This essay analyzes the incontrovertible weakening of the Safavid state in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century by putting it in a larger context. It does so by comparing various manifestations of Iran’s “decline” at the time to conditions and developments in the adjacent Ottoman and Mughal states, where similar processes were playing out in the same period. In order to arrive at a measured and balanced view of similarities and differences between these three early modern Islamic empires, it singles out and focuses on four areas: geographical/environmental and economic conditions, political developments, the state of the army, and ideological characteristics.
BarkeyK.EsherickJoseph W.KayalıHasanYoungEric Van“Changing Modalities: A Comparative Study of Ottoman and Habsburg Decline”Empire to Nation: Historical Perspectives on the Making of the Modern World2006Lanham, MD16797
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MitchellC.“Am I My Brother’s Keeper? Negotiating Corporate Sovereignty and Divine Absolutism in Sixteenth-Century Turko-Iranian Politics”New Perspectives on Safavid Iran: Empire and Society2011Abingdon and New York3358Idem, ed.
SoudavarA.KeddieNikki R.MattheeRudi“The Early Safavids and Their Cultural Interactions with Surrounding States”Iran and the Surrounding World. Interactions in Culture and Cultural Politics2002Seattle89120
SubrahmanyamS.IslamoǧluHuriPerduePeter“The Fate of Empires: Rethinking Mughals, Ottomans and Habsburgs”Shared Histories of Modernity: China, India and the Ottomans Empire2009London, New York, and New Delhi74108
WhiteS.“Ottomans in Early Modern Global History”201162345349Review article of Karen Barkey, Empire of Difference; Baki Tezcan, The Second Ottoman Empire; and Giancarlo Casale, The Ottoman Age of Exploration, Journal of Global History
For the Mughal situation, see Kruijtzer, p. 272. For the Ottomans, see White.
Tezcan, p. 47,sees Sultan Ahmed i’s peaceful enthronement in 1603 as a “major victory for the constitutionalists, whose goal was to secure the supremacy of the law over the dynasty.” He makes a similar argument about the succession of Sultan Mostafā i in 1617, pp. 72ff.
For the Safavid case, see Babayan, pp. 373-74. For the Ottomans, see Peirce, pp. 99-101. The Mughal case is discussed in Blake, 2011, p. 220.
Eaton, p. 266,concludes that, . . . “Aurangzeb’s policies respecting temples within imperial domains generally followed those of his predecessors.”
For the tribal breakouts, see Bayly,1989, pp. 38ff.