In the decades before the Islamic revolution of 1979, Iran was ruled by the Shah whose dictatorship repressed dissent and restricted political freedoms. But he also he pushed the country to adopt Western-oriented secular modernization, allowing some degree of cultural freedom.
Under the Shah’s rule, Iran’s economy and educational opportunities expanded. Britain and the US counted Iran as their major ally in the Middle East, and the Shah forcefully industrialized large segments of the country. However, the Shah’s increasingly authoritarian measures and his eventual dismissal of multiparty rule set the stage for the infamous revolution.
Still, for a period of almost 40 years, the Shah led Iran through a series of sweeping changes.