Overview of Chapter Q: This unpopular Iranian monarch struggled to maintain a balance between modernization and political autonomy in the late nineteenth century as Great Britain and Russia fought for control of Central Asia. The shah’s inability to satisfy his own appetite for luxury made this struggle more difficult and more interesting. The chapter also examines the division between Sunni and Shi’a, commercial concessions to Western entrepreneurs, Queen Victoria’s reign, and the ways in which World Fairs in London, Paris, and Vienna were expressions of late nineteenth century industrialization, nationalism, and imperialism.
1. Does Nasir-al Din Shah Qajar deserve credit for keeping Iran from becoming either a British or Russian colony in the 19th century?
2. What was the most important factor in preventing lasting reform in Iran in the second half of the 19th century?
3. Which of Nasir al-Din Shah's trips were the most meaningful for Iran?
1. If you were the shah of Iran between 1850-1900 and could make four trips abroad, where would you travel? What would you want to see? What years would you go?
2. Write an imaginary dialog between Nasir al-Din Shah Qajar and Russia's Alexander II, Germany's Bismarck, Britain's Victoria, Austria's Franz-Joseph I, or the Ottoman Empire's Abdul Hamid II.
3. Nasir al-Din Shah Qajar was quite interested in photography. Examine a collection of late 19th century photographs. What do these images tell us as historians? What do they tell us about the subjects and the photographers?
For a discussion of the ways in which noted intellectual Mirza Melkum Khan Nazim al-Dowleh (1832-1908) supported and criticized Nasir al-Din Shah’s government, see: Rohollah Tahernia, Reza Shabani Samghabadi, Sina Forouzesh, “The Aim of Mirza Melkum Khan Nazim al-Dowleh from Supporting Constitutional Movement,” International Journal of Social Sciences, Vol. 10, No. 1 (2020), 39-44, http://ijss.srbiau.ac.ir/article_15723_d93edc8f290713cb6de71653ee425047.pdf
Map for Chapter Q: This map by the author is in the print edition of the book and shows the important places in the Middle East for Nasir al-Din Shah Qajar.
Map for Chapter Q: This map by the author is in the print edition of the book and shows the important places where Nasir al-Din Shah traveled during his three European trips.
Map for Chapter Q: This map by the author is in the print edition of the book and shows the important places Great Britain that Nasir al-Din Shah visited.
“Prince Holding a Falcon,” oil painting by anonymous, c. 1820, courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2017.646.
This oil on copper painting was done by Bahram Kirmanshahi in 1857 and is currently in the Louvre Museum in Paris. Photograph by Marie-Lan Nguyen in 2006. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
World Fairs played an important role in Nasir al-Din Shah Qajar's European travels. His second was to the event in Vienna in 1873, which was attended by 35 countries. Vienna hoped to showcase itself as a world-class city, and the Austrian Hungarian Empire hoped to showcase its strength, but the Fair was marred by a cholera outbreak and a stock-market crash. This image is a chromolithograph of the Rotunde. Original source unknown, but image courtesy of http://jdpecon.com/.