When he was assassinated in 1896, Nasir al-Din Shah had sat on the Peacock throne for nearly half a century. A colourful, complex figure, he is frequently portrayed as indolent and self-indulgent. Yet, he was in many ways an effective ruler who displayed exceptional resilience in the face of dilemmas and vulnerabilities shared by most monarchs of the Islamic world in the nineteenth century.In this book - the first in English about Nasir al-Din Shah - Abbas Amanat gives us both a biography of the man and an analysis of the institution of monarchy in modern Iran. Nasir al-Din Shah developed from an insecure crown prince and later an erratic boy-king in the 1840s and 50s into a ruler with substantial control over his government and foreign policy in the 1860s and beyond. Amanat examines this transformation and explores how traditional monarchies drew strength as they accommodated themselves to the forces of modernity.Based on extensive archival research in both public and private collections and illustrated with drawings and photographs from the period, "Pivot of the Universe" offers a fresh interpretation of the evolution of monarchy in modern times as it interacted with the institutions of government, the society at large and Western powers.
Abbas Amanat is Professor of History at Yale University. His publications include Resurrection and Renewal: the Making of the Babi Movement in Iran, 1844-1850 and he is the co-editor of 'Imagining the End' (I.B.Tauris).
List of Illustrations; Preface; Note on Transliteration and Style; INTRODUCTION: THE ROYAL DOMAIN; From the Tent to the Throne; The Shah and His Subjects; Within Fragile Frontiers; Nobility and the Problem of Succession; 1. THE CHILD OF TURKMANCHAY; Unhappy Union; Lonesome Childhood; Struggle for Heir Apparency; 2. A MIRROR FOR THE PRINCE; Formal Education; The Fight and the Feast; Lesson of the Mirrors; Display of the World; Rehearsal for the Throne; The Prophet and the Priests; 3. ASCENDING THE THRONE; Departing for the Capital; People's Council and Power Contest; Wearing the Kayanid Crown; Machination and Mutiny; 4. THE SHAH AND HIS ATABAK; Learning to Rule; The Sublime Cradle; Castle of Mirrors, Cannonballs of Sedition. Killing the Atabak; 5. A NARROW ESCAPE; Return to the Old Ways; The Assassination Attempt; The Babi Bloodbath; An Inadvertent Victim; 6. PLAYING THE POWER GAME; The Heart Debacle; The King of the Shi'ites; The Curse of the Protected; Alliance with Russia; Royal Rights Ridiculed; 7. YOUTHFUL AMBITIONS; Bully-Boy Diplomacy; Uprooting the Victorian Tree; Conquest of Heart; In Search of Friends: France and the United States; War in the Persian Gulf; Peace with England; Saving Face; 8. ABOLISHING THE SIDARAT; The Flying Gazelle and the Absolute Potentate; Delegating Power; Ruinous Fever; The Valley of Dismissal; Fate of a Fallen Minister; 9. BALANCING THE OLD AND THE NEW; Holding the Reins of Power; In the House of Oblivion; An Honest Goodwill Mission; Ominous Conjunction; Fearing Him Who Fears; The Royal Prerogative; EPILOGUE: REMNANTS OF A REIGN; Precarious Order Within; From Defiance to Deference; A Personal Universe; Chaos Revisited; Legacy of a Long Reign; Abbreviations; Notes; Bibliography; Index.