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Tehran - History

Tehran History

Human settlement of the region dates from Neolithic times, but the development of Tehran was very slow and its rise to prominence largely accidental. In AD 1197, after Mongols sacked and destroyed nearby Rey - the major urban centre in Persia at the time - Tehran began to develop in its place. From the mid-16th century, Tehran's attractive natural setting and good hunting brought it into the favour of the Safavid king, Tahmasb I. It developed from a moderately prosperous trading village into an elegant, if dusty, city, and European visitors wrote of its many enchanting vineyards and gardens. In 1789, Agha Muhammed Khan declared Tehran his capital, and six years later had himself crowned as shah of all Persia. The town continued to grow slowly under later Qajar rulers.

From the early 1920s, the city was extensively modernised on a grid system, and this period marked the start of phenomenal population growth and uncontrolled urban development. An educated and cosmpolitan middle class elite, with an open attitude towards Western influence, flourished under the Shah, but the growth of the city began a trickle of poor, rural migrants that soon turned into a flood.

The depopulation of the surrounding regions continues to this day as the rural poor continue to stream into Tehran in ever greater numbers. This migration has put the city's infrastructure under enormous pressures. In 1930 the population was 300,000; in 2001 it was estimated to be 12 million. These pressures often translate into popular revolt, hence Tehran's central role in the Islamic Revolution of 1979 and in more recent protests against the clerical monopolisation of political power.

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