“Mirrors for princes” and kingship in modern Iran
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This report examines the legacy of “mirrors for princes” literature, or advice literature for kings, in Iranian political thought, particularly in the modern period. While most scholars have studied ‘mirrors’ literature as a predominantly medieval phenomenon, this report argues that the genre and the ideals of kingship it articulates continued to flourish well into the modern period in Iran. Through an analysis of themes found both in the medieval Persian texts and the ‘mirrors’ composed in the Safavid and Qajar periods, this report demonstrates a remarkable continuity in the genre and in the ideology of kingship throughout centuries of dynastic and structural changes in Iran. Moreover, although the genre of ‘mirrors’ appears to have faded with the Qajar dynasty, this report shows how its ideology of kingship continued to influence the rhetoric of political legitimacy in the Pahlavi period. Muhammad Reza Shah in particular relied on the office of the king and his duties of executing justice and protecting Islam to justify both the necessity of the monarchy and his right to the throne.