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on 20 July 2011
My knowledge of history and politics of the Middle East is quite limited, and of pre-revolution Iran, virtually non-existant. What quickly becomes apparent from reading 'The Shah' are the parallels that can be drawn with the current Arab Spring. The last Shah of Iran was it seems a deeply flawed character though quite liberal in some of his attitudes, as in his attempts to further womens rights. Under his reign, Iran through the 1960's and 70's experienced rapid industrial growth and was an emerging economy, aligned to the West. What led to the Shah's downfall were the accusations of corruption, his inability to relinquish at least some of his powers and finally the people of Iran, who sought true democracy. The policy of the West towards Iran left a lot to be desired, and that's where the lessons should have been learnt. Especially the United States, who in the end supported Ayatollah Khomeini against The Shah, whom they believed would bring democracy to Iran, who instead oversaw the creation of a clerical regime! Abbas Milani has written a thorough and well balanced biography of The Shah and of Iran itself, which in light of recent events in the Middle East, make this book very relevent, and so, well worth a read.
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on 7 February 2014
As the author likes Shakespeare. I thought I start with that comment. First of all I salute him for his excellent book which tells us about some of the details of the Shah's life and his autocratic rule. Some of the other players in the game may also need expanding in the book to show that the 'evil that other men do' such as the role of Zaehner , later to become Prof Zaehner at St Anthony's college Oxford, are also important in the history of Iran. He was rewarded by that appointment for services rendered. Whether that sort of thing still goes on I cannot say. Prof Lambton at SOAS was also a player. End of the Empire by Lapping has some of the facts above mentioned and there are a few other sources. At the end of the day ' the evil that men do lives after them but the good is interned with the their bones.....' I believe that sadly the scenario of those days may be repeated again but in a more subtle way and with more academics involved both of foreign and Iranian origin. The million dollar question that hangs like a pendant in front of diaspora living in the land of the free is: ' what is to be done ' and the answer I believe is to bring the two sides together by convincing the US and Europe not to decimate Iran again but act more nobly. One of course lives in hope.

A bit more on Prof Zaehner: Lived in Sevenoaks went to Tonbridge School and studied oriental Languages at Oxford. Worked for MI6 Tehran station, useful as he spoke the local language and dialects - see Wikipaedia for more information.
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on 23 March 2014
A fair narrative of the shah biography. Though it has a strong historical point of view, it's easy and interesting to follow the book. It does shed light on different stage of his life and recent history of Iran.
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on 15 December 2013
Make excellent reading, thoroughly recommended for political and history buffs. The writer is obviously well informed on the subject and has done his research.
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on 5 December 2013
The book is a beautifully crafted account of the Reza Shah Pahlavi's life and times. Every revolution is unique in nature but the Iranian one has always intrigued me as the Iranian people were not exactly famished either financially or physically , which is a common factor almost mandatory in most revolutions. The author pitches the same question; how could the people hate Shah so much, even after the Shah did so much for them?

The attention to context details personal life of the Shah and his immediate family in a very vivid detail. The author has blended the art of Eastern story telling with Western detail to produce a real page turner.

The book offers the best story of the Islamic revolution right from its inception to its peak in 1979. It seems that the Shah did not defend monarchy in modern state of Iran, choosing instead to counter the external threat of communism with counter propaganda, thus delivering the common man to the mosque and its clergy, making the Islamic revolution inevitable. It is pretty strange that the Shah although educated in Europe failed to follow the example set by a number of European monarchies as they successfully transformed from ruling absolutely to reigning in name only. How did the Shah see his own rule? He portrayed himself as doing a thankless job almost like some sort of humanitarian philanthropic endeavour which must have further enraged the young Iranians.

I loved the gradual manner in which the author brought the Islamic revolution to a crescendo in the last chapters with many astute observations of the some of the contemporary players. This biography presents a unique and whole picture of the Shah, from a humble beginnings to the height of his career to his end as an international pariah.

The book left a strong feeling of compassion for the Shah, like a true lover spurned by his beloved who ultimately paid the ultimate price for his true love.

The only question left is the main reasons for the Islamic revolution in Iran. As the author points out, none of the major reasons for a revolution were present. There was no poverty, jobs were aplenty, democracy in some way and form was there. It isn't still clear to me what prompted the Iranians to revolt. The most ardent followers of revolution were from the new urban class, the peasants uprooted from their villages living in cities. The Shah choose provide more economic and personal growth to try and assuage threat from the new class instead of providing them with their own political representation which is the common practice among most third world sham democracies. But unfortunately this move only provided an already frustrated class further reasons for blame and impetus for revolution. Further during the lean period of democracy clerical figures like Khomeini were able to proclaim their democratic credentials. The Shah was also dumped by the Americans right towards the end who seemed to be more than happy to deal with the new revolutionaries giving credence to the new Islamic regime.

So I guess the Islamic revolution was hardly a revolution but a takeover in reality, by a very shrewd Islamic clergy, the only resort to democracy in an era of political vacuum.
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on 27 May 2016
This is a very unbiased and comprehensive history with lots of cross-referencing. The writer's commitment is commendable.
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on 9 November 2011
Milani tries to record nearly everything that's of any note into one almost definitive biography. The detail at times reads almost like a daily log of arguments and official business. Where events are controversial, as in the 1953 showdown with Mossadeq's government, Milani gives a blizzard of perspectives and lets you be the judge. The reporting is so rich in detail that readers can come away weeping for the Shah's lost greatness, or freshly infuriated by his corruption. You will find what you are looking for. The account that stays with me concerns the Shah's virtual panic attack at the prospect of becoming a mere symbolic constitutional monarch in 1953. Milani describes him pacing up and down, finding nothing to do all day long. The prospect of an empty future without power was too much for him to bear. He just couldn't let it go.
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on 23 April 2015
Quick delivery, great quality. I couldn't be happier.
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on 4 September 2014
great great book. everyone should read it.
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on 22 February 2013
It is extremely well researched book and it encompasses all sides with a great deal of references to so many reliable sources. If anyone wants to understand Iran and its present conflict with the West should read this book.
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