This book analyzes the processes of social transformation in Iran from the height of the country's power in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries under the Safavid dynasty to the aftermath of the startling revolution that overthrew the Pahlavi monarchy in 1979. It addresses two intertwined central issues: how to conceptualize a changing social structure and how to account for the periodic social explosions that have marked the process of change with a record of social movements unmatched in the modern era. Social structure is approached through the prisms of class, ethnicity, and gender, with an emphasis on the first of these dimensions but attention to the salience of the others as well. A key problem that must be carefully explored hinges on the degree to which Iran's relations with the West (in the broad sense of the more industrialized nations) have, over a period of several centuries, shaped state, society, and economy in a distinct direction of dependence on the world economy and on politics in the most powerful countries. The interaction of these external pressures with the pre-existing and ongoing structure of Iranian society has yielded ever more complex social relations over time. The resulting tensions have been reflected in a series of protests, rebellions, revolutions, separatist movements, and coups that originated in the resistance of multiple sectors of the population to the realities of foreign control and state autocracy. The puzzle is to explain under what conditions such opposition has been possible and why its liberating potential has been so repeatedly frustrated. The roots of an answer, I shall argue, lie in the complexity of Iranian social structure, the political cultures of opposition articulated by the groups involved, and the internal and external balances of power. The story is one of frequently courageous efforts to change the unequal structures of power, and just as frequent collapses of these fragile projects. It is an enormously inspiring, if ultimately tragic, tale.