Nader Shah: Warlord or National Hero? The Eighteenth Century in Iranian Historiography

The Middle East Studies Program presents a USC Dornsife-Farhang Foundation
Iranian Studies Initiative Lecture

Nader Shah: Warlord or National Hero?
The Eighteenth Century in Iranian Historiography

Prof. Rudi Matthee, Distinguished Professor of History
University of Delaware

Monday, Nov. 3
Mudd Hall of Philosophy, Room 101
4:00 – 5:30 PM

Iran and its historiography in the early modern period conjure the image of a deeply schizophrenic country. There is the (perceived) splendor and sophistication of the Safavid
period, followed by a century of anarchy during which Iran became a dark and dangerous country, run by warlords and mostly shunned by the outside word.

As the world was radically reconfigured in the 18th century, Iranians continued to live in
an inward-looking mode. Yet, the early nineteenth century confronted Iranians with humiliating defeats by the Russians and British intrusion from the south. Conscious of having “fallen behind” they were nonetheless proud of their historical memory.

“Ancient glory, present misery,” to use Partha Chatterjee’s term, has been the theme for modern Iranians.

Prof. Matthee’s presentation will examine the ways in which Iranians have sought to fit the
nineteenth century into a unbroken, uplifting national narrative by highlighting the stature
of the two rulers who seem to provide some coherence in what is an otherwise chaotic period: Nader Shah and Karim Khan Zand.


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