In the 1920s and 1930s, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and Reza Shah sought to modernize Turkey and Iran respectively. Atatürk abolished the caliphate and Latinized the alphabet. Reza Shah imposed central control over the periphery, settled nomadic tribes, established secular education and judicial systems. Both imposed Western dress. In Turkey, Atatürk's reforms lasted, transforming the county over time into a secular, Western-leaning democratic state. In Iran, reforms floundered under autocracy, and in 1979, the Islamic revolution reversed Reza Shah's legacy.

Atabaki, a professor of Iranian history, and Zürcher, a professor of Turkish studies, have assembled a number of essays born out of a 1999 conference. The resulting papers are well organized into a coherent whole. Chapters limited to just Iran or Turkey are paired to enable readers to juxtapose each country's experience in terms of political consolidation or military reforms.

Other chapters take a comparative tact, addressing issues such as dress or language reform in both countries. Boston University historian Houchang Chehabi, for example, examines the modernization of dress as a "textbook example of modernization from above." In an age when too many academics succumb to the political correctness of condemning Westernization, it is good to see that he acknowledges there was a constituency for such reforms.

The editors republish an earlier article by John Perry, professor of Persian at the University of Chicago, comparing language reform in Turkey and Iran.[1] His study describes the creation of organizations to promote language purity and has many examples of their successes. He gives short shift to the Iranian debate about Latinizing the alphabet. While "never seriously considered," the question of why such reforms were possible in Turkey but not in Iran would be valuable. Men of Order lacks a conclusion although the editors suggest that Atatürk had an easier job because he could build on Ottoman precedents. The omission of a chapter tying together the various essays undercuts an otherwise valuable addition to both Turkish and Iranian studies.

The essay on the foreign policy and legacy of an Iranian prime minister by Oliver Bast, a University of Manchester historian, is well-written and informative but is cursory on the question of comparative modernization. Its inclusion is distracting.

With a few exceptions—School of Oriental and African Studies research associate Stephanie Cronin being one—the authors rely on primary source material and so bring new detail to the historical narrative. However, the thickness of the narrative limits the reach of Men of Order to a reference for specialists rather than a resource for a wider audience.

[1] John Perry, "Language Reform in Turkey and Iran," International Journal of Middle East Studies, 17 (1985): 295-311.