The history of Pahlavi Iran has traditionally been written as prologue to the 1979 Iranian Revolution and firmly located within a national historical context. However, the reign of the last Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi (1941-1979), in fact marked the high-point of Iran’s global interconnectedness. Never before had Iranians felt the impact of global political, social, economic, and cultural forces so intimately in their national and daily lives, nor had Iranian actors played such an important global role, on battlefields, barricades, and in board rooms far beyond Iran’s borders.
Mention of the British East India Company brings to mind visions of imperialism, exploitation and oppression of colonial peoples in Asia, and India as the “jewel in the British crown”. The Company was all that and more.
Sex and death, the twin yet conflicting human compulsions identified by Freud, abound in this vivid and sensual epic of love and loss set against the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s.
It’s pretty hard to compete with the invention of the chariot, the Silk Road, Genghis Khan and Tamerlane, so Christoph Baumer’s fourth and presumably final volume in his magisterial history of Central Asia is something of a mopping up operation.
It is worth periodically remembering—as the tsunami of news of China’s momentous economic and political developments rushes past—that China has not always been “Chinese” in the quite the way it is, or can be presented to be, today.