Reza Shah was a man of simple origins. He was sincerely and deeply moved by the sorry condition of his country, conscious of his own strengths, and supremely self-confident. He was in some respects a great man and, in the sum of his qualities and achievements, an extraordinary phenomenon. Endowed with enormous energy, he worked constantly and drove others mercilessly. In the later years of his reign he seems to have become obsessed with power. Brutality and greed grew to dominate his behavior. He took fear as his primary means of governing. "Like other and greater figures of history, he became a builder, imaginative, restless, ruthless, on an inconceivable scale, and with amazing results." .
Having effectively put down the greatest regional threats, such as Russia, Britain and Iranian tribes, to Iran's unity, built up the army, and gathered overwhelming power in his own hands, Reza Shah was able to embark on a vast program of modernization, Persianization, centralization and development. This was to launch major changes from an Iran that had no serious public educational system, few roads, no railroad, and very little reform in the position of women, and was dependent on the west, into a more modernized/westernized country. The problems facing Reza Shah in Iran were very similar to those that faced Turkey's Ataturk, only far more difficult. The two most pressing problems were the re-establishment of a recognized central governmental authority and reform of national finances. Other reforms implemented were transportation reforms, education reforms, and dress reforms. Of these reforms education and concern about public health were most long lasting and made a large impact on the Iranian people and Iran as a whole. .
Reza Shah attempted to change the face of Iran, uniting it and freeing it from dominating foreign powers such as the British and the Russians. The concern of the British was to protect the route to India and to secure their hold on Afghanistan.