000 Jews. (Hillel, p. 109; Benjamin, p. 86-183; Höltzer, "Beschreibung," Folder 1, p. 9; Garland, p. 16-14; Sanderson to Kennedy, No. 113, September 16, 1889).

The 1870 census identifies the majority of the population of Jolfa as Armenian about 1517. The 1860 census estimates the population to be 1586, including 1204 men and 1382 women in 371 households. According to European calculations in the early 1880s, a population of 2658 was claimed, including 1223 men and 1,435 women in 380 households, possibly including non-Armenians. A British census conducted about three decades later stated that the number of Armenians was only 1,500, with the total population of Armenians in Chaharmahal and Isfahan estimated at 2100 in 390 families living in their old houses in Iran.


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