When he was assassinated in 1896, Nasir al-Din Shah had sat on the Peacock throne for nearly half a century. A colorful, 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, 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.