cover image The Fall of Heaven: The Pahlavis and the Final Days of Imperial Iran

The Fall of Heaven: The Pahlavis and the Final Days of Imperial Iran

Andrew Scott Cooper. Holt, $35 (608p) ISBN 978-0-8050-9897-6

Cooper (The Oil Kings), a scholar of oil markets and U.S.-Iran relations, recounts the rise and fall of Iran’s glamorous Pahlavi dynasty, challenging common characterizations of Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi as a brutal dictator. Focusing on the last Shah’s rule, Cooper explains the founding of the Pahlavi monarchy and details the various achievements of the White Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s, “one of the 20th century’s great experiments in liberal social and economic reform.” These transformed Iran “from a semifeudal baron state into a modern industrial powerhouse” while also encompassing various social advances in women’s rights, education, health care, and more. Such reforms, Cooper argues, qualify the Western-oriented Shah as more of a benevolent autocrat than a tyrant. The first part of the book is a sweeping survey of the Shah’s time in power; the second is a riveting day-by-day account of the 1978–1979 revolution that toppled the monarchy. Based on various documentary sources as well as impressive access to royalists, revolutionaries, Queen Farah Pahlavi, and various U.S. officials, this thorough work is immensely detailed yet readable and continuously engaging. Cooper’s attempts to downplay the regime’s abuses are unconvincing, but he provides a fascinating, distinctive, and personal account of the Shah and his rule. (Aug.)