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Nader Shah and Napoleon: Fear and Hope on a Eurasian Canvass: A Historiographical Comparison

Dates:
  • Thu 01 Dec 2016 15.00 - 17.00
  Add to Calendar 2016-12-01 15:00 2016-12-01 17:00 Europe/Paris Nader Shah and Napoleon: Fear and Hope on a Eurasian Canvass: A Historiographical Comparison

Iran and its historiography in the early modern period conjure the image of a deeply schizofrenic county. There is the (perceived) splendor and sophistication of the Safavid period, when the country’s roads were known for their safety and Isfahan drew countless admiring foreign visitors. All this came crashing down with the assault by Afghan tribesmen resulting in the fall of Isfahan and the demise of the Safavids in 1722. What followed was a century of chaos and anarchy during which Iran became a dark and dangerous county, run by warlords and mostly shunned by the outside word. As the world was radically reconfigured in the 18th century, Iranians, relatively isolated, continued to live in a rather inward-looking mode, secure in the knowledge that their country was the envy of the world—until the early 19th century, when the Russians inflicted a series of humiliating defeats on them and they became the playground of imperialist powers. My presentation discusses the ways in which Iranians sought to come to terms with this cruel confrontation with the modern world in this period, conscious of having fallen behind yet proudly mindful of their historical memory. It does so through the lens of the two warlords that dominate the scene—Nader Shah and Napoleon Bonaparte. The relationship between the reputation of Napoleon and Nader Shah in Iran—and Europe—seems something like a dialogic engagement: Napoleon saw himself as a latter-day Nader; Nader in due time and in good Orientalist fashion became known, first in Europe, then in Iran, as the Asian Napoleon; and, completing the cycle in an anti-Orientalist and post-colonial manner, Napoleon is now often called the European Nader Shah.

Sala del Consiglio - Villa Salviati- Castle DD/MM/YYYY
  Sala del Consiglio - Villa Salviati- Castle

Iran and its historiography in the early modern period conjure the image of a deeply schizofrenic county. There is the (perceived) splendor and sophistication of the Safavid period, when the country’s roads were known for their safety and Isfahan drew countless admiring foreign visitors. All this came crashing down with the assault by Afghan tribesmen resulting in the fall of Isfahan and the demise of the Safavids in 1722. What followed was a century of chaos and anarchy during which Iran became a dark and dangerous county, run by warlords and mostly shunned by the outside word. As the world was radically reconfigured in the 18th century, Iranians, relatively isolated, continued to live in a rather inward-looking mode, secure in the knowledge that their country was the envy of the world—until the early 19th century, when the Russians inflicted a series of humiliating defeats on them and they became the playground of imperialist powers. My presentation discusses the ways in which Iranians sought to come to terms with this cruel confrontation with the modern world in this period, conscious of having fallen behind yet proudly mindful of their historical memory. It does so through the lens of the two warlords that dominate the scene—Nader Shah and Napoleon Bonaparte. The relationship between the reputation of Napoleon and Nader Shah in Iran—and Europe—seems something like a dialogic engagement: Napoleon saw himself as a latter-day Nader; Nader in due time and in good Orientalist fashion became known, first in Europe, then in Iran, as the Asian Napoleon; and, completing the cycle in an anti-Orientalist and post-colonial manner, Napoleon is now often called the European Nader Shah.


Location:
Sala del Consiglio - Villa Salviati- Castle

Affiliation:
Department of History and Civilization

Type:
Lecture

Organiser:
Jorge Flores (European University Institute)

Contact:
Alina Maria Vlad (EUI - Department of History and Civilization) - Send a mail

Speaker:
Rudi Matthee (University of Delaware)

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