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  • Cited by 3
Cambridge University Press
Online publication date:
January 2021
Print publication year:
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Book description

Histories of Iran, as of the wider Middle East, have been dominated by the twin narratives of top-down modernization and methodological nationalism. In this book, Stephanie Cronin problematizes both of these narratives. Its attention is firmly fixed on subaltern social groups: the 'dangerous classes' and their constructed contrast with the new and avowedly modern bourgeois elite created by the infant Pahlavi state; the hungry poor pitted against the deregulation and globalization of the late nineteenth century Iranian economy; rural criminals of every variety, bandits, smugglers and pirates, and the profoundly ambiguous attitudes towards them of the communities from which they came. In foregrounding these groups, the book also seeks to move beyond a narrow national context, demonstrating, through a series of case-studies, the explanatory power of global, transnational and comparative approaches to the study of the social history of the Middle East.


‘Cronin combines her detailed knowledge of social history of Iran and the Middle East with new readings of E. P. Thompson, Eric Hobsbawm, and Michel Foucault. The result is a remarkably fresh look at the history of the Middle east and diaspora, where events that happened in the region, whether bread riots or campaigns for unveiling, cease to be explicable only by the history of that nation, and become instead one example of a much bigger global story.’

Janet Afary - University of California, Santa Barbara

‘In this most exciting study of social history of Iran, Cronin provides a masterful comparative contextual framework for understanding how social change, and exchange, takes place and exposes the international pressure points impacting the complex processes of change in social relations. Packed with historical insights and deep theoretical reflections, in this book Cronin displays her profound knowledge of the processes of social change as experienced by vulnerable communities.’

Anoush Ehteshami - Durham University

‘Scholarship on the history of the Middle East tends to be state centered, urban concentrated and elite driven. Cronin breaks with that habit. Using an array of sources, Cronin opens a panoramic window into the lives of those who were both (neglected) victims and agents of change in Iran and the wider Middle East. A model for future research on Middle Eastern societies beyond high nationalism, this is an innovative and theoretically sophisticated book.’

Rudolph Matthee - University of Delaware

‘Cronin de-centers elites and national borders to write layered, interconnected, and expansive social histories on topics ranging from abolitionism in the Middle East to the 1979 Iranian revolution. This book exemplifies the power of a global framework of analysis when applied thoughtfully and with erudition.’

Naghmeh Sohrabi - Brandeis University

'Every chapter is rich in detail, supplemented by footnotes that serve as a wonderful guide to the social history literature in Persian and English, and a 28-page bibliography. The introductory chapter is an excellent, detailed summary of the book’s theses. Recommended.'

P. Clawson Source: Choice

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