Steele, Robert. 2020. The Shah’s imperial celebrations of 1971: Nationalism, culture and politics in late Pahlavi Iran. London: I.B. Tauris.
In October 1971 Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, Shah of Iran, held a celebration to commemorate the 2500th anniversary of the founding of the Persian Empire by Cyrus the Great. Dozens of heads of state descended on Persepolis for these Celebrations, where they were regaled to sumptuous banquets and entertainment. Critical journalists in Western Europe and North America lambasted the Shah for holding such a decadent event while many of his people lived in poverty. Due to the overwhelmingly negative press at the time, the event is still today widely remembered as a catastrophic failure.It is even said by many to have sparked the unrest that eventually led to the revolution and the Shah’s downfall in 1979.
In this first comprehensive academic study of the 2500th Anniversary Celebrations, Robert Steele looks beyond the pomp and splendour to examine the events’ origins, the goals the organisers set out to achieve with them and the extent to which these goals were accomplished. The book seeks to place the Celebrations in the context of the Shah’s rise, rather than his fall, uncovering the unparalleled international cultural and scholarly operation that was spurred by the Iranian regime for the occasion, exploring the effects the event had on Iran’s tourism industry and questioning narratives of the event’s cost.