Covering half a millennium of history of any country or region is a formidable task. When it comes to the history of early modern and modern Iran, it becomes daunting. It took nearly two decades for me to try to cover a complex period that witnessed five dynastic changes, at least three revolutions, three civil wars, four episodes of foreign occupation, and the inception of a new Islamic government. I hope I have produced a coherent narrative that threads the events of this past into meaningful themes, just as every knot feeds into the larger pattern of a Persian carpet. Yet history, as historians are anxious to caution their readers, has many random twists and turns, which seldom lend themselves to an orderly design. What emerges, as in this book, may seem to be disarray up close, but from afar, with the benefit of hindsight, it reveals a pattern with many discernable paths.