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Sepahdar, Fathollah Khan Akbar: A Biography

Published Date: May 15, 2024

On Order


January 23, 2024

About the Book

The history of modern Iran has been momentous, precarious, and turbulent. The country’s struggle with democracy started in 1906 with the Constitutional Revolution that established Iran’s first parliamentary democracy and ended in 1921 with a coup d’état that eventually brought a new monarch to power. Sepahdar: Fathollah Khan Akbar is the biography of a consequential player during this period.


By the 1880s, Fathollah Khan Akbar had inherited enormous wealth from his uncle, and had added to it from running the Gilan and Mazandaran customs administrations. He was an important provincial landowner who on several occasions had hosted Mozaffar al-Din Shah. However, as the Constitutional Revolution started to take shape and protests hit home, he became involved in national politics and came out in support of the cause and the Majles.  Over his forty-year political career, during which he witnessed the rule of five monarchs, Sepahdar experienced setbacks such as imprisonment and kidnapping, as well as victories such as the 1909 “Triumph of Tehran,” which he personally financed while exiled from the city by the shah. Throughout these ups and downs, and while Iran had been divided into zones of Russian and British influence, Sepahdar played all sides while maintaining a strong sense of patriotism and independence. During both his short premierships, he repeatedly defied British authorities when Iran’s interests were at risk.


This book is for those interested in Iran’s political history in the first quarter of the twentieth century. It sets out, in granular detail, the events, obstacles, and characters involved in the struggle to form an independent democracy. And it provides much new information, including how Sepahdar and the future Reza Shah Pahlavi collaborated to achieve a coup that was bloodless. As a bonus, the preface by Goli Akbar Kashani, Sepahdar’s granddaughter, is suffused with family stories and memories.


Sepahdar is a rich and well-rounded portrait…It’s an eventful story, and Goli Akbar Kashani, a granddaughter of the Sepahdar, has added a preface rich in family anecdotes and recollections to round out this fact-filled biography.  

—Shaul Bakhash, Clarence Robinson Professor of History Emeritus, George Mason University

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