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The Shah Hardcover – January 4, 2011

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan Trade; First edition (January 4, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1403971935
  • ISBN-13: 978-1403971937
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.5 x 1.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (59 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #221,750 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Over the course of almost 40 years, Mohammad Reza Shah was a colossus in Iran, the one constant in a swirl of changing loyalties, political fortunes, and pressures both domestic and international; by the end of his reign, virtually no state decision could be taken, save by him. But as this biography reveals, this accumulation of authority was more a function of the Shah's lifelong distrust of all around him than it was any indication of skill in governing, or of genuine control. Milani (Eminent Persians) paints a richly detailed picture of a complex man plagued by demons and paranoia (much of it well-founded), at once insecure and megalomaniacal. Yet the thicket of biographical detail can leaves the reader longing for more analysis. Milani regularly mentions the Shah's flights of mysticism, for instance, but doesn't place them in any context: was the Shah delusional, or is talk of divine inspiration common in Iranian political discourse? Or both? Milani's book is a good source on the life of one of the 20th century's more enigmatic figures--good enough to pique the reader's frustration that it isn't great. (Jan.)
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From Booklist

A deeply researched portrait of Mohammad Reza Pahlevi, this biography extracts the personality of the last shah of Iran from the royal grandiosity in which he lived. Milani describes him as timid, prone to vacillation, and prey to conspiracy theories, perhaps not ideal traits in an absolute monarch who initiated a modernizing revolution from above, only to be dethroned in 1979 by social forces his authoritarian policies had unleashed. Recounting the shah’s childhood, Milani underscores how closely he was supervised by his father, a military officer who had seized the throne in 1925. In a 1941 political crisis that resulted in young Mohammad’s ascension, the 1953 coup against the Mossadegh government, and the 1978–79 revolution, Milani depicts the shah as fretful, indecisive, and obsessed with detail, extensively citing British and American diplomatic reports about him. The shah’s private life, which included three wives, alleged mistresses, and extravagances in palaces and other riches, is effectively depicted. With sympathy born of a compassion for someone in over his head, Milani’s meticulous amassing of facts establishes a base for readers to form their own opinions. --Gilbert Taylor

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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I stopped reading this book from sheer fury many times.
Shirin Afrasiabi
I found the book engrossing and a delight, every passage begins with a passage from Shakespeare (very apropos)!
James T.
I appreciated Dr. Milani's extensive research for this book.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

45 of 48 people found the following review helpful By Kersi Von Zerububbel VINE VOICE on February 12, 2011
Format: Hardcover
A month or so ago I was reading about the suicide of one of the Shah's sons in Boston. This rekindled my interest in the Shah and his reign. In India, I recall it was a *big deal* amongst Zoroastrians when the Shah married Soraya and since my ancestors were originally from Persia (Iran) I looked around for a good history and picked Mr. Abbas Milani's book.

This is a wonderful book that flows easily and keeps one hooked. The text gives a fairly detailed account of how the Shah came to be in power and how Britain, America, and Russia influenced Iranian politics and history. The political machinations of various players are scoped out in goodly portions. Of course, with hindsight, one can easily see how the Shah was doomed beginning as early as 1963. Then at the height of his power and flushed with petro dollars, the decade of 1965 - 1975 was the halcyon point. Or was it? Per Mr. Milani the Shah failed to cease the initiative during this decade and compromise with the intellectual middle class and the religious players. Had he done so who knows where Iran would be now. Much good that the Shah had wrought was overwhelmed by corruption, in-fighting, and outright incompetence.

What saddened me were the last days of the Shah. Shuffled from country to country the poor man had no true friends and only one Statesman, Anwar Sadat, who gave him succor. I recall seeing the Shah in interviews on TV in the seventies and the change was remarkable.

One aspect about this book that disappointed me to no end was the COMPLETE lack of any photographs of the historical figures discussed so eloquently in the text. I understand with copyright laws and cost cutting some publishers are taking this route. But I am afraid this significantly marrs an otherwise outstanding work.
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Format: Hardcover
This book is really terrific. I picked it up and I simply could not put it down. Milani does a great job of balancing substantive information with a narrative that is simply enthralling. The book is based on previously classified documents and is written in a way that flows perfectly. I feel like I really have a sense of the true Shah and why events in Iran went the way they did. If you want to read any book on the Shah or Iran, this is it!
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Samuel W. Coulbourn on September 28, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a marvelous, wide-ranging and intelligently written story of the reign of Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlevi. It looks to me to be an excellent piece of scholarship.
I lived just down the street from the Shah for two years, from 1970 to 1972, and I served as an advisor to his Supreme Military Staff, and advised in the creation of his National Defence University, but I don't presume to be an expert on the Shah.
During the years that I lived and worked in Iran, and in all that I have read and heard since then, the Shah was a good leader for Iran, trying to bring a backward country into the modern world, and to carve out a greater part for Iran in the world. When I was there, and since the Shah was restored to his throne less than 20 years before, the Soviet Union loomed large on the landscape. Everything we did in and with Iran reflected our need to keep Iran on our side in the great balancing act between the USSR and the West.
During World War II Britain, the United States and the USSR all stationed forces in Iran in order to ship millions of tons of military supplies and food north to Russia. At war's end, the British and Americans began to leave, but the Soviets occupied northern provinces, and appeared very determined to annex those parts of the country.
The Shah, with British and American help, was able to expel the Soviet troops from those northern provinces.
When I was there the Shah had just about reached the high point of his rule. The British, in a long-before announced move, had taken their navy out of the waters "east ofAden", or the Red Sea, and with American encouragement the Shah's Imperial Navy was taking over a larger role in the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman, and gradually, theIndian Ocean.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Shirin Afrasiabi on May 12, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I stopped reading this book from sheer fury many times. It was frustrating to read.It showed how a few men and one woman, made decisions about a whole nation's direction of life! It was very infuriating. It also validated most of the suspecions most of us Iranian-Americans grew up with. However, I picked it up again and again, because I had to know more.
It is a comprehensive look at how and why and who did what in our history!
I was a little disappointed that Dr. Milani could not hide his distaste for the Shah a little better. As objective and factual as he is about most all of the information, his dislike for the Shah is palpable throughout his book.Other than that, I am certain this will be a great source of reference for most people. It will illuminate or disillude many of the misguided political activists, who have given up their youth and livelihoods for their politiacl beliefs. Many will realize how those few people, influenced and directed various belief systems in that nation. They implemented and removed belief systems like they were pieces of furniture! Created whole governments and constitutions simply as a fecade to appease their allies and enemies, while manipulated key features of the system in the background to their own benefits! The foreign involvment in Iran's domestic affairs would not have been as comprehensive and as effective, without the help of the many traitors who sold themselves repeatedly and relentlessly.
In reading between the lines it becomes obvious, how The Shah evolved from a naive and petrified, yet arrogant young man into a savy polititian that learned the game and played it well for a long time. He was intoxicated by his power and success and finally was overthrown when inebriated!
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