Authors Name: 
Nina Chitaia
University of St. Andrews
Highly commended

Nasir al-Din Shah and the Failure of Reform

During the nineteenth century, the Iranian state was in need for modernization to compete with the Western powers. However, the patrimonial system of governance impeded the implementation of reforms, as Nasir al-Din Shah, the ruler of Iran, subjected others under his patriarchal rule and exploited political power as his personal property. Although the Shah acknowledged the importance of establishing a modern bureaucracy in order to develop effective means of control, he feared that introducing elements of modernity would jeopardize his absolute power and reduce his ability to exploit arbitrary control over his subjects. In light of Weber’s theories concerning the structure of patrimonial state, this essay argues that the Shah’s paranoia that reforms would compromise monarchial authority impeded his ability to improve the government, educational system, and finances, which eventually weakened his rule.