The Shah

( 4 )

Overview

Though his monarchy was toppled in 1979 and he died in 1980, the life of Mohammad-Reza Shah Pahlevi, the last Shah of Iran, continues to resonate today. Here, internationally respected author Abbas Milani gives us the definitive biography, more than ten years in the making, of the monarch who shaped Iran?s modern age and with it the contemporary politics of the Middle East.

     

The Shah?s was a life filled with contradiction?as a social reformer he ...

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The Shah

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Overview

Though his monarchy was toppled in 1979 and he died in 1980, the life of Mohammad-Reza Shah Pahlevi, the last Shah of Iran, continues to resonate today. Here, internationally respected author Abbas Milani gives us the definitive biography, more than ten years in the making, of the monarch who shaped Iran’s modern age and with it the contemporary politics of the Middle East.

     

The Shah’s was a life filled with contradiction—as a social reformer he built schools, increased equality for women, and greatly reduced the power of the Shia clergy. He made Iran a global power, courting Western leaders from Churchill to Carter, and nationalized his country’s many natural resources. But he was deeply conflicted and insecure in his powerful role. Intolerant of political dissent, he was eventually overthrown by the very people whose loyalty he so desperately sought. This comprehensive and gripping account shows us how Iran went from politically moderate monarchy to totalitarian Islamic republic. Milani reveals the complex and sweeping road that would bring the U.S. and Iran to where they are today.  

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Over the course of almost 40 years, Mohammad Reza Shah was a colossus in Iran, the one constant in a swirl of changing loyalties, political fortunes, and pressures both domestic and international; by the end of his reign, virtually no state decision could be taken, save by him. But as this biography reveals, this accumulation of authority was more a function of the Shah's lifelong distrust of all around him than it was any indication of skill in governing, or of genuine control. Milani (Eminent Persians) paints a richly detailed picture of a complex man plagued by demons and paranoia (much of it well-founded), at once insecure and megalomaniacal. Yet the thicket of biographical detail can leaves the reader longing for more analysis. Milani regularly mentions the Shah's flights of mysticism, for instance, but doesn't place them in any context: was the Shah delusional, or is talk of divine inspiration common in Iranian political discourse? Or both? Milani's book is a good source on the life of one of the 20th century's more enigmatic figures--good enough to pique the reader's frustration that it isn't great. (Jan.)
From the Publisher
"The definitive biography... the scholarship is impressive" — The Washington Times

 

“A finely wrought, enlightening biography.”— The Wall Street Journal

"Splendidly detailed... [Milani] succeeds in turning out a thoughtful biography without rancor." —The Chicago Tribune

“Milani brings to us a whole new set of facts, culled from thousands of recently declassified British, American and Iranian documents and hundreds of interviews, making this book fresh and relevant to the current democracy movement in Iran and to U.S.-Iranian relations.”— San Franscisco Chronicle

 

"An incisive portrait of a deeply riven man and his country... A stimulating biography and a thorough examination of the makeup of an entire nation."—Kirkus Reviews

"A deeply researched portrait... The shah’s private life, which included three wives, alleged mistresses, and extravagances in palaces and other riches, is effectively depicted. With sympathy born of a compassion for someone in over his head, Milani’s meticulous amassing of facts establishes a base for readers to form their own opinions." —Booklist

"Milani interviewed many who were close to Pahlavi, and makes excellent use of archives and memoirs. The result is a comprehensive portrait of a man who modernized Iran—and in doing so ensured his own downfall." — Macleans

“Abbas Milani brings to life the tragic figure of the late Shah of Iran… A refreshingly balanced biography!”— Fawaz Gerges, author of Journey of the Jihadist and Obama and the Middle East

"For God’s sake let us sit upon the ground/And tell sad stories of the death of kings.”  Shakespeare’s words from Richard II are an apt invitation to this gripping biography of Mohammed Reza Shah.  The Shah of Iran, Abbas Milani shows, was a tragic figure whose inner ghosts and deep personal flaws helped to destroy the hopes that were vested in him.  His downfall ushered in a nightmare from which Iran and the rest of world has yet to awaken.  Milani’s detailed and richly nuanced narrative enables us to understand why the “modernizing monarch” so disastrously failed." —Stephen Greenblatt, author of Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare

"A skilled book, a psychological biography with a profound historical background."—Shahrnush Parsipur, author of Women Without Men

"Using previously untapped archival material... narrates a tragedy of Shakespearean proportions."—Touraj Daryaee, Howard C. Baskerville Professor in the History of Iran and the Persianate World, University of California, Irvine

"For God’s sake let us sit upon the ground/And tell sad stories of the death of kings.”  Shakespeare’s words from Richard II are an apt invitation to this gripping biography of Mohammed Reza Shah.  The Shah of Iran, Abbas Milani shows, was a tragic figure whose inner ghosts and deep personal flaws helped to destroy the hopes that were vested in him.  His downfall ushered in a nightmare from which Iran and the rest of world has yet to awaken.  Milani’s detailed and richly nuanced narrative enables us to understand why the “modernizing monarch” so disastrously failed."—Stephen Greenblatt, author of Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare

Library Journal
Mohammad Reza Pahlavi ruled Iran as its hereditary, divine monarch for almost 40 years before he was driven from the throne by the 1979 popular revolution. Milani (research fellow, Hoover Inst., Stanford Univ.), an Iranian exile jailed by the Shah in the 1970s, has written a clear, detailed biography explaining the personal and family characteristics that shaped the Shah's approach to governing. Acknowledging but not following the constitutional character of the government, the Shah sought to control political power and succeeded through the 1960s–70s. His "White Revolution" spurred economic development and cultural freedom but never eased political repression. Integrating archival and secondary-source research from Iranian, U.S., and British sources, as well as interviews with key figures, Milani illustrates the impact of foreign pressure and explains the Shah's vacillations, e.g., the threat of Soviet interference and British and U.S. manipulation, the Shah's intentions to help Iran vs. his inability to respond to the popular desire for political participation, and his failure to create institutions that would keep Iran on the path to modernization. VERDICT A solid, well-written, and useful study that explains the impact of a traditional monarchy within a modernizing state and how it shaped the Iran that confronts the United States today. For all interested readers.—Elizabeth R. Hayford, Evanston, IL
Kirkus Reviews

An incisive portrait of a deeply riven man and his country.

A deep knowledge of Iranian history, especially about the key role the United States has played in its internal affairs since World War II, informs this meaty biography by Iranian-American historian Milani (Iranian Studies/Stanford Univ.). Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi's desire to render Iran a modern nation in the Western model by authoritarian rule rather than through the democratic process infused many of his decisions during his 37-year reign, and proved ultimately disastrous. A shy boy suddenly thrust into the spotlight by his father, who muscled out the long-reigning Turkish dynasty of the Qajars and proclaimed himself king of Iran in 1925, Mohammad Reza was only seven years old when he became Crown Prince of the Peacock Throne. Once cocooned by his religious mother, now schooled in the discipline of a soldier, he was sent away to boarding school in Switzerland to become a polished European gentleman. He returned to a country in the throes of modernization and enriched by oil revenues. However, his father's inadequacy in handling the Nazis and the Soviets prompted the British to force his abdication in favor of his son in 1941. For Pahlavi, the episode seemed to have "internalized the idea that big powers, particularly Britain, Russia and America, could do anything in Iran," and he weathered the fraught next decade, navigating between the demands of the oil-hungry Western states, the nationalists gaining ascendancy and the Communists, all the while keeping peace with the mullahs. The regime's clash with the reactionary forces led by Ayatollah Khomeini in 1963 set the stage for the revolution to come. Thrice-married, increasingly isolated in the world, criticized for the practices of his state-security intelligence agency (SAVAK) and suffering from cancer, the Shah had turned his country into his "virtual private fiefdom" by the time he was forced into exile in 1979.

A stimulating biography and a thorough examination of the makeup of an entire nation.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781403971937
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 1/4/2011
  • Pages: 496
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Abbas Milani is a historian and author. He is the Director of Iranian Studies at Stanford University and co-director of the Iran Democracy Project at the Hoover Institution. Milani has written for publications including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Forbes and has appeared on CNN, the BBC, and NPR, among others. A member of the board of directors of the Iranian Studies Group at MIT, the San Francisco Chronicle has said that  “Milani has the ear of Washington insiders.” He lives in California.

 

 

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Table of Contents

 

Chapter One: The Flying Dutchman—February-March 1979 in Morocco

Chapter Two: Compromised Constitution—Iran, 1905-1921

Chapter Three: Peacock Prince— Iran 1921-1931

Chapter Four: Jocund Juvenilia—Mohammad Reza as a Young Boy in Le Rosey

Chapter Five: Iran on the Eve of the Second World War

Chapter Six: The Crown of Throne: 1941-1942—the Shah’s Early Days on the Throne; Hurly Report; America’s First Democratization Effort

Chapter Seven:; Tehran conference, The Azerbaijan and its Aftermath; The Dawn of the Cold War

Chapter Eight: The Shah and Mossadeq—1951-1953

Chapter Nine: All the Shah’s man: The Coup and its Aftermath

Chapter Ten: Consolidation of power—US and the Creation of Savak; British and American Pressure for Reform

Chapter Eleven:  Gharani Affair

Chapter Twelve: Russian Card

Chapter Thirteen: The Dark Side of Camelot: The Shah and the Kennedy Administration

Chapter Fourteen: Garrulous Premiere:  Journey to the US; The white Revolution

Chapter Fifteen: Bright Side of Camelot:  White Revolution and the US

Chapter Sixteen: The Economic Miracle—1961-1975

Chapter Seventeen: Architecture of Power

Chapter Eighteen: Party Politics

Chapter Nineteen: The Perfect spy: Soviet Espionage in Iran

Chapter Twenty: The Shah’s Last Ride

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 14, 2014

    Highly recommended

    Exceptional read,outstanding documentation of historical facts,a must read for those who are interested in Iran's history during the reign of shah, and our generation in special.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 9, 2011

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    Posted December 30, 2011

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    Posted September 11, 2012

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