"One of the most valuable works that I have read on Iran during
the last twenty years. . . . There is nothing else in the market
relative to the subject of land tenure and reform in Iran. The
author's] dual knowledge of the native aspects of Iranian land
tenure and the archival documentation coupled with its theoretical
sophistication is probably unique."--Hafez Farmayan, University of
Mohammad Gholi Majd examines land policy in Iran under the two
Pahlavi shahs from 1925 to 1979, the social and economic
consequences of the policies, and their impact on the popular
uprisings of 1962-63, which many scholars regard as the beginning
of the Islamic revolution.
Contrary to widely held views, much of Iran's agricultural land up
to 1960 was owned by 1.3 million small landowners. Mohammad Gholi
Majd points out that traditional Islamic practices of matrimony and
inheritance resulted in a continuous redistribution of
landownership and these customs included a system of sharecropping
that fulfilled a vital social and economic function. Tenants
enjoyed secure rights to the land and the water, could not be
easily evicted, and were thus practically owners themselves. In
short, conditions in Iran were entirely different from those
assumed in most Western theories of land policy and reform.
Pressured by the United States in the 1950s to inaugurate land
reform, the shah in his initial attempts met with stiff resistance
from parliament and the Islamic leadership. The result, Majd
argues, was an effective alliance between landowners and the
fundamentalist Islamic "ulama," in particular Ayatollah Khomeini,
who emerged as the principal leader of the religious
In addition to photos of the secular and religious opposition
leaders, the book contains many rare photos of rural Iran during
the periods 1890-1911 and 1930-60. For students of Iran and the
Middle East as well as those interested in agrarian change and
reform, this work offers a provocative and revisionist perspective
on important events in Iran's recent history.
Mohammad Gholi Majd is the author of articles published in the
"Journal of Peasant Studies, Middle East Journal, American Journal
of Agricultural Economics, Middle Eastern Studies," and "Land Use
Policy," among others. He has taught courses in Middle East
economics and economic development, most recently in the Department
of Economics and at the Middle East Center, University of
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