IRAN AND THE RISE OF REZA SHAH by Cyrus Ghani

IRAN AND THE RISE OF REZA SHAH

From Qajar Collapse to Pahlavi Power
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KIRKUS REVIEW

A frustratingly limited analysis of the rise of Reza Shah, a nationalist who unified modern Iran after years of British control. Iranian historian Ghani (The Rise of the West, not reviewed) describes how Britain wielded her financial and military clout to dominate pre-WWI Iran. With the shah on the British payroll, Iran was ruled by a corrupt, pro-British oligarchy. So complete was Britain’s domination that Foreign Minister Curzon referred to Iran’s leaders as his “puppets” and “performing dogs.” WWI changed the political climate. As nationalism spread across the Arab world, the Iranian people claimed the right of national self-determination. In the face of this nationalist fervor, Britain demanded legal recognition of her power over Iran. The 1919 Anglo-Iranian Agreement, negotiated in secret and paid for with British bribes, “cede[d] to Britain control of [Iran’s] financial, military, and foreign affairs.” Meanwhile, Britain attempted to install a puppet government in Iran that would not only ratify the humiliating Anglo-Iranian Agreement but also quell growing nationalist, anti-British unrest. This kind of shameless 19th-century imperialism proved difficult, and Iran became ungovernable. In 1921, Britain acquiesced to a coup d’Çtat led by Reza Khan, an Iranian military strongman trusted as safely pro-British. Reza Khan, however, would prove to be his own man. He reorganized the army under Iranian officers and ejected British financial advisers. Reza centralized and unified the nation, limiting British influence. Viewing the then shah as a tool of the British, Reza deposed him and installed himself shah in his place. By appealing directly to Iran’s nationalist majority, Reza consolidated his power and ruled Iran for the next 20 years. Ghani has a great story to tell, but he gets mired in quotidian details. Readers will be exasperated by his scant discussion of larger themes, such as British imperialism. Perhaps academics will find value in the details of this account; general readers will long for a larger historical perspective.

Pub Date: March 22nd, 1999
ISBN: 1-86064-258-6
Page count: 450pp
Publisher: I.B. Tauris
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 1999




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