Iran is a land of contradictions. It is an Islamic republic, but one in which only 1.4 percent of the population attend Friday prayers. Irans religious culture encompasses the most censorious and dogmatic Shia Muslim clerics in the world, and yet its poetry insistently dwells on the joys of life-wine, beauty, sex. Iranian women are subject to one of the most restrictive dress codes in the Islamic world, but make up nearly 60 percent of the university student population. In A History of Iran, a leading expert on Iran chronicles the rich history of this complex nation from the Achaemenid Empire of sixth century B.C. to the present-day Islamic Republic. In accessible prose, Michael Axworthy explains the military, political, religious, and cultural forces that have shaped one of the oldest continuing civilizations in the world. Concluding with an assessment of the immense changes the nation has undergone since the revolution in 1979, A History of Iran offers general readers an essential point of entry into a troubled region.
Evenhanded, factual, brief and easy to read
By Winston "Iran Blogger/Activist" - May 24, 2008
I thought this is going to be another typical book on history of Iran when I picked it up but I admit I was wrong. This book is fair, evenhanded and factual in dealing with the history of Iran. It's very brief and concise and in that context, Mr. Axworthy has done a good job explaining in simple language the history of a very complicated nation. It has little or no political agenda. It credits Iran/Persia with things it has done and more importantly it sheds light on some unknown and un-touched corners of the modern Iranian history such as the 1953 coup against PM Mossadegh and the ascend of Reza Shah the great to power in early 20th century. I'd recommend this book to the students of middle-eastern history and those interested in knowing more about Iran.
Excellent Overview of Iranian History
By C. Sells - July 1, 2008
A plethora of recent books chronicle recent Iranian history (with a particular focus on 1953-today). This book discusses that period, but it does a lot more. The vast majority of the book deals with ancient Iranian history - including tales of epic Persian leaders (Xerxes, Darius) and the wars that shaped Iranian history (fighting against the Greeks, Romans, Arab Muslims, Afghans, Russians, and the British). If you want to know about ancient Iran, this is your book. It's very easy to read for a "history" book.
That said, if you are looking for real detail on more recent events, such as the 1953 Mossadeq coup, the 1979 Revolution, or today's affairs, I'd look elsewhere (Persian Puzzle is really good at narrating the recent events, as are focused books such as "All the Shah's Men" and "Ahmadinejad."
Having read a lot about recent Iranian history, I enjoyed the voyage into ancient history - but know the predominantly ancient focus before buying.
By Fathali Ghahremani "qajar" - September 25, 2009
This book can be considered a starting point for any newcomer to Iranian history. It is, without a doubt, a major contribution to the popular history genre. While Iran/Persia is one of the great empires, Axworthy implies that it is also an empire of the mind, a virtual empire that transcends the western concept of the geopolitical state.
The book follows Iran's chronological history from pre-Achaemenid times to the present. It is well researched and has extensive footnotes and references allowing the reader to delve into details of any event or subject. Yet, it is eminently readable and has the tone of a lively and informative lecture rather than an erudite tome.
The book binds all the varied elements of Iranian culture (a multi-lingual, multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, multi-religion mélange of peoples) into a single story line. It provides a factual, but simplified, picture of a multiplicity of societies who consider themselves Iranian regardless of the... read more
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