Publication Date

Spring 2015


Muhammad Reza Pahlavi (1941-1979) came to be known as the last Shah of Iran due to the success of an unprecedented religious revolution that dismantled the traditional Iranian monarchy. The curious nature of the Iranian Revolution has drawn many scholars to explore its origins and the factors contributing to its unanticipated conclusion. There exists, in the field, extensive analysis of the Shah’s accelerated modernization scheme and weakened administrative system,1 but little scrutiny of his cancer, hidden from the public for five years, as contributory to his fall. Only a very few people were aware of the fact that the Shah was fighting a chronic illness as he was faced with a crisis in his country. Certainly, serious diagnosis does not come without physical and psychological effects, which are likely to impact political decision-making in a national leader as they often manifest in behavioral changes in average patients. It has been suggested that serious health conditions in heads of state can acutely disable a government from effectively confronting a crisis such as increasing opposition to the established system. 2 If analyzed in the context of the Shah’s illness, previously examined factors contributing to the growth and culmination of the opposition can provide even further insight into the unforeseen dissolution of the Iranian monarchy. A medical and psychological analysis suggests the Shah’s cancer may very well have influenced his policy choice to accelerate his modernization program, which resulted in a strained society conducive to successful revolution.

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