The Decline of Safavid Iran in Comparative Perspective

in Journal of Persianate Studies
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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.



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For the difference, see Subrahmanyam, p. 82.


See the discussion in Erikson, pp. 38-40.


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.


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