The Life and Times of the Shah

Gholam R. Afkhami, Author . Univ. of California $34.95 (713p) ISBN 978-0-520-25328-5

Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, Iran’s ruler from 1941 to 1979—and one of the 20th century’s more controversial political figures—gets a spirited if not always compelling defense in this sprawling biography. Afkhami (The Iranian Revolution ), an Iranian studies scholar and an official of the shah’s regime, paints him as a moderate, progressive leader who championed women’s rights, secularism and balanced economic development. He was his own man, not an American puppet, Afkhami argues, strenuously challenging interpretations of the 1953 ousting of the nationalist prime minister, Mohammad Mossadeq, as a CIA-engineered coup. And the crimes of his notorious SAVAK secret police, the author contends, were milder than commonly thought—and anyway, the shah knew little about them. Afkhami corrects conventional views of the shah’s reign as merely a despotic prelude to the Islamic revolution, but his perspective seems blinkered by his subject’s self-regard. The shah emerges as almost a paragon—devoted to his people and Iran’s constitution, undone by his own misguided humanity and restraint in confronting Khomeini’s cabal of Islamists and their liberal dupes. When all Iran rises to overthrow him, the reader is as surprised as the shah. Photos. (Jan.)

Reviewed on: 11/17/2008
Release date: 01/01/2009
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 740 pages - 978-0-520-94216-5
Show other formats
Discover what to read next