During this period the Bakhtiaris had placed a nephew of Shah Suleiman on the throne in Isfahan in 1750 under the title of Shah Ismail III (1750-1753). Karim Khan (1753-1779) had him arrested and ruled as Vaqi, or lieutenant of the kingdom. Karim Khan appears to have been a wise and just ruler and was greatly mourned on his death in 1779. He restored Shi'ism as the state religion, and made Shiraz, whose great northern gateway is shown above, his capital.
A further period of turmoil followed his death, as his brother Zuki Khan, his second son Abul Futteh Khan, another brother Sadegh Khan and the latter's stepson 'Ali Murad Khan violently succeeded one another. The latter, after ruling for four years was over-thrown by Sadegh Khan's son Ja'afer Khan, who was poisoned within three years and succeeded by his son Lotf 'Ali Khan. The latter was eventually tricked into losing Shiraz to the first of the Qajars, Agha Mohammad Qajar in 1794. He fled the area and after a series of daring adventures eventually set himself up as king in Kerman. Agha Mohammad gained the town by treachery, slaughtered or blinded every adult male in the city and granted 20,000 of the women and children as slaves to his soldiers. Even amidst all this carnage and bloodshed he failed to capture Lotf 'Ali who escaped. Lotf 'Ali was later betrayed into the hands of Agha Mohammad who tore out his eyes and had him sent to Tehran where he was finally executed.
Muhammad Qajar had been castrated as a child, and it is possible that this made him so violent. His picture shows an effeminate but sinister man.
He was succeeded in 1797 C.E. by his nephew, Fath 'Ali Shah (1797-1834), notable for his enormous beard and also for the way in which he used Art as means of propaganda. He distributed a large number of paintings of himself to foreign envoys. In all of these he sought to portray himself as the inheritor of a long imperial civilisation.
Fath 'Ali-Shah proved a unifying force in Iranian history. He instituted an age of opulence and refinement, leaving the conduct of the necessary wars to his sons, of whom there were 47! He cemented his power through relations with women from his own Qajar family as well as the defeatred Zand and Afsharid tribes. At his death in 1834 C.E. he left behind over 1,000 descendants. It was during his reign that political alliances were forged and re-forged with the great European and Asian powers. Their influence is clear in the art of the time, but there was also less acceptable meddling in the political and economic affairs of Iran.
Fath 'Ali Shah was succeeded by Muhammad Shah (1834-1848 C.E.) and Nasir al-Din Shah (1848-1896). The former was an autere and unwell monarch who lost touch with his people. It has been said that this loss of touch gave rise to the Bahai movement of the late 1840s which became a party of dissent. Muhammad Shah sought to end this through vigorous persecution of its adherents and re-establishement of Shi'ism and by 1852 the movement had been virtually suppressed.
Further internal difficulties followed the accession of Nasir al-Din Shah in 1848. His short-lived first minister (1848-1851) was the immensely fat, but highly capable, Amir Kabir. Amir Kabir chose the Bagh-e-Fin as his principal residence and it was in the Bath House there, that he met his untimely end at the hand of an assassin, hired by the Shah, in 1852 following his sacking in 1851. Amir Kabir had earned the dislike of his master by attempting to stamp out corruption and patronage.
The assassination of Viziers, or 'prime ministers' was not uncommon in these times. Fath 'Ali shah had executed his Vizier and so had Muhammad Shah, however, it led to instability and following the death of Amir Kabir, Iran sought compromise after compromise with Britain and Russia in an attempt to balance territorial integrity with the needs of the exchequer. THe losses of Herat and Merv provinces between 1856 and 1861 C.E. were however, arrested through this policy, although at the cost of real independence.
In 1873 Nasir al-Din undertook a tour of Europe from which he returned with misgivings based upon the apparent relationship with tyechnological advance and the growth of en empowered proletariat.