About the Book
In 1770, Astrakhan, on the left bank of the Volga River close to where it discharges into the Caspian Sea, was Russia’s most important southern port through which all its trade with Iran and the Orient was conducted. Astrakhan had been a Tatar city until 1556 (when Ivan the Terrible conquered it), a fact reflected in the composition of its population in 1770: Tatars, Russians, Armenians, and Iranians.
Samuel Gottlieb Gmelin, a young member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, lived for almost a year in the city in 1770 and left a very detailed account of its geography, history, people, economy, flora, and fauna. Gmelin first describes the model colony of Sarepta established, by special agreement with the Russian government, by the German Moravian Brothers in 1765. Then he moves his narrative to Astrakhan, the Russian outpost on the Caspian Sea and provides us with a detailed description of its history, including that of Stenko Razin’s 1672 rebellion that devastated the port and its people.
Gmelin takes us on an extensive tour of the city and provides us detailed plans and panoramas of the city, which was also important for its fisheries and salt works. All these economic activities are described in great detail, as are the flora and fauna of the city’s environs. Gmelin’s descriptions of these activities are embellished with exquisite drawings that show the people, their activities, the plants, and the animals. The descriptions of the city, its people and their activities are so vivid and given in such detail that the reader will literally be taken back in time and place.
Willem Floor has published numerous works of history as well as translations, which include: volumes 3 and 4 of Samuel Gottlieb Gmelin’s Travels Through Northern Persia 1770–1774; as well as Mirza Naqi Nasiri’s Titles and Emoluments in Safavid Iran: A Third Manual of Safavid Administration. He has also translated, in collaboration with Hasan Javadi, The Heavenly Rose-Garden: A History of Shirvan & Daghestan by Abbas Qoli Aqa Bakikhanov; and Evlya Chelebi’s Travels in Iran and the Caucasus, 1652 and 1655.
About the Author
Willem Floor studied development economics and non-western sociology, as well as Persian, Arabic and Islamology from 1963-67 at the University of Utrecht (the Netherlands). He received his doctoral degree from the University of Leiden in 1971. Since 1983, Dr. Floor has been employed by the World Bank as an energy specialist. Throughout this time, he has published extensively on the socio-economic history of Iran. His books include: Public Health in Qajar Iran, Agriculture in Qajar Iran, and The History of Theater in Iran, as well as, The Persian Gulf: A Political and Economic History of 5 Port Cities, 1500-1730, its second volume, Persian Gulf: The Rise of the Gulf Arabs, 1747-1792, third volume, The Rise and Fall of Bandar-e Lengeh, the fourth volume, Bandar Abbas: The Natural Gateway of Southeast Iran, and the fifth volume, The Persian Gulf: Links with the Hinterland Bushehr, Borazjan, Kazerun, Banu Ka’b, & Bandar Abbas. He has also published, Travels Through Northern Persia, 1770-1774, Titles and Emoluments in Safavid Iran, and A Social History of Sexual Relations in Iran; Labor and Industry in Iran, 1850-1941; Guilds, Merchants and Ulama in 19th Century Iran; The Rise and Fall of Nader Shah; Games Persians Play. His translations include: Samuel Gottlieb Gmelin’s Travels Through Northern Persia 1770–1774 , and with Hasan Javadi, Abbas Qoli Aqa Bakikhanov’s The Heavenly Rose-Garden: A History of Shirvan & Daghestan; Evliya Chelebi’s Travels in Iran and the Caucasus, 1647 and 1654; A Man of Two Worlds: Pedros Bedik in Iran, 1670–1675, The Persian Gulf: The Hula Arabs of The Shibkuh Coast of Iran, and The Persian Gulf: Dutch-Omani Relations A Commercial & Political History 1651-1806.