The eighteenth century was a crucial era in modern Iranian history, but up to now it has been little studied outside Iran. In Crisis, Collapse, Militarism and Civil War, Michael Axworthy has gathered leading experts on this period from around the world to provide a multifaceted account of this fascinating, dramatic, and turbulent era. The volume covers economics, intellectual history, military developments, politics, and the visual arts.
In the 1720s, after the collapse of Safavid rule in 1722, it seemed that Iran might disappear altogether, partitioned between her neighbors. Within a few years the country surged back to make a bid for regional dominance under Nader Shah, but lapsed again into civil war after his untimely death in 1747. The civil wars lasted almost until the end of the century, albeit with an interlude of relative calm and good governance under Karim Khan Zand, who ruled from the mid-1750s until his death in
1779. In 1796, after more civil wars, Agha Mohammad Shah had himself crowned as the first monarch of the Qajar dynasty, which lasted until 1925. This formative period is vital for understanding modern and contemporary Iran, and it is a fascinating drama of events and personalities in its own right. It
was a period of crisis and turmoil, but also a period of possibility and creativity in ways that have for the most part been forgotten.
Until now, scholarship on the significance of the eighteenth century in Iran has been scant and often obscure. This volume will not only change that, but it will also reshape our understanding of the history of one of the most important and influential states in the Middle East.
Michael Axworthy is Senior Lecturer and Director of Centre for Persian and Iranian Studies at the University of Exeter and the former head of the Iran Section for the British Foreign Office. He is the author of Revolutionary Iran (Oxford/Penguin) and Empire of the Mind: A History of Iran (Basic).
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