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ModernIranPaper - Gregory Arnold HIST 3001-Modern Iran...

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Gregory Arnold HIST 3001-Modern Iran Professor Atkins The Nostalgic Revolutionary: al-Afghani and the Tyranny of Naser al-Din Shah The 19 th century saw the beginning of the second Age of Imperialism, as the Great Powers of Europe sought to divide up the world between them. This was done through either direct domination, the fate that befell most of Africa and South Asia, or through indirect domination. It was this condition that befell Iran following the Napoleonic Wars, continuing and intensifying for the rest of the century. However, it was under the longest-reigning of the Qajar shahs, Naser al-Din Shah, which the Western domination combined with internal corruption, leading to an inept and outright terrifying period to overcome the once proud Persian Empire. This is the climate in which Jamal al-Din al-Afghani came to the British court to report on the condition of Iran, the conditions supported by these foreign governments. Al-Afghani’s “The Reign of Terror in Persia” shows that, even with the grievous abuses committed by the Shah, the revolutionary anti-monarchist thought associated with Iran’s latest revolution were not yet developed. Rather, thinkers and dissidents, such as al-Afghani, were perfectly willing to promote previous Iranian styles of governance, and weren’t ashamed of looking abroad for assistance in doing so. The situation that befell Iran in the 19 th century was a sad departure for this historically great empire. The poor leadership of the Qajar dynasty had led to financial and infrastructural mismanagement, and this once powerful empire was now at a fraction of its former glory. This oppression may not have been new, as the period following the Safavi Dynasty and the reign of Nader Shah show 1 , but combined with the recession of the state’s precedence in the region was 1 Ernest Tucker, “Nāder Shah,” Enclyclopaedia Iranica [on-line]; available from http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/nader-shah ; Internet; accessed 28 November 2011.
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no aid to the issue. Another factor that added to the incensing in Iran was that even under previous periods of repression and tyranny; Iran’s actions were always guided by the Shah and other figures of Iranian authority. But by the time of Naser al-Din, Iran was no longer the master of its own fate, being divided instead between competing British and Russian spheres of influence. Furthermore, Iran was economically subject to the whims of these states, and the government routinely granted either these kingdoms, or private citizens, massive concessions over Iran’s economy. 2 Al-Afghani’s disdain for Naser al-Din Shah’s government is openly apparent in “The Reign of Terror in Persia.” In this oration to the British royal court, al-Afghani starts off by attacking both the injustices of the government against the people of Iran, but also against the government itself. In these attacks, al-Afghani characterizes three major issues with the Iran of his time 3 : 1. Corruption within the Qajar regime
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ModernIranPaper - Gregory Arnold HIST 3001-Modern Iran...

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