Between Decays and Regeneration: The 18th Century in Iranian History and Historiography

A lecture by:

Rudi Matthee, History, University of Delaware

An exercise in identity formation, this talk probes the ways in which Iranians – both persophone elites and the subaltern who rarely speaks – since Safavid times have engaged with the world around them. It views the apparent rupture represented by the three-quarter century following the fall of Isfahan in 1722 as crucial in this process of self-fashioning. Relatively isolated from global currents in the period, Iran’s elites by 1800 were ill-prepared for the aggressiveness of the new world that had meanwhile come into being. Matthee talk demonstrates that their subsequent interaction with the world was not linear, but circuitous, full of contradiction, a blend of pragmatism, admiration and skepticism inherited from past times, producing a self-view that was just as ambivalent.

Event Information


Thursday, October 27th, 2016

5:00 – 7:00 pm


Richard Ettinghausen Library
Kevorkian Centre
50 Washington Square South
New York, NY 10012


Rudi Matthee, History, University of Delaware

Rudi Matthee serves as the John and Dorothy Munroe Distinguished Professor of History at the University of Delaware, where he teaches Middle Eastern history, with a research focus on early modern Iran and the Persian Gulf. His books include The Politics of Trade in Safavid Iran: Silk for Silver, 1600-1730 (Cambridge University Press, 1999); The Pursuit of Pleasure: Drugs and Stimulants in Iranian History, 1500-1900 (Princeton University Press, 2005); Persia in Crisis: Safavid Decline and the Fall of Isfahan (I.B. Tauris, 2012); and, with Willem Floor and Patrick Clawson, The Monetary History of Iran. From the Safavids to the Qajars  (I.B. Tauris, 2013). He co-edited, with Beth Baron, Iran and Beyond: Essays in Honor of Nikki R. Keddie (2000); co-edited, with Nikki Keddie, Iran and the Surrounding World, 1501-2001:Interactions in Culture and Cultural Politics (2002); and, with Jorge Flores, Portugal, the Persian Gulf and Safavid Persia (Peeters, 2011). He has also published numerous articles on aspects of Safavid and Qajar Iran. He served as president of the Association for the Study of Persianate Societies, 2009-2011. He received the 2006 Albert Hourani Book Prize, awarded by the Middle East Studies Association of North America, the Saidi Sirjani Award, 2004-2005, awarded by the International Society for Iranian Studies, the British-Kuwaiti Friendship Book Prize, 2012, and, twice, the prize for best foreign-language book on Iran from the Iranian Ministry of Culture.