Military History Safavid Army
by
Douglas E. Streusand
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 March 2019
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791279-0185

Introduction

Ruling from 1501 through 1722, the Safavid dynasty unified the eastern and western halves of the Iranian plateau and imposed Twelver Shiʿism on the population. The interpretation of the Safavid Empire as a revival of an Iranian imperial tradition dating back to the Achaemenids is not credible, but the dynasty did create the framework in which modern Iran developed. By creating a large Shiʿi polity and politicizing the Sunni-Shiʿi split, the Safavids established an essential part of the framework of the modern Middle East. Safavid military history had three phases. From the beginning of the polity in 1501 until the Ottoman Sultan Selim (r. 1512–1520) defeated the founder of the Safavid polity, Shah Ismaʿil I (r. 1501–1524) at Chaldiran in 1514, the Safavid army was a tribal army. The Turkmen tribes (uymaq) that followed the Safavid rulers were known as the Qizilbash (red heads) after their distinctive red head gear. The Safavid Empire differed little from the earlier tribal Turkic and Mongol tribal confederations that had dominated much of the Middle East since the 11th century. In the second phase, from 1514 through the reign of Shah ʿAbbas I (r. 1588–1629) the Safavid military system evolved from an army of tribal cavalry to a composite force with cavalry recruited through several different mechanisms, and artillery and infantry components. The transformation gave the Safavids an army capable of defeating the Uzbeks and Mughals and, under conditions of advantage, the Ottomans. From the death of ʿAbbas I until the collapse of the empire in 1722, the third phase, the military organization did not change, but lost vitality and capacity. In 1648, the Safavids could project enough power to take Qandahar from the Mughals; in 1722, they could not defend their own capital from an Afghan army without siege equipment. The military transformation during the second phase paralleled and depended upon a transformation from a decentralized polity in which the Qizilbash dominated the provinces to a more centralized regime that depended primarily on silk exports. The Ghilzai Afghans, who ruled what had been the Safavid Empire from 1722 through 1729, and Nadir Shah Afshar, who ruled from 1729 to 1747, took over the Safavid governmental institutions. Some historians regard Nadir Shah as one of the great commanders of history. This bibliography includes generally accessible works in English, French, and German, on the assumption that its users will be mostly Western military historians, not scholars of Iranian history. It does not, therefore, include primary sources, either in Persian or in other languages. Most of the works listed, especially the Encyclopaedia Iranica articles, contain excellent bibliographic information. The citations themselves reproduce the transliteration in the works cited. Otherwise, this bibliography employs a simplified version of the transliteration system employed in the International Journal of Middle East Studies without diacritical marks except the reverse apostrophe for the letter ع (ayn, pronounced as a glottal stop in Persian). Because there is no standard method of transliterating languages written in the Arabic script into the Latin script, readers must expect some variations.

General Accounts

The field of Safavid historiography has boomed in the last four decades. In 1975, only one general study of the Safavids, Savory 1970, existed. There are now eight. Of those, Quinn 2010 is the best brief introduction to the topic. Matthee 2008 is convenient and comprehensive. Streusand 2010 is an accessible summary that devotes attention to military matters. Roemer 1986 and Roemer 1989 provide the most rigorous chronology. Newman 2006 is now the standard work on the Safavids but ignores military history. Browne 2002 is included because of its importance in the development of Western views of the Safavids. Studies of the brief periods of Afghan rule and the Afshar dynasty are listed under those headings below.

Topical Studies

Bellamy 1990, Black 1998, Black 2012, Black 2013, and Chase 2003 approach Safavid and Afshar warfare from the perspective of global military history. Lapidus 1990 and Tapper 1990 examine the Safavid Empire as part of a general study of the political role of tribal peoples in the history of the Middle East.

Origins

The Safavids began as a Sunni Sufi order, then became a militant order capable of mobilizing thousands of Oghuz Turkmen, who identified themselves as Qizilbash. This evolution took place before the actual establishment of the Safavid polity; the works in this section analyze that process. Woods 1999 should form the foundation of any effort to understand the Safavids. Mazzaoui 1972 is helpful in understanding the Safavid movement in general.

  • Mazzaoui, Michel. The Origins of the Safavids: Ši`ism, Sufism and the Ghulat. Wiesbaden, Germany: Franz Steiner Verlag, 1972.

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    Emphasizes the ideological rather than tribal aspect of Safavid origins, but still useful.

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  • Woods, John E. The Aqquyunlu: Clan, Confederation, Empire. Rev. and expanded ed. Salt Lake City, UT: University of Utah Press, 1999.

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    An insightful and comprehensive study of the precursor dynasty of the Safavids. Shah Ismaʿil’s grandmother and mother were both Aqquyunlu princesses. Appendix B, pp. 183–198, on the Aqquyunlu confederate tribes, provides a great deal of information on the Qizilbash, since most of the Aqquyunlu confederates became part of the Qizilbash confederation.

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Ismaʿil I (r. 1501–1524)

Aubin 1984 and Aubin 1988 offer the best overall account of Ismaʿil’s career. Savory and Karamustafa 2012 is an authoritative summary. Anooshar 2015 is an important adjunct to it. Sarwar 1975 is still the only complete narrative. Morton 1996 provides historiographical background. Because Ismaʿil’s reign began when he was an adolescent, his close advisors, the so-called Sufis of Lahijan, had a decisive role in the early years. The Qizilbash chieftains became increasingly important and, after the defeat at Chaldiran, dominated the polity.

  • Anooshar, Ali. “The Rise of the Safavids According to Their Old Veterans: Amin Haravi’s Futuhat-i Shahi.” Iranian Studies 48 (2015): 249–267.

    DOI: 10.1080/00210862.2013.870839Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article demonstrates that Amin Haravi’s Futuhat-i Shahi is the best source for the reign of Shah Ismaʿil and reflects the views of his key advisors, who actually commanded the campaigns that established Safavid power. Anooshar presents a detailed account of the early stages of those campaigns.

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  • Aubin, Jean. “Révolution chiite et conservatisme, Le soufis de Lahejan, 1500–1514 (Études Safavides III).” Moyen Orient et ocean Indien 1 (1984): 1–40.

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    A detailed study of Shah Ismaiʿil’s advisers during the first phase of his reign.

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  • Aubin, Jean. “L’Avenèment des Safavides reconsidéré (Études Safavides III).” Moyen Orient et ocean Indien 5 (1988): 1–130.

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    An incisive analysis of the earliest phase of Safavid history by a leading scholar of that topic. Important coverage of the relationships between Ismaʿil, his advisers, other members of the Safavid family, and the Qizilbash.

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  • Kaveh, Farrokh, and Manouchehr Khorasani. “Die Schlacht von Tschaldiran am 23. August 1514.” Pallasch. Zeitschift für Militärgeschichte. Organ der Oesterreichischen Gesellschaft für Heereskunde 41 (2012): 47–71.

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    In addition to providing the most detailed account of Chaldiran, complete with diagrams, this article offers a complete military chronology of Ismaʿil’s reign and description of his army.

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  • Morton, A. H. “The Early Years of Shah Ismaʿil in the Afżal al-tavārīkh and Elsewhere.” In Safavid Persia: The History and Politics of an Islamic Society. Edited by Charles Melville, 27–52. Pembroke Persian Papers, Vol. 4. London: I. B. Tauris, 1996.

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    Primarily a historiographical analysis of the career of Ismaʿil I.

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  • Sarwar, Ghulam. History of Shāh Ismāʿīl Ṣafawi. New York: AMS Press, 1975.

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    A revision of the author’s 1939 PhD dissertation at Aligarh Muslim University, this old monograph is still the only biography of Shah Ismaʿil and provides a competent narrative with a useful chronological table. Sarwar lacked access to a number of sources employed by later historians.

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  • Savory, Roger, and Ahmet T. Karamustafa. “Esmā`īl I Ṣafawī.” In Encyclopaedia Iranica. New York: Encyclopaedia Iranica Foundation, 2012.

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    The most current and authoritative article on Ismaʿil I.

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Tahmasp I (r. 1524–1576)

Tahmasp’s long reign has received little attention from historians, despite the ideological transformation and institutional developments that took place. Dickson 1958 is one of the cornerstones of Safavid studies, especially military history. Mitchell 2009 is the only current general study of Tahmasp. A wealth of information on military matters in the period of Shah Tahmasp I is offered in Posch 2013, with fully half of its one thousand pages devoted to the subject.

  • Dickson, Martin B. “Shah Tahmasb and the Uzbeks (The Duel for Khurasan with `Ubayd Khan: 930–946/1524–1540).” Ph.D. diss, Princeton University, 1958.

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    This influential unpublished dissertation analyzes the first sixteen years of Tahmasp’s reign. It documents his struggles with the Qizilbash as well as the Uzbeks and includes a detailed account of Tahmasp’s 1529 victory ʿUbayd Khan on pp. 127–139.

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  • Mitchell, Colin. “Ṭahmāsp I.” In Encyclopaedia Iranica. New York: Encyclopaedia Iranica Foundation, 2009.

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    An excellent summary of current scholarship on Tahmasp with a useful review of the sources.

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  • Nyitrai, István. “The Third Period of the Ottoman-Safavid Conflict: Struggle of Political Ideologies (1555–1578).” In Irano-Turkic Cultural Contacts in the 11th-17th Centuries. Edited by Éva M. Jeremias, 161–175. Pilicscaba, Hungary: Avicenna Institute of Middle Eastern Studies, 2003.

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    Argues that a new clash of ideologies involving competing claims for world domination undelay this period of Ottoman-Safavid conflict.

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  • Posch, Walter. Osmanisch-safavidische Beziehungen 1545–1550: Der Fall Alḳâs Mîrzâ. 2 vols. Vienna: Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften, 2013.

    DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt1vw0pgdSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The most detailed study not only of any aspect of Tahmasp’s reign but of any topic included in this bibliography. It provides not only an extremely detailed chronology of the five years covered, but a wealth of other material. That hoard includes more than one hundred pages on the Ottoman-Safavid borderlands, an incisive discussion of the term Qizilbash, and discussion of the Safavid army at the time.

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Ismaʿil II (r. 1576–1577) and Muhammad Khudabandah (r. 1578–1587)

The reigns of these two sovereigns constituted twelve years of turmoil and disorder. Hinz 1933 and Roemer 1939 are valiant efforts to unscramble the record and vital to tracking the interaction of the various Qizilbash tribes and the ghulam elements at the court. Ghereghlou 2016 is clearer and reflects current scholarship but provides less information than Roemer 1939.

ʿAbbas I (r. 1587–1629) and Safi (r. 1629–1642)

Until the transformation of its military and governmental institutions under ʿAbbas, the Safavid polity was a tribal confederation. It resembled its Qaraquyunlu and Aqquyunlu predecessors more than its Ottoman and Mughal contemporaries. ʿAbbas’s military and fiscal reforms made the Safavids into what historians call a gunpowder empire. He balanced the Qizilbash tribes with military slaves and created an effective artillery arm. In order to gain effective control of the empire, he had to conquer parts of it from Qizilbash tribes, notably Kirman from the Afshar and Fars from the Dhuʾl Qadr. The Safavids gained a clear superiority over the Mughals and Uzbegs and were capable of facing the Ottomans in the field. Despite ʿAbbas I’s undoubted importance, he has not received proportionate attention from historians. Until the publication of Quinn 2015, there was no biography that met current scholarly standards. Savory 2011 is a solid introduction to ʿAbbas’s reign. Quinn 2000, Matthee 2013, and Perry 1975 all discuss ʿAbbas’s struggle to take control of the empire from the Qizilbash. Blow 2009 and Bellan 1932 because researchers are likely to encounter them. There are no specialized studies of Shah Safi.

  • Bellan, Lucien-Louis. Chah ʿAbbas I.: Sa Vie, Son Histoire. Les Grandes Figures de l’Orient, 3. Paris: Paul Geuthner, 1932.

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    An old-fashioned but rigorous biography that provides an excellent chronology but little analysis. Still the most complete account in a Western language.

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  • Blow, David. Shah Abbas: The Ruthless King Who Became an Iranian Legend. London: I. B. Tauris, 2009.

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    A current, popular biography based primarily on secondary sources and European travelers. Provides a readable but not analytical account of ʿAbbas’s military reforms and campaigns.

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  • Farrokh, Kaveh. “The Military Campaigns of Abbas I in Azerbaijan and the Caucasus.” In Studies on Iran and the Caucasus: Presented to Prof. Garnik S. Asatrian on the Occasion of his 60th Birthday. Edited by Uwe Bläsig, Victoria Arakelova, and Matthias Weinreich with Khachik Gevorgian. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2015.

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    A fine summary of ʿAbbas’s military reforms and the chronology of his campaigns on the western front.

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  • Khorasani, Moshtagh Manoucher. “Les campagnes militaires de Schah Abbas 1er.” La Revue de Téheran. Mensuel Culturel Iranien en language française 85 (2012): 38–50.

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    Provides an excellent brief overview of ʿAbbas’s military reforms.

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  • Matthee, Rudi. “Loyalty, Betrayal and Retribution: Biktash Khan, Ya`qub Khan, and Shah ʿAbbas I’s Strategy in Establishing Control over Kirman.” In Ferdowsi, the Mongols and the History of Iran: Art, Literature and Culture from Early Islam to Qajar Persia. Edited by Robert Hillenbrand, A. C. S. Peacock, and Firuza Abudullaeva, 184–201. London: I. B. Tauris, 2013.

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    A detailed account, of ʿAbbas’s operations against Biktash Khan, chief of the Afshar uymaq and Yaʿqub Khan, chief of the Dhuʾl Qadr uymaq in 1590, which brought the major provinces of Fars and Kirman under central government control and began the transformation of the ʿAbbasid regime.

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  • Perry, John R. “Forced Migration in Iran during the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries.” Iranian Studies 8 (1975): 199–213.

    DOI: 10.1080/00210867508701499Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Perry describes ʿAbbas’s use of forced migration in his effort to subdue the Qizilbash on pp. 205–208.

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  • Quinn, Sholeh A. Shah ʿAbbas: The King Who Refashioned Iran. Edited by Patricia Crone. Makers of the Muslim World. London: Oneworld, 2015.

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    As good a biography as its brevity permits. Addresses the military aspects of the early part of ʿAbbas’s reign on pp. 22–30 and pp. 80–81, and of the later part on pp. 81–94 and pp. 111–118. Quinn is not a military specialist, but her treatment of military issues is pithy and useful.

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  • Quinn, Sholeh. Historical Writing during the Reign of Shah `Abbas: Ideology, Imitation and Legitimacy in Safavid Chronicles. Salt Lake City, UT: University of Utah Press, 2000.

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    Pages 95–124 examine the historiography of ʿAbbas’s victory over Yaʿqub Khan Dhuʾl Qadr in 1590 in detail. The focus is historiographical but the close analysis is useful from a military perspective.

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  • Rota, Giogio. “The Mask of Shāh ʿAbbās I.” In Medieval and Modern Iranian Studies: Proceedings of the 6th European Conference of Iranian Studies. Held in Vienna on 18–22 September by the Societas Iranologica Europaea. Edited by Maria Szuppe Anna Krasnowolska and Claus Pedersen, 167–178. Studia Iranica 45. Paris: Association Pour L’Avancement des Études Iraniennes, 2011.

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    Argues that ʿAbbas was more of a military opportunist than a master strategist through a systematic analysis of his campaigns. Unlike his predecessors, ʿAbbas rarely took the field himself. His offensive actions against the Ottomans and Uzbek took advantage of political opportunities. The most detailed and insightful study of the military aspects of ʿAbbas’s reign.

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  • Savory, Roger. “ʿAbbās (I).” In Encyclopaedia Iranica. New York: Encyclopaedia Iranica Foundation, 2011.

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    Despite its brevity, one of the most important contributions to Safavid historiography. Savory wrote this article in 1982, but the editors of Encyclopaedia Iranica have updated it.

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ʿAbbas II (r. 1642–1666)

The literature on this period of Safavid history is extremely sparse, but Matthee 2014 is of high quality.

Sulayman (r. 1666–1694) and Sultan Husayn (r. 1694–1722)

Lockhart 1958 established the study of late Safavid history. His interpretation, which emphasized the weakness of the later Safavid rulers and the deterioration of the army, remains current as the explanation of the collapse of the regime. Dickson 1962 identifies numerous flaws in Lockhart without undercutting his argument. Matthee 2012a is now the standard account; Matthee 2012b and Matthee 2015 are reflections of the author’s general study. Floor 1998 provides important details. Lambton 1977 explains why Safavid decline led to the resurgence of the power of pastoral nomads.

The Afghan Period (1722–1729)

Aside from Floor 1998, there is no specific literature on the Afghan interlude.

Nadir Shah Afshar (r. 1736–1747, effective ruler from 1729)

There is no doubt that Nadir Shah was a remarkable figure, the last great conqueror of an Asian empire and one of history’s great commanders. From the remnants of the Safavid polity that had collapsed so abjectly, he constructed a military machine capable not only of expelling the Afghans but also of defeating the Ottomans, Uzbeks, and Mughals. Axworthy 2006, following Lockhart 1938, takes the encomium of Nadir to its extreme. These scholars regard him as one of the great commanders of history and the greatest of his own time, and a military innovator who created an army superior to European forces prior to the French Revolution. Tucker 2006a and Tucker 2006b deal more broadly with Nadir Shah and emphasize political and diplomatic issues. Black 2013, the work of a leading military historian, compares Nadir to both the Duke of Marlborough and Napoleon. Floor 1998 and Floor 2009 contribute useful information from Dutch sources. Sabéran 2013 is useful for understanding Nadir’s character but not for military analysis. The section on Nadir Shah’s army below addresses the issue of his military innovations.

  • Avery, Peter. “Nadir Shah and the Afsharid Legacy.” In The Cambridge History of Iran. Vol. 7. Edited by Peter Avery, Gavin Hambly, and Charles Melville, 1–62. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1991.

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    A detailed chronology without military analysis.

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  • Axworthy, Michael. The Sword of Persia: Nadir Shah from Tribal Warrior to Conquering Tyrant. London: I. B Tauris, 2006.

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    Axworthy’s Nadir is a hero, a great statesman, strategist, and military reformer, whose success saved Iran from European colonization and whose psychological degeneration and early death prevented the development of a coherent and progressive early modern state.

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  • Black, Jeremy. War in the Eighteenth-Century World. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013.

    DOI: 10.1007/978-0-230-37000-5Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Black provides a masterful summary of Nadir Shah’s career on pp. 54–57 and pp. 76–77 but depends entirely on Axworthy 2006, Lockhart 1938, and Sarkar 1922 for his information. He accepts the evaluation of Nadir as a great commander and the savior of a united and independent Iran.

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  • Floor, Willem. “New Facts on Nadir Shah’s Indian Campaign.” In Iran and Iranian Studies: Essays in Honor of Iraj Afshar. Edited by Kambiz Eslami, 198–219. Princeton, NJ: Zagros Press, 1998.

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    Based on Dutch records, including Persian documents in Dutch archives, this article demonstrates that Nadir Shah’s 1739 invasion of India was part of a longstanding plan to dominate the entire Islamic world, not a response to circumstances in 1738. Floor includes translations of eight documents with information on the campaign.

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  • Floor, Willem. The Rise and Fall of Nadir Shah: Dutch East India Company Reports, 1730–1747. Washington, DC: Mage, 2009.

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    A detailed study based on a close reading of the Dutch sources, with three different narratives based on documents from different archives. Considerable detail on military matters, including mobilization, acquisition of munitions, and operational and tactical movements. No analysis.

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  • Lockhart, Laurence. Nadir Shah: A Critical Study Based Mainly Upon Contemporary Sources. Foreword by E. Denison Ross. London: Luzac, 1938.

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    The foundation of the modern study of Nadir Shah. Lockhart presents Nadir Shah as the last of the great Asian conquerors and a military commander comparable to Frederick the Great. The book provides a thorough narrative, maps of Nadir’s campaigns and a diagram of the Battle of Karnal.

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  • Sabéran, Foad. Nader Chah: ou la folie au pouvoir dans l’Iran du XVIIIe siècle. Edited by Ata Ayati. Collection L’Iran en Transition Paris: L’Harmattan 2013.

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    (Nadir Shah or the insanity of power in eighteenth-century Iran). A well-researched psychohistorical study of Nadir Shah, concerned primarily with determining the psychological explanation for the extreme cruelty and unpredictable violence he showed during the latter part of his reign. Little strictly military information but useful for understanding the character of Nadir Shah. Preface by Francis Richard. Afterword by Alain Désoulieres.

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  • Tucker, Ernest. “Nāder Shah.” In Encyclopaedia Iranica. New York: Encyclopaedia Iranica Foundation, 2006a.

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    The most accessible and authoritative short treatment of Nadir Shah. Excellent chronology.

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  • Tucker, Ernest S. Nadir Shah’s Quest for Legitimacy in Post-Safavid Iran. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2006b.

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    This masterful treatment of the issue of political legitimacy includes a useful chronology (pp. xi–xiv) and extensive coverage of the invasion of India, pp. 59–66.

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Political and Governmental Institutions

Röhrborn 1966 and Floor 2001 are among the most important studies of Safavid warfare and military organization, even though they address broader topics. Minorsky 1980 forms the foundation of Safavid studies and deserves attention for that reason.

  • Floor, Willem. Safavid Governmental Institutions. Costa Mesa, CA: Mazda, 2001.

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    The most important single work on its topic, and, on pp. 124–281, the most authoritative and comprehensive study of the Safavid army. Floor covers not only institutions and fiscal structure but also strategy, tactics, and procedures.

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  • Minorsky, Vladimir. “Introduction, Commentary, and Appendices.” In Tadhkirat al-Mulūk: A Manual of Ṣafavid Administration. Edited and translated by Vladimir Minorsky, 5–40, 110–207. Cambridge, UK: E. J. W. Gibb Memorial Trust, 1980.

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    Originally published in 1943, this study forms the foundation of Safavid studies. Minorsky’s comments on an 18th-century administrative manual established the framework of interpretation for Safavid history. Pages 30–36 cover the army. No longer current but still vital. Includes commentary and appendices.

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  • Röhrborn, Klaus Michael. Provinzen und Zentralgewalt Persiens im 16. und 17. Jahrhundert. Studien zur Sprache, Geschichte und Kultur des islamischen Orients, new series 2. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1966.

    DOI: 10.1515/9783110831092Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This thorough and scholarly study addresses the military structure of the Qizilbash provinces (pp. 44–53), the khassa provinces (pp. 129–131), and the Safavid vassal states in Georgia, Arabistan, Kurdistan, Luristan, and Sistan (pp. 73–93).

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  • Savory, R. M. “The Safavid Administrative System.” In The Cambridge History of Iran. Vol. 6. Edited by Peter Jackson and Laurence Lockhart, 351–372. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1986.

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    A solid review of Safavid governmental institutions, but neither as current nor as comprehensive as Floor 2001. Little information on military institutions or issues.

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Military History and Institutions

The Safavid army had seven components: the Qizilbash tribes, the qurchis, the ghulams (military slaves), artillery forces, infantry forces, and vassal armies. The qurchis, originally the shah’s personal bodyguard, were individuals recruited from the qizilbash, with greater loyalty to the ruler than to their own tribes. The ghulams, recruited from such non-Muslims populations as the Georgians, had, like other military slaves in Muslim polities, great loyalty to the masters who recruited them. ʿAbbas I used the qurchis and ghulams to weaken the Qizilbash tribes. The Safavid artillery corps was superior to those of the Uzbeks and Mughals, but not competitive with the Ottomans. Infantry had only a minor role under the Safavids but formed an important component of Nadir Shah’s forces. In later Safavid history, Georgian princes, putatively converted to Islam, held high offices, including commanding field armies, and brought substantial entourages into Safavid military service. Lockhart 1959 began the study of the Safavid army but is now out of date. Floor 2001, Haneda 1986, Haneda 1989, Haneda 1989, Matthee 1996, and Röhrborn 1966 (cited under Other Components of the Safavid Army) are the most important works to consult. Fragner 2012 provides geopolitical context. Goldsmid 1880 is included because of its historiographical significance.

The Qizilbash

The Qizilbash Türkmen tribes provided the military capability that enabled the establishment of the Safavid Empire and dominated the politics of the empire until the reign of ʿAbbas I. From the time of Tahmasp onward, the Safavid rulers sought to reduce the power of the Qizilbash and push them to political and geographic margins. The contest between central and tribal power was the central theme of Safavid political history. Roemer 1990 provides and incisive overview. Posch 2013, Rota 2015, and Savory 1965, cited under Other Components of the Safavid Army provide useful military analysis of the Qizilbash. Barfield 2002 explains the evolution of the Qizilbash military role.

  • Aubin, Jean. “L’Avenèment des Safavides reconsidéré (Études Safavides III).” Moyen Orient et ocean Indien 5 (1988): 1–130.

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    Included here because of his critical comments on Reid 1983.

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  • Barfield, Thomas J. “Turk, Persian and Arab: Changing Relationships between Tribes and States in Iran and along Its Frontiers.” In Iran and the Surrounding World: Interactions in Culture and Cultural Politics. Edited by Nikki R. Keddie and Rudi Mathee, 61–75. Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press, 2002.

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    Barfield, an anthropologist, describes “The Safavid Administrative Revolution” on page 70–75, argues that ʿAbbas’s reforms forced not only the Qizilbash but other tribes to function either within the state structure or outside it. He contends that ʿAbbas’s military system’s lack of resilience led to the Afghan conquest of the empire.

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  • Morton, Alexander H. “The Chub-i Tariq and Qizilbash Ritual in Safavid Persia.” In Études safavides. Edited by Jean Calmard, 225–245. Paris: L’Institut Français de Recherche en Iran, 1993.

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    Useful analysis of Qizilbash culture.

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  • Posch, Walter. Osmanisch-safavidische Beziehungen 1545–1550: Der Fall Alḳâs Mîrzâ. 2 vols. Vienna: Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften, 2013.

    DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt1vw0pgdSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Great coverage of the Qizilbash in general and their military role, on 159–270.

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  • Reid, James J. Tribalism and Society in Islamic Iran, 1500–1629. Malibu, CA: Undena, 1983.

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    Reid presents the most comprehensive study of the Qizilbash available, but his book has received withering criticism, for which see Tapper 1997, 44–45n, and Aubin 1988.

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  • Roemer, Hans Robert. “The Qizilbash Turcomans: Founders and Victims of the Safavid Theocracy.” In Intellectual Studies on Islam: Essays Written in Honor of Martin B. Dickson. Edited by Michel M. Mazzaoui and Vera B. Moreen, 27–40. Salt Lake City, UT: University of Utah Press, 1990.

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    A masterful short review of the role of Qizilbash in the formation of the Safavid Empire, the clash between their interest and the Safavid rulers, and decline of their political and military power.

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  • Rota, Giorgio, “Fighting with the Qizilbash: Preliminary Remarks on Safavid Warfare.” In Nomad Military Power in Iran and Adjacent Areas in the Islamic Period. Edited by Kurt Franz and Wolfgang Holzwarth, 233–246. Wiesbaden, Germany: Reichert Verlag, 2015.

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    An extremely insightful analysis of the military culture and attitudes of the Qizilbash. Explains the strengths and weaknesses of Qizilbash forces.

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  • Szuppe, Maria. “Kinship Ties between the Safavids and the Qizilbash Amirs in the Late Sixteenth-Century Iran: A Case Study of the Political Career of Members of the Sharaf al-Din Ogli Tekelu Family.” In Safavid Persia: The History and Politics of an Islamic Society. Edited by Charles Melville, 70–104. (Pembroke Persian Papers, edited by Charles Melville, 2). London: I. B. Tauris, 1996.

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    A close analysis of the relationships between the Safavid royal family and one family of Qizilbash chiefs.

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  • Tapper, Richard. Frontier Nomads of Iran: A political and social history of the Shahsevan. Cambridge Middle East Studies 7. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1997.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511582257Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Tapper provides an extremely useful review of Safavid history and particularly of the historiography of the Qizilbash on pp. 35–57. Earlier historians contended that ʿAbbas I, as part of his effort to weaken the Qizilbash, established an artificial tribe shahsevan (literally lovers of the Shah). Tapper refutes this argument convincingly.

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Other Components of the Safavid Army

Babaie, et al. 2004 and Haneda 1989 are the first comprehensive studies of Safavid military slaves and the qurchis and are extremely significant as a result. Lang 1952 addresses the Georgian role in the Safavid military. Savory 1965 and Savory 1967 deal with Safavid artillery. Savory 1965 examines the role and evolution of the Safavid commander-in-chief, the sepahsalar. Röhrborn 1966 cover the non-Qizilbash elements of the Safavid army from the perspective of provincial administration.

  • Babaie, Susan, Kathryn Babayan, Ina Baghdiantz-McCabe, and Massumeh Farhad. Slaves of the Shah: New Elites of Safavid Iran. London: I. B. Tauris, 2004.

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    An insightful, if romanticized, study of the military and household slaves in the Safavid Empire. Pages 1–19 introduce the topic, pp. 20–48 cover slaves in the imperial household, and pp. 114–138 the role of military slaves in the provinces.

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  • Haneda, Masashi. “The Evolution of the Safavid Royal Guard.” Iranian Studies 22 (1989): 57–85.

    DOI: 10.1080/00210868908701731Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The only study of the Safavid royal guard, the qurchis. Haneda explains the difference between the qurchis and the Qizilbash forces, which some historians had ignored, and explains the role of the qurchis in ʿAbbas I’s program to end Qizilbash political dominance. Originally published as “L’Evolution de la garde royale des Safavides.” Moyen Orient et Océan Indien 1 (1984): 41–64.

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  • Lang, D. M. “Georgia and the Fall of the Safavid Dynasty.” Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 14 (1952): 522–529.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0041977X00088492Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Lang describes the participation of Georgians in the Safavid army as military slaves as well as the role of Georgian princes as Safavid commanders during the dynasty’s last years.

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  • Matthee, Rudi. “Firearms i, History. In Encyclopaedia Iranica. New York: Encyclopaedia Iranica Foundation, 2012.

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    A comprehensive account of firearms in Iran in the Safavid and Afshar periods and afterward.

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  • Röhrborn, Klaus Michael. Provinzen und Zentralgewalt Persiens im 16. Und 17. Jahrhundert. Studien zur Sprache, Geschichte und Kultur des islamischen Orients, new series 2. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1966.

    DOI: 10.1515/9783110831092Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Röhrborn covers the military slave, infantryn and artillery forces on pp. 124–131 and the military contributions of Safavid vassal forces from Georgia, Arabistan, Kurdistan, Luristan, and Sistan on pp. 73–93.

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  • Rota, Giorgio. “Caucasians in Safavid Service in the 17th Century.” In Caucasia between the Ottoman Empire and Iran, 1914. Edited by Raoul Motika and Michael Ursinus, 107–120. Caucasian Studies 2. Wiesbaden, Germany: Reichert Verlag, 2000.

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    A valuable, concrete analysis of the role of Caucasian military slaves, and of the different Caucasian peoples, in the Safavid empire.

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  • Savory, Roger. “Bārūd (gunpowder) v. The Ṣafawids.” In Encyclopedia of Islam. 2d ed. Edited by Charles Pellat, and C. E. Bosworth. Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1965.

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    Reviews the Safavid use of artillery and infantry firearms and the development of the forces that employed them.

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  • Savory, Roger. “The Sherley Myth.” Iran 5 (1967): 73–81.

    DOI: 10.2307/4299589Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Refutes the notion that two English brothers, Sir Anthony and Sir Robert Sherley, introduced firearms to Safavid Iran and contributed significantly to Shah ʿAbbas’s military reforms. Savory concludes that the Sherleys provided some useful advice to ʿAbbas but nothing more.

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The Afshar Army

Nadir Shah’s military achievements reflected his military reforms as well as his strategic acumen. There is no doubt that within a few short years of the Safavid collapse he produced an army superior to that of his neighbors, with a substantial and effective infantry component and far tighter discipline than its Safavid predecessor. There is also no doubt that this formidable force disappeared with his death. What remains open to debate is how Nadir’s army compared with the European contemporaries it never faced in battle. Perry 2011 provides a concrete description without addressing that issue. Axworthy 2007 contends that Nadir’s army resembled Napoleon’s and could have defeated its 18th-century contemporaries just as the French defeated the Prussians at Jena-Auerstadt. Several of his arguments (pp. 234–241) are open to question. Noting that Nadir’s infantry did not use the bayonet, he speculates that the heavy muskets (the famous jazaʾir or jezail, compensated for the deficiency by forcing cavalry to keep its distance. It is doubtful, however, that the additional range of these weapons could compensate for their slow rate of fire, especially since their weight demanded the use of a rest. Axworthy, following Lockhart 1938 (cited under Nadir Shah Afshar (r. 1736–1747, effective ruler from 1729)), asserts that Nadir Shah used skirmishers, who did not appear in European armies until the end of the century. Although Drouville 1828 describes the soldiers who used the jezail as skirmishers, the need to fire the weapon from a rest makes their ability to employ skirmishing tactics dubious. Bellamy 1990 and Black 2013 examine Nadir Shah from the perspective of global military history.

Frontiers and Enemies

Throughout their history, the Safavids engaged enemies in the west and northwest, the Ottomans and Caucasian princes, the northeast and east, the Uzbeks and Mughals, and on the Persian Gulf littoral, primarily the Portuguese. This section covers the literature on each of these frontiers.

The Ottoman and Caucasian Frontiers

Although this section lists quite a number of titles, this topic has not received the historiographical attention it deserves. The Safavid and Afshar wars with the Ottomans await systematic study. Özgüdenli 2006 is an excellent summary of the early stages of Ottoman-Safavid hostilities. Allouche 1983 discusses the diplomatic history of the conflict from 1500 to 1555. Kortepeter 1972 extends the history to 1578 and provides useful accounts of military campaigns; Matthee 2014 considers the causes of the war of 1578. Kortepeter 2011 takes the survey to 1640. Matthee 1998, Matthee 2003, and Matthee 2015 (cited under Sulayman (r. 1666–1694) and Sultan Husayn (r. 1694–1722)), and Murphey 2005 discuss specialized topics. Imber 2012 is an insightful battle study. Özgüdenli 2006 is an excellent summary of the early stages of Ottoman-Safavid hostilities. Allouche 1983 discusses the diplomatic history of the conflict from 1500 to 1555. Kortepeter 1972 extends the history to 1578 and provides useful accounts of military campaigns; Matthee 2014 considers the causes of the war of 1578. Kortepeter 2011 takes the survey to 1640. Imber 2012 is an insightful battle study.

  • Allouche, Adel. The Origins and Development of the Ottoman-Safavid Conflict: 902–962/1500–1555. Islamkundlische Untersuchungen 91. Berlin: Klaus Schwarz Verlag, 1983.

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    Allouche covers the ideological and political aspects of the topic, with little attention to military issues.

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  • Cutillas, José. “Did Shah Abbas Have a Mediterranean Policy?” Journal of Persianate Societies 8.2 (2015): 254–275.

    DOI: 10.1163/18747167-12341285Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Speculative article on the likelihood that Shah ʿAbbas had strategic designs on the Mediterranean.

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  • Farrokh, Kaveh. “The Military Campaigns of Abbas I in Azerbaijan and the Caucasus.” In Studies on Iran and the Caucasus: Presented to Prof. Garnik S. Asatrian on the Occasion of his 60th Birthday. Edited by Uwe Bläsig, Victoria Arakelova, and Matthias Weinreich with Khachik Gevorgian. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2015.

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    A fine summary of ʿAbbas’s military reforms and the chronology of his campaigns on the western front.

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  • Imber, Colin. “The Battle of Sufiyan, 1605: A Symptom of Ottoman Military Decline?” In Iran and the World in the Safavid Age. Edited by Willem Floor and Edmund Herzig, 91–102. London: I. B. Tauris, 2012.

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    Written by an Ottoman historian using Ottoman as well as Safavid sources, this chapter explains ʿAbbas I’s great victory over the Ottomans as product of political and operational circumstances rather than tactical superiority. It thus helps to define the limits of ʿAbbas’s success in transforming the Safavid army.

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  • Kortepeter, C. Max. Ottoman Imperialism during the Reformation: Europe and the Caucaus. Edited by R. Baily Winder and Richard Ettinghausen. New York University Studies in Near Eastern Civilization, no. 5. New York: New York University Press, 1972.

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    Pages 39–90 cover hostilities between the Safavids and the Ottomans during the reigns of Tahmasp, Ismaʿil II and Muhammad Khudabandah, with particular attention to the Caucasus and the role of the Crimean Tatars on the Ottoman side.

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  • Kortepeter, Carl Max. “Complex Goals of the Ottomans, Persians, and Muscovites in the Caucasus, 1578–1640.” In New Perspectives on Safavid Iran: Empire and Society. Edited by Colin P. Mitchell, 59–83. Iranian Studies. London: Routledge, 2011.

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    A valiant effort to clarify the competition among the three empires and the local actors, including the Georgian principalities, in a complex and highly contested region.

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  • Matthee, Rudi. “Iran’s Ottoman Diplomacy during the Reign of Shāh Sulayman I (1077–1105/1666–1694).” In Iran and Iranian Studies: Essays in Honor of Iraj Afshar. Edited by Kambiz Eslami, 148–177. Princeton, NJ: Zagros, 1998.

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    Matthee contends that although the shah was neither resolute nor aggressive his character does not explain his pacific policy toward the Ottomans in his time. Geopolitical factors, including the awareness of military weakness and the desire to prevent the formation of a hostile Ottoman-Uzbek-Mughal coalition, contributed to the Safavid policy.

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  • Matthee, Rudi. “The Ottoman-Safavid War of 986–998/1578–90: Motives and Causes.” International Journal of Turkish Studies 20.1–2 (2014): 1–20.

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    A close analysis of the motives and processes that led to the resumption of Ottoman-Safavid hostilities in 1578.

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  • Matthee, Rudi. “The Safavid-Ottoman Frontier: Iraq-i Arab as Seen by the Safavids.” In Ottoman Borderlands: Issues, Personalities and Political Change. Edited by Kemal H. Karpat with Robert W. Zens, 157–174. Publications of the Center of Turkish Studies 2. Madison: University of Wisconsin, 2003.

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    Matthee contends that although the Safavids never relinquished their claim to Iraq even after the Peace of Zuhab in 1639, their interest was more strategic and territorial than religious despite the importance of the Shiʿi shrines in Najaf, Karbala, and Samarra.

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  • Murphey, Rhoads. “The Resumption of Ottoman-Safavid Border Conflict, 1603–1638: Effects of Border Destabilization of State-Tribe Relations.” In Shifts and Drifts in Nomad Sedentary Relations. Edited by Stefan Leder and Bernhard Streck, 308–323. Wiesbaden, Germany: Reichert, 2005.

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    Demonstrates that the Turkoman and Kurdish tribes that straddled the Ottoman-Safavid frontier had a complex, multifaceted relationship with the two empires. Emphasizes that the tribes had considerable leverage as independent actors and gave the empires access to resources and revenue.

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  • Özgüdenli, Osman G. “Ottoman-Persian Relations i. Under Sultan Selim I and Shah Esmā`īl I.” In Encyclopaedia Iranica. New York: Encyclopaedia Iranica Foundation, 2006.

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    An excellent, detailed chronology.

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  • Posch, Walter. “What Is a Frontier? Mapping Kurdistan between Ottomans and Safavids.” In Irano-Turkic Cultural Contacts in the 11th-17th Centuries. Edited by Éva M. Jeremias, 203–215. Pilicscaba, Hungary: Avicenna Institute of Middle Eastern Studies, 2003.

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    An incisive description of the Ottoman-Safavid frontier in Kurdistan, Ottoman and Safavid efforts to incorporate Kurdish tribes into their political systems, and Kurdish efforts to maintain autonomy.

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  • Posch, Walter. Osmanisch-safavidische Beziehungen 1545–1550: Der Fall Alḳâs Mîrzâ. 2 vols. Vienna: Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften, 2013.

    DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt1vw0pgdSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Includes a detailed survey of the Ottoman-Safavid frontier on pp. 45–158.

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  • Svanidze, Mikhail. “The Amasya Peace Treaty between the Ottoman Empire and Iran and Georgia (June 1, 1555).” Bulletin of the Georgian National Academy of Sciences 3.1 (2009): 191–198.

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    Detailed coverage of the context, negotiation, terms, and significance of the first treaty between the Ottomans and the Safavids.

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Chaldiran

Sultan Selim’s great victory over Shah Ismaʿil I in 1514 has received considerable attention from military historians because it involved a confrontation between Ottoman combined arms (infantry firearms, field artillery, and mounted archers) and Safavid cavalry. Kaveh and Khorasani 2012 is the most comprehensive and current, while Oman 1979 is a classic battle history written without access to original sources. Savory 1980 is the standard account.

Nadir Shah

Nadir Shah’s wars with the Ottomans await the detailed analysis necessary for accurate assessment of the capabilities of his army. Olson 1975 is the only detailed military study. Shaw 1991 provides a chronological framework. Tucker 2005 emphasizes diplomatic history but is the best introduction to the topic.

  • Olson, Robert W. The Siege of Mosul and Ottoman-Persian Relations, 1718–1743: A Study of Rebellion in the Capital and War in the Provinces of the Ottoman Empire. Edited by John R. Krueger, 124. Indiana University Publications Uralic and Altaic Series. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1975.

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    Relying on Ottoman sources, Olson summarizes the earlier Ottoman-Safavid conflicts and explains the strategic geography of the frontier. Pages 117–183 cover the 1743 campaign, in which Ottoman provincial forces, with little support from Istanbul, defeated Nadir.

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  • Shaw, Stanford J. “Iranian Relations with the Ottoman Empire in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries.” In The Cambridge History of Iran. Vol. 7. Edited by Peter Avery, Gavin Hambly, and Charles Melville, 297–313. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1991.

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    Shaw provides an excellent chronology of Nadir Shah’s conflicts with the Ottomans on pp. 297–311.

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  • Tucker, Ernest. “Ottoman-Persian Relations ii. The Afsharid and Zand Periods.” In Encyclopaedia Iranica. New York: Encyclopaedia Iranica Foundation, 2005.

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    Tucker emphasizes diplomatic rather than military history, but provides the best beginning for the study of this topic.

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The Uzbek and Mughal Frontiers

Dickson 1958, pages 5–47, offers the best introduction. There is no systematic study of this frontier after 1540. The other entries deal with specific local problems.

  • Dahmardeh, Barat. “The Shaybanid Uzbeks, Moghuls, and Safavids in Eastern Iran.” In Iran and the World in the Safavid Age. Edited by Willem Floor and Edmund Herzig, 131–148. London: I. B. Tauris, 2012.

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    Analyzes the triangular struggle for Khurasan from the perspective of the Mehrabanid Maliks, a durable local dynasty in Sistan.

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  • Dickson, Martin B. “Shah Tahmasb and the Uzbeks (The Duel for Khurasan with `Ubayd Khan: 930–946/1524–1540).” Ph.D. diss, Princeton University, 1958.

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    Pages 5–47 provide background on this frontier; the rest of the text covers Safavid-Uzbeg relations during the first sixteen years of Tahmasp’s reign.

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  • Holzwarth, Wolfgang. “Bukharan Armies and Uzbek Military Power, 1670–1870: Coping with the Legacy of Nomadic Conquest.” In Nomad Military Power in Iran and Adjacent Areas in the Islamic Period. Edited by Kurt Franz and Wolfgang Holzwarth, 273–354. Wiesbaden, Germany: Reichert Verlag, 2015.

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    A deeply researched, groundbreaking investigation of Uzbek military matters and the state of the frontier from the late Safavid period until the end of the 19th century.

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  • Irvine, William. Later Mughals. 2 vols. Edited by Jadunath Sarkar. Lahore, Pakistan: Sang-i-Meel, 2007.

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    Originally published in 1921, the chapters covering Nadir Shah’s invasion, which Sarkar wrote, appeared separately as Sarkar 1922, but this book is far easier to find.

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  • Matthee, Rudi. “Relations between the Center and the Periphery in Safavid Iran: The Western Borderlands v. the Eastern Frontier Zone.” The Historian 77 (2015): 431–463.

    DOI: 10.1111/hisn.12068Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Compares the western border zone separating the Safavids from the Ottomans, encompassing Kurdish and Arab lands, with the vastly more expansive eastern frontier lands marking the sphere of influence of the Safavids with that of the Mughals, comprising Sistan and Baluchistan.

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  • McChesny, R. D. “The Conquest of Herat 995–6/1587–88: Sources for the Study of Safavid/Qizilbash—Shibanid/Uzbek Relations.” In Études safavides. Edited by Jean Calmard, 69–107. Paris: L’Institut Français de Recherche en Iran, 1993.

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    A close analysis of the struggle for Herat at the beginning of the reign of ʿAbbas I, revealing the inner workings of the Safavid governmental and military system at the time.

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  • Noelle-Karimi, Christine. The Pearl in Its Midst. Herat and the Mapping of Khurasan (15th-19th Centuries). Vienna: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 2014.

    DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt1vw0pfwSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Chapter 2, pp. 45–100, of this excellent study offers an in-depth examination of Herat as the center of Iran’s northeastern frontier in the Safavid period.

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  • Szuppe, Maria. Entre Timourides, Uzbeks et Safavides: Questions d’histoire politique et sociale de Herat dans la première moitié du XVIe siècle. Paris: Association pour L’Avancement des Études Iraniennes, 1992.

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    An insightful account of Herat in the context of the Uzbek-Safavid struggle for Khurasan in the first four decades of the 16th century, but of little value for military history.

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The Gulf Frontier

Safavid activities on the Gulf frontier made them part of complex system involving the Portuguese Indian Empire, the English and Dutch East India Companies, the Ottomans, and, to a lesser extent, the Mughals. Casale 2011, Flores 2011, and Subrahmanyam 2012 provide the general framework. Lockhart 1935 and Faridany 2011 are micro level military studies. Subrahmanyam 2000 is an essay in alternative history.

  • Casale, Giancarlo. “Imperial Smackdown: The Portuguese between Imamate and Caliphate in the Persian Gulf.” In Portugal, the Persian Gulf and Safavid Persia. Edited by Jorge Flores and Rudi Matthee, 177–189. Acta Iranica 52. Leuven, Belgium: Peeters, 2011.

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    Argues that the Ottomans regarded both the Safavids on the mainland and the Portuguese in Hormuz and on the west coast of the Indian peninsula as adversaries in a single eastern theater of operations. Adds a valuable perspective to the Ottoman-Safavid struggle but offers little information on the Safavids themselves.

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  • Faridany, E. K. “Signal Defeat: The Portuguese Loss of Comorão and the Commercial Consequences.” In Portugal, the Persian Gulf and Safavid Persia. Edited by Jorge Flores and Rudi Matthee, 119–143. Acta Iranica 52. Leuven, Belgium: Peeters, 2011.

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    A detailed study of the Safavid conquest of the Portuguese fortress of Comorão, on the mainland opposite the island of Hormuz, the first Safavid victory over the Portuguese.

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  • Flores, Jorge. “Solving Rubik’s Cube, Hormuz and the Geopolitical Challenges of West Asia, c. 1592–1622.” In Portugal, The Persian Gulf and Safavid Persia. Edited by Jorge Flores and Rudi Matthee, 191–214. Acta Iranica 52. Leuven, Belgium: Peeters, 2011.

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    The reference to Rubik’s cube indicates the extraordinary complexity of the interaction among the Portuguese, the English East India Company, the Safavids, the Mughals, and the West Deccan principalities of Bijapur and Golconda, over control of Persian Gulf commerce. Little concrete information on the Safavids.

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  • Lockhart, Laurence. “Nādir Shāh’s Campaigns in Oman, 1737–1744.” Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 8 (1935): 157–171.

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    Lockhart describes a series of campaigns to establish primacy over the Gulf Arabs, who had taken advantage of Safavid weakness. Nadir Shah directed these operations but did not participate personally.

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  • Subrahmanyam, Sanjay. “Un Grand Dérangement: Dreaming an Indo-Persian Empire in South Asia, 1740–1800.” Journal of Early Modern History 4 (2000): 337–378.

    DOI: 10.1163/157006500X00042Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A counterfactual exercise, examining the hypothetical effect on world history if Nadir Shah had established an Indo-Iranian Empire rather than returning Hindustan to Mughal sovereignty after 1739. Subrahmanyam imagines that such an empire would have prevented the establishment of British dominance in South Asia.

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  • Subrahmanyam, Sanjay. “An Infernal Triangle: The Contest Between the Mughals, Safavids, and Portuguese, 1590–1605.” In Iran and the World in the Safavid Age. Edited by Willem Floor and Ernest Herzig, 103–130. London: I. B. Tauris, 2012.

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    Insightful coverage on the struggle of the Safavids, the Portuguese, and Mughals for control of Persian Gulf commerce, including the significance of Safavid connections to the West Deccan principalities.

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