Down the Parallel Road: An Afsharid Persia Timeline

Down the Parallel Road: A Timeline
From the 18th Century and Beyond!

Author's Foreword

I first started thinking about starting a new timeline around the beginning of this year. It was originally intended to focus on making Napoleon great again, or something along those lines. However, Napoleon is very much treaded ground in terms of Alternate History. Discussions about which of his battles and wars could have gone differently are now done almost by script, and the more I read into it, the less interested I became unfortunately. Thus about ten thousand words of a timeline went down the drain, and I was more or less back to square one. So I thought of what would be a good point of diversion to play about with would be?

The answer came from reading Michael Axworthy’s book, The Sword of Persia, a biography of the Persian ruler Nader Shah. This unfortunate chap seems to have caught a malarial infection sometime in the 1730’s, most probably during his campaign in the Caucasus. The Afsharids went from being a possible engine of Iranian/Persian revival to being a footnote in the country’s long decline, at least according to Axworthy himself. Proper stability wouldn’t be restored across the country until the Qajars. The question of how Nader’s reign and how it would affect Persia and the world had he not succumbed to his illness has been tackled by Hasdurbal Barca’s timeline, The One Allah Favours. It is certainly an interesting read for those with an interest, but I will try to take a different approach with my own work.

This timeline will not be one focused on Persia, though initially there will be a stronger focus on the area. History in the rest of the world will be changed only by the effects of what happens differently due to Nader Shah’s better health. For all intents and purposes, this means that effects outside of “Greater Iran” and its neighbours will not significantly be felt until the Seven Years War, which is something of a pivotal war in world history, depending on how one looks at it. Neither will this timeline be one with the goal of ensuring Persia’s power and prosperity from Nader Shah’s reign onward. After all, Qing China was arguably the world’s greatest power from 1636 to 1800, greatly increasing its population and prosperity whilst neutralising all challenges to its security. Despite this, China would find itself at the start of a century of misery only a few decades after its apparent zenith.

All this in mind, I want to stay away from a deterministic view of history, as it is a view I fundamentally disagree with. Japan may not have been able to escape the grasp of European Imperialists, nor was India doomed to succumb to it. While it would be correct to argue that Japan was less vulnerable because of its relative political unity and distance from Europe, the fact that something was more likely doesn’t necessarily mean that something was destined. While obviously with a work of fiction, I have to take some initiative with how the story will unfold, it will be a story that tries to steer within the current of history, rather than swim against it. Plausibility will be key for this timeline, and I will try my very best to balance entertainment with plausibility and accuracy, and I have put in a good amount of research to ensure this.

Hopefully this will give you some idea of what I want to do with this timeline. It will be first and foremost an attempt to imagine how history would have unfolded had an historical event had gone differently, rather than trying to explain how a country could have arisen to greatness. It will also try to be an attempt to tell the stories of the people who live in this different world, be they heroes, villains or quite simply people. I do hope that it will be a fun read as well as an interesting one.

The Caucasus can be a beautiful part of the world in the summertime. Snow-capped mountains dominate the horizons, and the valleys between are lush with flowers and grass. Nader Shah considered himself to have witnessed a thing of even greater beauty than nature, namely the defeat of his Ottoman enemies by his own armies. It had seemed in a few short years he had taken Persia from being the victim of its predatory neighbours to being a power capable of fighting its own corner in the world. With the Ottoman army in disarray, it appeared that his Western Flank was secure, at least for the time being. As he had settled his score with his Ottoman Enemies, a more dangerous foe homed in on him. Flying toward him, it landed on his hand, which was one of the only parts of the man’s body exposed. As this deadly enemy, a lowly mosquito prepared to quench its hunger, it found itself crushed by the man’s other hand.

So it was that Nader avoided his brush with a disease that could have twisted him into a sick, demented shadow of himself...
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The Rise of Nader Shah

Pierre Moreau; Great Power Politics Revisited: The Economic and Military Power of States 1500-2000

The Rise of the Afsharids in Persia
China was not the only Asian power to see a vast increase in its power and territory in the 18th century. Iran undertook the most remarkable transformation, turning from a state which had fallen so far in its power that its territory was occupied by foreigners, into arguably one of the most powerful nations in the world. In something of a frustrating turn of events for those critical of the “Great Man” theory of history, the Iranian ruler Nader Shah rose from being a regional warlord to being the Shah of Iran. In the last, dark days of the Safavid dynasty, Nader ensured that his power base of Khorasan did not suffer the depredations of the Hotaki Afghan invaders, and steadily built up his power until he was able to push the Afghans from Isfahan, and re-install the Safavid ruler Tahmasp II.

As soon as his reign began in earnest in 1729, Tahmasp had to wrangle with being in the shadow of his supposed subject Nader. His hope was to secure the prestige of his dynasty through a military victory, though Tahmasp unwisely chose the Ottomans as his quarry. Tahmasp’s campaign turned out to be disastrous, losing all of the gains Nader had secured in the Caucasus previously, and leaving him dangerously bereft of support in the face of Nader’s fury. Tahmasp was disposed in 1732, with his infant son Abbas being made the new Shah. At this point it was rather obvious where the power in Iran lay, and it is some matter of debate as to why Nader did not take the title of Shah for himself at this point. It is likely that there was still much in the way of support for the Safavids amongst the clergy and nobility of Iran, who correctly saw a powerful Shah as a threat to their own position.

Nader waged war with the Ottomans in order to regain what had been lost by Tahmasp, and conquered large swathes of the Caucasus. Although the campaign against the mountain peoples was difficult, Nader had by the end of it developed a fairly effective counter-insurgent strategy incorporating cavalry patrols and fortifications, as well as an appeal to Islamic unity to win hearts and minds. Nader had defeated the Ottomans and secured Iran’s North-Western border, yet this had not had a beneficial effect on Iran itself. Nader had declared himself as Shah in 1736, but was the ruler of a country that had been exhausted by Nader’s financial demands, as well as the wars and chaos that had marked the end of the Safavid dynasty. The population may have declined from 8 million at its height to around 6 million. Although successful in restoring territory and a semblance of pride, Nader’s wars had further increased the pain of the Iranian peasantry, who had borne the financial brunt of the campaigns.

Nader’s main goals within Iran itself however seemed more oriented toward obtaining foreign policy benefits rather than improving the state of Iran itself. One of Nader’s main goals had been the healing of the Islamic schism between Shiism and Sunnism, which Nader believed to be one of the main forces driving conflict between Iran and the Ottoman Empire. Despite the defeat that he had inflicted on the Ottomans, they had remained firm in denying the legitimacy of the Jafari Madhab, or school of thought. Nader wanted its status as a school of Sunni Islam recognised by the Ottoman Caliph, a privilege enjoyed by the Hanafi, Hanbali, Shafi’i and Maliki schools. This innovation was impossible for the Ottoman Sultan Mahmud I to consider, and he dismissed the Iranians as Muslims more likely to fight other Muslims than to act as Ghazis, or warriors for the faith. This criticism in particular stung Nader and would hang over the foreign policy decisions of the Afsharids for much of the 18th century.

Nader could well have successfully continued his war with the Ottomans, though even he knew that Iran was almost at its breaking point. He needed a new source of income before he could consider a renewal of war against the Ottoman Empire. In addition to this, he faced a dangerous revolt amongst the Lurs and Bakhtiaris who wanted to restore the Safavid Shah Tahmasp to the throne. Nader dealt harshly with the leader of the revolt, who had gone against Nader despite previous clemency on Nader’s part, and he engaged in a policy that had marked Iranian policy toward rebellion for thousands of years. He had many of the Lur and Bakhtiari tribesmen relocated to Khorasan. He also raised taxes once again to pay for a campaign against the Afghans at Kandahar. In particular, the clergy were made to pay higher taxes, which was a manifestation of Nader’s disregard for the Shia clergy of Iran. There were no further rebellions however, and Nader was able to launch an invasion of Afghanistan.

Nader’s invasion of Afghanistan had shown just how far his military reforms had taken effect. His armies were swift, disciplined and incorporated lots of light artillery. Although the majority of his artillery were two or three pounders, and were thus of little help in a siege, they were used to similar tactical effect as Sweden’s three pounders decades before, and ensured that his forces had an effective fire component as well as shock. This weakness in terms of siege warfare proved troublesome in the siege of Kandahar, which took just under a year to fall to the forces of Nader. The Abdali Afghans were separated and deported to depopulated areas of Iran, in the hope that they would lose their tribal cohesion. It was also at this time that Nader began preparing the ground for his invasion of India.

Although as I have previously argued, great Asian Empires such as Qing China and the Ottoman Empire had not lost their great power “status” by the 18th century, Mughal India most definitely had. The Mughal Emperor, Muhammad Shah, was in theory the rule of much of India. In reality, his power was limited to a small portion of the Indo-Gangetic Plain. His governors had become rulers in their own right, and European nations had established trade companies that were increasingly subverting the Mughal Emperor’s power in the subcontinent. Nader had been in contact with a number of the Mughal governors, and had established that the time was ripe for an invasion of India and all its riches. Even as Nader conquered the Afghans, his casus belli was being established as the Mughal Subedar (governor) of Kabul and Peshawar did little to stop the Afghans from using Mughal territory as a base.

Nader launched his invasion of the Mughal Empire in late 1738, outflanking and destroying the army of the governor of Peshawar in a brilliant manoeuvre campaign at the Khyber Pass. Nader fought his way through the Mughal Empire, eventually encountering and decimating the enormous Mughal Empire at the Battle of Karnal. Nader’s subsequent occupation of Delhi involved a certain level of violence, but nothing like the wholesale massacre that was imagined by some [1]. The importance of the campaign was marked not by territorial gains, which involved Mughal land west of the Indus being given to Iran, but in the fiscal effects on Iran. It is still very difficult to explain just how much loot and tribute was brought back to Iran from the Mughal Empire. It is estimated that the value of this wealth was around £87.5 million pounds sterling, or a few million pounds less than France’s Entire budget for the Seven Years War. This was perhaps the biggest transfer of wealth between nations in the first half of the 18th century, and would change the economic situation of Iran greatly.

In addition to the economic gain, Nader’s international stature was transformed by his defeat of the Mughal Empire. In the Islamic World, from Morocco to Java, tales were told of the momentous events taking place in India, as the mighty Nader seemed on the verge of wresting leadership of the Islamic world upon himself. In Constantinople, it was whispered in coffee shops that the Ottoman Sultan may have well had trouble holding onto his title of Caliph for much longer. Outside the Islamic World, Nader’s invasion of the Ottoman Empire was noted with fascination in Europe, and certainly gives an interesting vantage point onto European opinions of Asia at the time. More so than Qing China’s conquests, Nader’s conquests were well known by Europeans, and the possible effects were discussed in London’s and Paris’ coffee shops.

Certainly, the shift in power was greater than any in 18th century Europe. There, wars were characterised by sieges, with strips of territory such as Silesia or Lorraine changing hands. An equivalent of Nader’s victory may well have been something like Louis XV’s France sacking Vienna and establishing its eastern border on the river Oder. The scale of the victory makes it all the more confusing that Western accounts of world history from the 19th century onward tended to omit it, or to mention it in passing. Considering the momentous effect that the collapse of Mughal power in India would have later on in Europe, this is a rather serious omission indeed, and brings into question any world history that does not take time to examine its effects. When Nader returned to Iran in 1740, he did it as the richest monarch on the planet, at the head of an army which had shown itself capable of beating a force vastly superior in number. However, the benefits of this success would not be felt by most Persians until after the death of Nader. With all this considered, it is Iran’s rather than Prussia’s rise to Great Power status that was the most dramatic in the 18th century.

[1] – This marks the first big effect of the POD in history. Although it’s hard to say whether the massacre in Delhi was in some way caused by the malaria that was beginning to have its effect on Nader’s health, it is certain that it had a huge hand in his increasing brutality.


Nurfarah Fatima; A Brief History of Islamic Religious Thought

The Birth of the Jafari' Madhhab

The introduction of the Jafari’ Madhhab to the mainstream of Sunni Islam was perhaps one of the most revolutionary changes in the landscape of Islamic thought, at least prior to the modern age. As is the case with many theological shifts, it had its roots not in a “Road to Damascus” personal crisis, but was motivated more by political rationale than anything else. Nader’s motivations in announcing the shift in religious policy in 1736 seemed to be based around improving his relations with neighbouring Muslim Monarchs, as well as reducing tensions in his own religiously heterodox state. However, pushing back against two centuries of Shi’a domination in Iran would not be an easy task, especially for a monarch with as much on his mind as Nader Shah. For the most part, his religious reforms were marked by the removal of various Shi’a practices such as the ritual cursing of the first three Caliphs or the statement in prayers that bared witness to Ali as the deputy of Muhammad.

These reforms were evidently not enough for the Ottoman Caliph, who categorically refused much of the demands of Nader Shah when signing the first peace treaty between the Ottoman state and Nader’s Persia. The only religious demand of Nader’s that the Ottomans acquiesced to was the demand for a Persian Amir-ul-Hajj, a figure who would ensure the safety of Persian pilgrims to Mecca. The fact that the Ottomans had been so intransigent when it came to the recognition of the Jafari’ Madhhab as a legitimate school of Sunni Islam gave the Shi’a ulema of Iran grounds for the criticism of Nader’s religious policy. Qom in particular was a centre of opposition to what was seen by the clergy of the undermining of religious tradition in Persia. Recently recovered documents from the clerics of Qom allude to Nader’s “Betrayal of all that was sacrificed by Imam Hussain at the Battle of Karbala, a betrayal of those who struggle in the face of wickedness”. Combined with Nader’s drinking and treatment of the previous Safavid dynasty, there was little to endear the Shi’a establishment of Persia to Nader.

Between Nader’s war against the Mughal Empire and his second war with the Ottomans, Nader appears to have turned more attention to religious matters in his Empire. His popularity heightened after reducing taxes, Nader felt that he was in a strong enough position to take on the Shi’a clergy in earnest. Now, those clergy who held onto Shi’a traditions were penalised. Mosques that were known to be frequented by anti-Reform clerics found themselves without support from Waqf entrusted to them, with the beneficiaries now being Mosques that had followed the changes decreed by Nader. The most persistent critics of Nader’s changes found themselves under constant surveillance, and the few foolhardy enough to call for revolution against Nader were jailed. While this led to a large amount of discontent, few were willing to revolt against Nader. He had brought stability to Persia, made taxes lower than they had been in centuries, and most importantly was at the head of a seemingly invincible army.

Furthermore, the Jafari’ Madhhab still retained much of the philosophy and ideals of Shia’ Islam, easing it’s acceptance by the majority. In contrast to mainstream Sunni Islam, Jafari’ scholars emphasised the role of personal sacrifice and effort in ensuring justice and the propagation of virtue. They disagreed with the assertion that the course of history had already been decided, and insisted that human choice could change its course. This still made them quite different to most Sunni Muslims, though once the emphasis on the divine nature of the Ahl-al-Bait was abandoned, at least some Sunni Muslim in the Persian Empire could stomach this attempt at synthesis. Although the madhab would not come into its own until the reign of Reza Qoli, there was some progress made in the reign of Nader in the transition of the Jafari’ madhab from a Shi’a school of thought into a Sunni one.


Author's notes: There isn't much change here from our own timeline of course, though the seeds have been sown. The basics of Nader's personality, his disdain for the Safavids and many of their ideas and methods have not gone away. Despite this, his cruelty will likely be a lot less arbritary, at least if Michael Axworthy's theory is correct. Presuming that Nader does not blind his son Reza Qoli, Iran may well have a different fate after Nader's death than the anarchy and invasion it got in our own worl.
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How is everyone finding it so far? The next update will be a narrative one, but at least for the time being there will only be one "main character" in the narrative part of the story. The previous update was a bit close to OTL, though we are more laying the groundwork for what will change and as mentioned in the introduction, big changes will come worldwide around the time of the Seven Years War.
The Conquest of India


Descending from the Iranian plateau through the Khyber Pass was like passing into a new world for Nader’s soldiers. The dusty plains, interspaced by isolated farmland passed into a seemingly endless stretch of farms and forest. While the heat was certainly familiar, there seemed to be more lushness and greenery surrounding one village in this land than there was in the whole of Persia. The men marched on through, their spirits lifted by the knowledge that this was a rich land, and that their enterprise may make rich men of them all. Onwards they marched to Karnal, where they would confront the forces of the Mughal Emperor himself.

The great Battle of Karnal, like most great battles, was remembered as a kind of blur by those who fought in it. The adrenaline that shot through the bodies of the soldiers filled them with an exhilaration. Hassan Soleymani had been with Nader for the past two years since he was conscripted, and had seen the great conquest of Kandahar and Peshawar, though nothing seemed to equal the intensity of Karnal. They had heard before the battle that the forces of the Mughals outnumbered them at least two men to one Persian, perhaps even more. Those were odds to make even a hardened veteran fearful.

And yet in the battle itself, numbers were almost forgotten. Hassan saw the Mughal cavalry advance in a dense formation. This would have been enough to smash a regular army, but Hassan and his comrades knew that they could withstand them. The Zamburak artillery tore through the dense mass of the Mughal cavalry as they came towards the Jazāyerchi. Withering musket fire ensured that just a few of the Mughal cavalry actually reached the line, though one Indian speared Hassan’s leuitenant in the middle of his chest, leaving him lifeless.

“Come on brothers, slaughter these worthless dogs!” Hassan cried, as he dropped his musket and drew his sword. A mighty yell went from the Persians as they surged forward into the dazed and confused survivors of the Mughal cavalry. A man stumbled toward Hassan, clumsily attempting to hack at him. Hassan was able to avoid this and slash at the Mughal, spraying his own face with blood in the process. He threw himself onto another man who was struggling to come out from under his now dead horse. The man struggled, knocking the sword out of Hassan’s hand. The man punched Hassan causing him to stumble back, and resumed his efforts of trying to free himself from his horse. Hassan pulled his Khanjar out, stabbing the man repeatedly. On he and his comrades went, slashing their way through what remained of the cavalry.

After it had been apparent the Mughal cavalry were all dead or captured, the Persians fell back into line, though they held their line the rest of the day, pouring fire onto their hapless Mughal opponents. When the smoke of the day cleared, even the common soldier were aware that they had achieved something momentous. Hassan’s comrades lifted him above their heads, cheering him on as a hero. This was something that did not go unnoticed by the Shah, who inspected his troops following the battle.

He certainly cut an imposing figure. He was around half a head taller than his attendants, with a full beard and a piercing look. One could almost believe that he could kill a man by looking at him, and certainly one felt a unique sense of submissiveness in his presence. Hassan was let down by the men, and they saluted him. Nader walked slowly but with purpose right up to Hassan.

He looked up and down at him as if to inspect him, and placed a hand on his shoulder. “You’re a commander of fifty now, my boy. Make me proud”.

Hassan looked ridiculous while the Shah spoke to him, a boy covered in blood smiling like a child praised by his teacher, though at this moment it didn’t matter. He had been born in a village of mud bricks in a dusty corner of Persia, and here he was promoted by the Shah himself. A commander at the age of seventeen! Indeed, this was a day, a moment that would stay with Hassan all the rest of his days.

Nader patted his soldier and moved on, leaving Hassan and the other soldiers silent momentarily.

Hassan was still dumfounded. Was it really such a wise idea to make him the leader of fifty? Doubts filled his mind, but they were buried by the cheering of his comrades. He thought of the reaction his mother would have, his cousins. Would his dear sweet Fatima who cried so much when he was conscripted be proud of him? Did she even remember him?




Karnal had been carnage, a sight of mangled men and beast that haunted Hassan’s memories, even weeks later. However, Delhi was the reward of all the pain and suffering Hassan and his men had been through. The city couldn’t have been any more different to the dusty hovels of Afghanistan and Iran. The city was covered in gardens, sumptuous palaces. And now it was in the hands of their master. Certainly, Hassan and his men expected their fair share.

The streets were deserted, the Persians could feel the eyes of the people of Delhi nervously watching them from windows usually designed to allow upper class ladies an opportunity to see the world without being seen themselves.

Should the Persians have been nervous? As Nader’s army marched into Delhi, the atmosphere was one of fear. The Mughal Emperor had been over-awed by Karnal, and had acquiesced control of Delhi. After marching through the city, Hassan and his men reached the palace in which they would be billeted.

That night, Hassan had been invited to dine with other offices of the Jazāyerchi courts and Nader himself. Hassan had never seen anything like it in his life. He and the others in his village would purchase a sheep from the Lur tribesmen who lived close by every few months or so, and would treat themselves to a sumptuous meal of rice and slow-cooked mutton in the house of the village head. Certainly, the palace with its intricately decorated archways and exquisite artwork could not have been more different to the dusty mud-brick houses of his village. To see so much rice, meat and even wine laid out before him in such a magnificent room left him almost in awe.

A voice came from behind Hassan. “If you think this is unusual now, you should see how the mood turns later”

Hassan turned and was face to face with a heavy-set man with a great handlebar moustache and a face that managed to look friendly and jovial, despite a large scar on the left side.

“You seem to be very new around here. I’m called Omar, of the Abdalis. You cannot be an Afghan, nor an Uzbek. You’re almost certainly Persian, am I correct?”

Hassan nodded affirmatively. “Yes, I am. From a village near Hamadan”

Omar smiled. “And by your age, I would guess this is your first campaign, certainly. Yes, yes, you certainly cannot be any older than my relative Ahmad. Perhaps you will allow me to introduce the two of you. Tonight he will be with the Shah, but we will be spending some time here in Delhi I should think. Come my boy, sit with me. You would make better company than the Qezelbash I should imagine. Ha ha!”

Hassan had been feeling rather wound up, but the manner of Omar set him at ease. He still wasn’t quite sure whether he’d trust the Afghan, but thought it best to try and make friends among soldiers of his class.

Hassan followed Omar to where a group of other Afghans were sat. The men sat around an enormous serving of rice and meat, served on a large silver plate.

“They’ll probably let us keep this you know, when we’re done with it. We could sell it and buy four wives each in Bukhara”

Did Omar ever say anything serious? Hassan was beginning to doubt it. One of Omar’s companions, Zahir, a younger man of about thirty years rolled his eyes and attempted a new topic of conversation.

“I think this will be the end of our campaign. I have heard that the Mughal Muhammad Shah is going to submit to our Shah. That will be the end of it, we will have everything we want from them”

“And then we’ll have peace?” Hassan asked, entirely seriously.

The men all laughed at his youthful foolishness.

Omar spoke. “Peace, by God no! We have Uzbeks to deal with, tribesmen, and that old unsettled score with the Ottomans. Don’t worry my boy, you’ll have plenty of opportunity for your guts to be shot yet!”

Hassan smiled awkwardly, unsure of how to react to the joke. Zahir tousled Hassan’s hair as if he were young boy. “Don’t worry, we are sure you will do well. We have heard of what a fine job you did at Karnal. At your age, that shows promise. Real promise. And we can tell you this, treat your comrades better than anyone else in the world, and you won’t go far wrong”

Hassan nodded. This was good advice indeed, advice that he would do well to live by.
Nader's Invasion of the Ottoman Empire

Muhammad Begum; The Age of Chaos - The 18th Century in Islamic Eyes

Nader Shah's Second Invasion of the Ottoman Empire

Nader’s campaigns in Central Asia had been somewhat less dramatic than his campaign in India. However, the ramifications of his success in dealing with the Uzbeks and other nomadic confederations in the region were significant, especially for the inhabitants of Nader’s power base in Khorasan. During the long decline of the Safavids, Uzbek slave raiders operated from Tashkent, praying on settled peoples in Persia and Central Asia. This activity had made Tashkent a hub for the slave trade. Although Nader had relatively little sympathy for the troubles of settled people when compared to the Safavids and his own successors, he nevertheless recognized that nomadic slavers were detrimental to the wealth and stability of his burgeoning empire. Furthermore his campaigns in Central Asia further reinforced his goal of emulating Tamerlane. By the winter of 1742, Nader had received the submission of most Uzbek Khans, and had established garrisons as far as the Aral Sea. With the use of similar techniques to the Russians and the Chinese, Nader left his nephew Ali Qoli as viceroy in Central Asia to weaken the power of the nomads there.

Nader was by no mean sated by the conquests he had embarked on so far, and now looked west toward the Ottoman Empire. He considered himself as having “unfinished business” with the Ottoman Sultan Mahmud, and desired a number of concessions from the Ottoman Empire, which included the ceding of Mesopotamia and much of the Armenian Highlands. In addition to this, he wanted official recognition of the Jafari’ madhhab and a recognized position of primacy in the Islamic World. The last concession was ambitious to the point of folly, as it would essentially render the Ottoman Sultan’s title of Caliph hollow. Nader’s ambitions in his last war with the Ottomans would be every bit as ambitious as his wars in India and Central Asia, even if he was aiming for less than the complete conquest of the Ottoman Empire.

The preparations for the war were no less ambitious. A total of 250,000 troops would be mobilized for the war, which was such a significant expenditure that despite the windfall from India, taxes still had to be raised. The taxes were resented, though not quite to the ruinous level that had been seen in the waning years of the Safavids, which minimized the unrest which Nader faced due to the taxes. The few rebellions which did arise were easily dispatch by Nader’s armies. As well as these other preparations, the question of a regent in Persia needed to be settled. Nader’s crown prince, Reza Qoli, had performed admirably as regent during Nader’s invasion of India. However, Nader had taken exception to the rather ostentatious manner that Reza had taken up as regent, and his reported arbitrary cruelty reported reminded Nader too much of the Safavids. After careful consideration, Nader decided to take Reza Qoli with him on his invasion of the Ottoman Empire, leaving his trusted lieutenant Taqi Khan as regent in Persia instead.

Nader seemed to have hoped that he could personally influence Reza, drawing him away from the kind of luxury that he had hated about the Safavids, and imparting what Nader saw as good, Turkic values of clean and simple living. The fact that the supposedly decadent Safavid dynasty which he had overthrown had Turkic origins as well was clearly forgotten. Judging by the later rule of Reza Qoli, it appeared that Nader’s attempt at persuading Reza to embrace his Turkic roots were not too successful, though to some extent the taste for luxury seemed to have moderated following the invasion of the Ottoman Empire. Furthermore, it allowed Reza a chance to prove his military finesse once again, as he was chosen to head the Persian Northern army, given the task of taking Kars while Nader invaded Mesopotamia.

The Persian invasion of the Ottoman Empire began quite well. Nader’s siege train had improved considerably since the last war, and he was now able to take the fortresses that had eluded him in the last war with the Ottomans. After a fierce but quick assault, Mosul fell after just two weeks of siege. To the Ottoman Sultan Mahmud, this was deeply disturbing news, and he began preparing to march out to his eastern borders in order to meet the Persian threat. Although disturbed by the Persian invasion, Mahmud had previously defeated the Austrians, and was confident that his forces would be able to contain the Persians. What he had not counted on was the military revolution that had taken place within Persia. Nader now commanded perhaps the most finely drilled, effectively administered and professional force outside of Europe. Morale was high following success in India, Central Asia and the Caucasus, and the prospect of success and booty was enough to ensure that Nader did not have to resort to levies of peasants. The Persian army was now the harbinger of the “Military Revolution” in the Middle East. Though the unreformed Ottoman armies fought bravely, they were completely outclassed.

While the Ottoman forces at this point were not as decrepit as is popularly imagined, they had not made the jump to a modern method of army administration as the Persians had. Ottoman troops were not always paid on time, and some of those who were did not serve upon the request of the Sultan. The Janissaries had become a nuisance as early as the early 17th century, when they had murdered the young Sultan Osman II who had planned to replace them with a more effective fighting force. Now, the Janissaries had turned into a group that resembled an organized criminal organization as much as an army. Many continued to draw salaries from the Sultan, but supplemented this income through racketeering and their own ties to guilds. In a situation that had mirrored Japan’s, many of the supposed military class undertook other occupations. Far fewer of the Janissaries joined Sultan Mahmud than hoped, which left the Ottoman army with fewer men then had been expected.

Nader gradually took all the fortresses and cities of Iraq, capturing Baghdad in the spring of 1746 and crushing the army of Ahmad Pasha. Now he was able to join with his son Reza Qoli and advance through Anatolia on Constantinople. The Ottoman Sultan Mahmud was in Konya, hoping to block the way, but as he received news that the Persians were closing his position, he pulled back his forces to Constantinople, fearing a repeat of the Battle of Karnal. His dreams of smashing the Persians and regaining some of the lands that had been lost were now abandoned, and his thoughts turned to leveraging his existing power to protect his own empire rather than rolling the dice. He was well aware of the threats that Austria and Russia now presented to the weakened Ottoman Empire. He appealed to Nader’s own self image as a Turkic warrior, and offered to settle their differences at a Qoroltai [1]. Keen to see if he could secure his reward without a potentially bloody battle, Nader accepted the Ottoman Sultan’s proposal.

The two men met, reportedly exchanging warm welcomes as fellow Turkmen and Muslims, though beneath the cordial surface, there was a lot of tension between the two men. Mahmud was under intense pressure from the Sheikh-ul-Islam and the Ottoman religious establishment to deny recognition of the Jafari’ Madhab. Nader wanted territorial concessions, as well as a recognition of Persia’s status as a member of the Sunni Muslim world. These would be bitter pills to swallow, though Mahmud was aware that he would risk much be denying Nader his wishes. He did try to balance this with a settlement that would secure the Ottoman Empire’s security, and with a mixture of flattery and appeals to their shared religion, attempted to persuade Nader into acting as a Ghazi for the Islamic faith, turning his sword against non-Muslim powers. After several days of meetings that involved Nader, his son and numerous Ottoman dignitaries including the later Sultan Mustafa, the Treaty of Constantinople was agreed upon by both parties.

The treaty itself was a near-revolutionary document. It announced the Ottoman Caliph’s recognition of the Jafari’ Madhab as the fifth school of Sunni Islam, and congratulated Persia on its rejection of heresy (which of course, produced suitable amounts of outrage amongst the Ottoman Ulema). It gave Mesopotamia and a swathe of Eastern Anatolia to Iran, including the Black Sea port of Batumi, which was the largest territorial concession that the Ottoman Empire had made in her history. The Ottomans gave a significant indemnity to Nader worth around £10 million pounds sterling at the time, which while not being anywhere near the sum that Nader had wrested from India, marked a significant windfall for the Persian government. In return, Persia was to swear off any further aggressive actions toward the Ottoman Empire, and was obligated to aid the Ottomans in future wars with the Russians rather than allying with Russia as she had done in the 1730s. Nader was pleased by the treatment of Persia as an equal rather than a less powerful state, and agreed to the treaty.

Nader had achieved much in his invasion. He had brought the Persian Empire to its territorial apex, stretching from the deserts of Arabia to the borders of China, and from the Black Sea to the Arabian Sea. Despite his high taxes, unorthodox religious policies and disregard for the previous Safavid ruling family, Nader’s success had secured his position among the people of Persia. He had restored internal security, defeated her neighbours and endowed her army with glory. However, economically little had changed in Persia. Although there was some economic recovery with the restoration of political stability, Nader saw the cities and farmlands of Persia as a resource to be exploited when needed rather than nurtured. However, this suited Persian peasants, who preferred organization in their own corporate structures rather than heavy government intervention. In the later years of his reign, there was a growing rift between himself and Reza Qoli, whose priorities were becoming more closely entwined with the Persian majority in the Empire, rather than with the Turkmen as his fathers were.


[1] – A Turkish word borrowed from Mongolian, which meant a gathering of tribal leaders.

Author's Note: Here is where the serious diversions from history in Iran's story are to be seen. Without the tax regime of Nader being quite so cruel and rapacious, Iran itself is having the opportunity to begin a real recovery. Axworthy states that from the height of the Safavids to the conquest of Isfahan by the Hotaki Afghans, the population of Persia dropped by a third. Historically, it's recovery was sluggish and Persia would not reach nine million again until well into the 19th century. Here of course, things are set to get better sooner.

Thanks for all the comments guys!
The Final Years of Nader's Reign

Muhammad Begum; The Age of Chaos - The 18th Century in Islamic Eyes

The Final Years of Nader Shah's Reign

With his victory over the Ottoman Empire, and his establishment of the largest Iranian Empire since the pre-Islamic Sassanids, Nader had achieved much. He had started with a state that had ceased to function and that was occupied by numerous foreign powers. In under twenty years, he had transformed it into the second most powerful state in Asia, that had curbed the power of the nomadic states to the north, established primacy over Northern India and that humbled the power of the Ottoman Empire. Persia was recognised as the most powerful of the Islamic Empires. Nader was without doubt a brilliant soldier who had created a world-beating army and a great legacy of conquest, in emulation of his hero Timur. Persia was now at peace on her terms, with the power of Uzbek Slavers, Afghan Tribes and their Ottoman neighbours all curbed. Superficially, Nader was the ruler of one of the most powerful nations on Earth.

However, like numerous conquerors in history, he found that peace was often more difficult than war. Persia was a country of contrasts, hosting some of the largest cities in the world with a large nomadic population that was still socially dominant in many areas. While some areas of the nation were dominated by those with tribal loyalties, others were arguably proto-national in their outlook. Persia, at least socially, was a nation marked in its divisions, and Nader’s superficial attempts to join the Shia and Sunni populations through the Jafari Madhab seemed to make little difference to either the practice of Islam or the religious tensions in the country. Nader made his peacetime home in Mashhad which had become the de-facto capital of Persia, though even in the city he felt most comfortable in, he was restless. His own chronicles identified the cause of his restlessness as his “Turkic urge for movement” and he rarely spent time in palaces and gardens as previous Persian rulers had done.

Instead, the latter part of his reign was characterised by tours of his kingdom and extended hunting trips. He also put down a number of rebellions among various Afghan and Lur tribes, as he sought to curb their own power further. He viewed the power of the tribes in Persia not only as a threat to his rule, but as thieves who siphoned some of the tax income that should have by all rights gone to him. The traditional balance of power between the nomadic peoples of Persia and the settled people was weakened during Nader’s reign, as he forbade the giving of protection money to nomadic tribes, and cracked down harshly on the banditry that some nomadic and tribal peoples engaged in to supplement their income. In areas such as Luristan, watchtowers soon dotted the landscape as Nader fought what was essentially an insurgency. However, his superior resources started to tell as time went on, and clashes between Persian soldiers and the Lur and Kurdish tribesmen of Western Persia became less common as time went on.

While Nader withdrew ever more from the matter of serious administrative government, his son and presumptive heir, Reza Qoli took more of an interest in civilian government. While Nader’s childhood had been a frugal and simple one, Reza Qoli had only known being the son of an influential man. As well as growing up in opulent Persian surroundings, Reza Qoli’s childhood tutors had imbued him with a greater sense of a Persian identity than Nader possessed. Nader’s later attempts to mould him into the model of a Turkic warrior ruler were not entirely successful, and after their triumph over the Ottoman Empire, the rift between the two in terms of identity only seemed to grow as time went on. Despite the fact that the two found themselves at odds on a personal level, the two began to settle in an equilibrium politically, as Reza Qoli had become the de-facto co-ruler of Persia. While Nader spent as much time away from his court as possible, Reza Qoli focused more on administrative reforms. He greatly increased the scope and size of the bureaucracy, ensuring that more and more revenue reached the central government. Tax collection was made more systematic while lowered, and state monopolies were introduced on the spice trade and the export of Persian carpets.

This improvement in the consistency of revenue led to lower levels of discontent amongst the populace of Persia, and enabled the army to be regularly paid. Even after the conquest of Nader had ended, the army maintained a colossal 200,000 standing soldiers, an enormous figure considering that even including the new conquests, Persia contained a population of around 12 million or so people. For an empire with the kind of power that it wielded, this was a low figure, being less than half of the Ottoman total. However, it is important to remember that this was a low point in the population of many of the areas that made up the Persian Empire, many areas of which had seen internecine warfare for decades previously. The decline had halted by the time that Nader had invaded India, and with the conquest of fertile areas in Central Asia and the Caucasus, areas of settlement had been opened up to aid a Persian population boom.

Nader’s life of campaigning eventually caught up to him. During the summer of 1749 whilst on campaign against the Esapzai Afghans, Nader was shot in the leg. He had managed to survive without amputation, and returned to Mashhad. However, as the winter approach he became increasingly ill. His son Reza Qoli spent a great amount of time with him in his last days, reportedly bridging much of the personal distance that had grown between the two previously. While it is possible that the Persian royal chronicles emphasised the reconciliation in order to smooth the transfer of power, Nader was noted for his closeness toward his son when the two were physically together. It doesn’t seem out of character for the two men to put aside their stubbornness when death was at the door.

With his son by his side, Nader died early in 1750, leaving Reza Qoli as his sole heir. He was crowned Shah just before Nowruz, in a ceremony that resembled those of the Safavid Shahs more than of Nader’s coronation on the Moghan plain. Absent from his coronation was his cousin, Ali Qoli. Ali had fled to Hamadan as soon as Nader had grown sick, and now planned to lead a rebellion on the behalf of a scion of the Safavids. This was mainly done to shore up his own position, as there had always been a level of rivalry between himself and Reza Qoli. What made the rebellion so threatening was Ali Qoli’s appeal of Shia Islam as a base of support in the rebellion, a move that garnered him significant sympathy amongst the clergy, who had seen themselves side-lined during the reign of Nader. They hoped that with the replacement of the Shah with a candidate more reliant on themselves, they would regain much of their previous influence.

However, the gamble that Reza Qoli lacked the spirit of his father (a foolish gamble considering his previous military achievements) were soon put to rest as he defeated Ali Qoli at Rey, before moving to Qom and launching a careful purge of clergymen who had been vocal in their support of Ali Qoli’s rebellion. This would have been unthinkable only decades ago, though the strength of the Afsharid State had grown to such that they were now in a position to treat the Shia clergy as it did the rest of its subjects. This as much as anything demonstrated that if anything, the Afsharid dynasty was stronger than the Safavids had been. Although their legitimacy was quietly doubted by some, and although there were tribes who resented the overbearing government, few of these groups supported the rebellion best placed to bring the new dynasty down. The majority of Persians were in all probability more concerned with stability, which had improved with the coming of the Afsharids. With his internal opposition cowed, Reza Qoli’s crown was now secure.


The Persian Empire at the death of Nader Shah (Not counting Vassal states)


Author’s notes: In history, the unfortunate and blind Reza Qoli was murdered soon after his father’s death. Here, he certainly has potential to carry on the reforms that had been undertaken in his father’s reign. Now that Persia has more or less reached the natural limits of her expansion, the challenge will be for Reza Qoli to secure himself without redress to conquest. His temperament and self-image in our own history seemed to be rather different from his father’s, and with Nader now gone, Reza Qoli may feel even more confident in undertaking different policies.

Deleted member 14881

Nassirisimo, what was the difference between Nader Shah's and the Safavid coronation?
Very nice, those are natural defensible borders for Persia. Now comes the focus on internal strengthening.
Nassirisimo, what was the difference between Nader Shah's and the Safavid coronation?
The Safavid Coronations were usually fairly lavish affairs. Ceremonies included the "Kissing of the feet" as well as lots of dancing boys and girls. While the latter were also present at Nader's coronation, he had reportedly ended the celebrations early as he found it all a bit too much for him.
It will be interesting to see how Reza handles the 7 Years War.
Well thats where we will really see the difference internationally between this timeline and our own. Both alliances would have a lot to gain from Persia being on their side, especially the British/Prussian alliance who would be able to threaten Russia from another flank. But Persia's choices are just as likely to be decided by internal political considerations as by the benefits that can be gained from joining a certain side.
Very nice, those are natural defensible borders for Persia. Now comes the focus on internal strengthening.
Indeed. Historically the later part of the 18th century was a time of internal consolidation and unification in many parts of the world. The middle east largely bucked the trend as states became less centralised and more unstable. The fact that Persia is now able to centralize will change the history of the whole region greatly.
The invasion if India must have been a shock to the Hindu, I think that they'll try to play catch up.