A History of Iran: Empire of the Mind" by Michael Axworthy.
NOTE: We have 75,000 books in our library, almost 10,000 different titles.
Odds are we have other copies of this same title in varying conditions, some
less expensive, some better condition. We might also have different editions
as well (some paperback, some hardcover, oftentimes international editions).
If you don’t see what you want, please contact us and ask. We’re happy to send
you a summary of the differing conditions and prices we may have for the same
DESCRIPTION: Oversized softcover. Publisher: Basic Books (2008). Pages:
352. Size: 9¼ x 6¼ x 1 inch; 1¼ pounds. 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. Iran’s religious culture encompasses the most censorious
and dogmatic Shi’a 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.
CONDITION: NEW: New oversized softcover. Basic Books (2010) 368 pages.
Unblemished, unmarked, pristine in every respect. Pages are pristine; clean,
crisp, unmarked, unmutilated, tightly bound, unambiguously unread. Satisfaction
unconditionally guaranteed. In stock, ready to ship. No disappointments, no
excuses. PROMPT SHIPPING! HEAVILY PADDED, DAMAGE-FREE PACKAGING! Meticulous and
accurate descriptions! Selling rare and out-of-print ancient history books
on-line since 1997. We accept returns for any reason within 30 days! #8635.1a.
PLEASE SEE DESCRIPTIONS AND IMAGES BELOW FOR DETAILED REVIEWS AND FOR PAGES OF
PICTURES FROM INSIDE OF BOOK.
PLEASE SEE PUBLISHER, PROFESSIONAL, AND READER REVIEWS BELOW.
REVIEW: From the time of the prophet Zoroaster, to the powerful ancient
Persian Empires, to the revolution of 1979, the hostage crisis and current
president Mahmud Ahmadinejad – a controversial figure within as well as outside
the country – Michael Axworthy traces a vivid, integrated account of Iran’s
past. He explains clearly and carefully both the complex succession of
dynasties that ruled ancient Iran and the surprising ethnic diversity of the
modern country, held together by a common culture. With Iran again the focus
of the world’s attention, and questions about the country’s disposition and
intentions pressing, “Iran: Empire of the Mind” is an essential guide to
understanding a complicated land.
REVIEW: A comprehensive history of Iran, from the glories of the Persian
Empire to the Islamic Republic’s newly powerful-and much vilified-role in the
REVIEW: A leading expert chronicles the rich history of this complex nation,
offering general readers an essential point of entry into a troubled region.
REVIEW: Michael Axworthy is Honorary Fellow at the Institute of Arab and
Islamic Studies at the University of Exeter in England. From 1986 to 2000, he
served as a British Foreign Service officer; from 1998 to 2000 he was the Head
of Iran Section of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. The author of “The
Sword of Persia”, a biography of the Persian monarch Nadir Shah, Axworthy
publishes widely in the field of Iranian history. He lives in Bude, England.
REVIEW: TABLE OF CONTENTS:
Origins: Zoroaster, the Achaemenids, and the Greeks.
The Iranian revival: Parthians and Sassanids.
Islam and Invasions: The Arabs, Turks and Mongols: The Iranian Reconquest of
Islam, the Sufis, and the Poets.
Shiʻism and the Safavids.
The Fall of the Safavids, Nader Shah, the Eighteenth-Century Interregnum, and
the Early Years of the Qajar Dynasty.
The Crisis of the Qajar Monarchy, the Revolution of 1905-1911, and the
Accession of the Pahlavi Dynasty.
The Pahlavis and the Revolution of 1979.
Iran since the Revolution: Islamic Revival, War, and Confrontation From
Khatami to Ahmadinejad, and the Iranian Predicament.
REVIEW: After the Islamic Revolution of 1979, a large number of Iranians
joined the ranks of expatriates living in Europe and the United States.
Suddenly uprooted and finding themselves in unfamiliar surroundings, some of
them tried to redefine what it meant to be Persian or “Iran-ness.” This began
as an effort to distance Iran from the images spread by television coverage of
the hostage crisis. Iran-ness appears often in writing published outside of
Iran to distinguish between the modern Shiite theocracy and the tradition of
religious tolerance and cultural pluralism of ancient empires. The quest for a
durable Persian-ness is also manifest in the modern state where it is
fashionable for young people--many of them Muslim--to wear as a pendant the
faravahar, the Zoroastrian religious symbol found on Achaemenid monuments and
Michael Axworthy’s book offers a broad understanding of Iranian-ness. Its
subtitle comes from Winston Churchill (quoted on page 283), who said that
future (post-1943) empires would be mental rather than physical constructs.
Axworthy seeks to define the idea of Iran from its very inception to--as part
of the title of the last chapter puts it--“Ahmadinejad and the Iranian
Predicament.” Many elements of Axworthy’s definition mirror the expatriate
intellectual search for an Iran that differs from the contemporary state.
Almost all of his work is devoted, therefore, to dynastic history, invasions by
non-Iranians, discussions of Iranian religious exceptionalism (Zoroastrianism
and Shiism), and appeals to Persian language and literature. In this way the
author follows in the footsteps of veteran Western Iranists, like C. Edmund
Bosworth, who speaks of “Persia's peculiar national genius."
Axworthy’s history is a familiar catalogue of emperors from the pre-Islamic
period and of Turkic rulers who rose to power after the Arab invasion. His book
resembles the many Persian surveys called “compendia of histories” (javame’
al-tavarikh), a genre that had become so conventional that, by the early
nineteenth century, Mohammad Hashem Asaf could parody it in his Rostam
al-Tavarikh or “The Hercules of histories” (edited by Mohammad Moshiri ).
Writers of collective history often shaped their works to meet the ideological
needs of their patrons (usually rulers or court functionaries). As Reza
Bigdeloo points out in Bashangara’I dar tarikh-e mo’aser-e iran (2001)
Archaism in the contemporary history of Iran), the tendency to downplay the
role of Islam in Iranian history and to emphasize ancient kingship and empire
was particularly apparent during the Pahlavi era (1925-79).
The new dynasty, which comprised only two shahs, Reza and his son Mohammad
Reza, recalibrated the Iranian calendar so that it went back 2,500 hundred
years. To his credit in retelling what he calls the “violence and drama” of
Iranian history, Axworthy plots a middle course (p. xi). He rejects simple
explanations for such pivotal events as the 1941 removal of the first Pahlavi
monarch, and puts part of the blame for the fall of Mosaddeq and the
restoration of the Pahlavis on the prime minister’s broad shoulders. Axworthy
also does not paint the results of the 1979 Revolution with one brush. A
History of Iran might not be popular in some expatriate circles because it
acknowledges that the rural and urban poor benefited from development efforts
carried out under the Islamic Republic.
Literature is a defining trait of Axworthy’s view of Iran-ness. His survey
begins with epigraphy and ends with ideological and theological works that
influenced the Iranian Revolution. He lets the inscriptions left by the
Achaemenids speak for their cosmopolitan approach to empire; Ferdowsi’s
Shahnameh for the revival of Persian culture that occurred two centuries after
the Arab invasion; Omar Khayyam’s quatrains for Persian rationalism; and Sadeq
Hedayat’s essays, short stories, and plays for the anti-Arab nationalism that
became popular in the twentieth century. Occasionally Axworthy tries to set the
literary record straight by showing what gets lost in English translations of
classical Persian literature (for example, Khayyam on page 91 and Jalal al-Din
Rumi on page 116). He also points to a Persianate culture that, from the
sixteenth to the early nineteenth centuries, extended beyond the boundaries of
modern Iran to India and Turkey.
Axworthy’s is a work of history that looks forward when speaking of the
past. He quotes a poem attributed to the thirteenth-century philosopher Naser
al-Din Tusi, that says “anyone who does not know that he does not know is stuck
for ever in double ignorance,” and he notes that it “anticipat[es] Donald
Rumsfeld by perhaps seven centuries” (p. xi). His discussion of Rumi, a
contemporary of Tusi, laments that the great mystic has been “befriended by
numb-brained New Agery” (p. 116). The last chapter of the book, “From Khatami
to Ahmadinejad and the Iranian Predicament,” looks forward to the possibility
of a rapprochement between the West (principally the United States) and Iran.
In this chapter, Axworthy contrasts the historical Iran with its “diverse
and profound intellectual heritage” and its “ancient and important Jewish
presence” to the modern state, an aberration from the empire of the mind that
can host Holocaust doubters (p. 290). So, more than a history of Iran,
Axworthy’s book is an argument against the use of force in solving the Iranian
problem. When Western states take into consideration the facts and ideas he has
marshaled in his history, they will bring a needed awareness of the tradition
of Iranian reason and tolerance to future diplomacy. [Paul Sprachman, Rutgers
REVIEW: For several years, Iran has been at the center of international
attention because of its suppression of individual rights, strict censorship
policies, continuous attempts to enrich uranium, and 2009 elections resulting
in mass protests, arrests, and even the murder of several protesters. This
current Iranian reality, however, overshadows the glorious Iranian civilization
whose origins date back almost three millennia. "A History of Iran", one of
several recent books that aim to draw back the gloomy curtain of recent events,
aims to increase the general reader's awareness of the richness and uniqueness
of the Iranian heritage.
Michael Axworthy, a former British Foreign Service officer and a lecturer
in Arabic and Islamic Studies at the University of Exeter, covers an enormous
span of time, from the earliest times up to the present day, in a clear,
easy-to-read, and detailed but not cluttered narrative. In doing so, he also
emphasizes the role of Iran as a source of influence in the Middle East, Asia,
and even Europe. The book's subtitle, Empire of the Mind, refers to the fact
that even though Iran has endured multiple invasions by either men or ideas,
and was thus never a tightly unified or a culturally or religiously homogeneous
society, these invaders have somehow been assimilated without destroying Iran's
cultural and political continuity.
Axworthy begins his book with general information, including Iran's
geographical position, its demographic structure, its weather, and the origin
of the word "Persian," which comes from Fars province in southwestern Iran,
home to Iran's most ancient archaeological sites, Persepolis and Pasargadae.
He also mentions that the word "Iran" or "Iranian" derives from the word
Aryan," Sanskrit for "noble").
After this section, Axworthy discusses the first Persian Empire, the
Achaemenids (550BC-330BC), founded by Cyrus, extended by his conquering
descendants, and brought to an end by Alexander the Great. The author, at this
point, argues that Alexander's conquest of the Persian Empire did not result in
the empire's "hellenization;" on the contrary, Persian culture and traditions,
including religion, profoundly shaped Rome's and later Byzantium's imperial
conduct. In the following chapters, Axworthy discusses the succeeding Persian
dynasties, the Parthians (247BC-224AD) and the Sassanids (224AD-651AD).
Pre-Islamic empires, however, take up only one-fifth of the book; Axworthy's
coverage of them feels like a rapid run-through. Instead of discussing what
made these empires powerful or weak, Axworthy prefers to mention little more
than names and dates.
The bulk of the book deals with the Islamic era in Iran. The Islamization
of Persia, the Arab, Turkmen, and Mongol invasions, and the consequences of all
of these are the main topics of the following two chapters. Here, even though
author traces the stories of the various rulers of Iran down the centuries, he
also pays close attention to other aspects of Iranian society, focusing
especially on poetry as a defining trait. A relatively long chapter on Persian
poetry gives insights into Iranian attitudes and spiritual leanings. Axworthy
meticulously describes the stories behind selected Iranian poems and the
symbolic use of words.
Succeeding chapters swiftly summarize the Safavid Empire (1501-1722) and
its fall at the hands of Afghan invaders, the chaotic years between 1720 and
1794, and the Qajar dynasty (1794-1925). Axworthy devotes attention to the
wealth, productivity, and commercial potential of Iran, which enabled great
rulers such as the Safavid shah Abbas I (1588 -1629) to develop and rule a
culturally and materially rich empire. He also underlines the fact that
Persia's wealth attracted Ottoman, Afghan, British, and Russian attacks
throughout these decades. Axworthy offers an evenhanded discussion of the
British and Russian competition for geopolitical influence in Iran, beginning
in the late 18th century.
Axworthy's final chapters cover the 1906 constitutional revolution,
attempts to create a constitutional monarchy, the beginning of the Pahlavi
dynasty in 1925, the influence of oil in Iran's foreign and domestic policies,
British and Russian interests in the country, invasions of Persian territory
during World War II, and the United States' growing role after World War II.
The Islamic revolution of 1979 looms large in this discussion. Axworthy's
coverage of Iran just before the revolution is fair but pointed; he emphasizes
the last shah's undemocratic policies, SAVAK's (National Intelligence and
Security Organization) routine use of torture, and an opposition movement
against the regime that included different groups such as liberals, socialists,
students, and religious scholars.
Axworthy also stresses religious exceptionalism and continuity in Iran over
the centuries. Between Zoroastrianism, one of the earliest forms of monotheism
accepted by the Iranians as a state religion, and Islam, he finds several
parallels, such as the concepts of hell and heaven and the belief in the human
being's ability to choose between good and evil. After Zorastrianism, the
author discusses Shia Islam as another sign of Iran's religious exceptionalism.
For the reader who is not familiar with the division between Sunni and Shia
Islam, Axworthy points out similarities between Islamic and Christian sectarian
divisions, such as the resemblances between the Ashura commemorations in Iran
and traditional Good Friday processions in many Catholic countries.
The position of women is another issue that Axworthy explores in his book.
He highlights the fact that in classical Persian culture, women were
well-respected and had the same rights as men, such as owning property,
operating businesses, and choosing spouses. He convincingly argues that women's
position in modern Iran is "more egalitarian or less suppressed" than in many
other Islamic countries. He cites the attention-grabbing statistic that
sixty-six percent of university students in Iran today are female.
In his last chapter, Axworthy casts off the mantle of the historian and
writes like a political columnist, touching upon recent social and political
issues concerning Iran and underlining the possibility of a rapprochement
between the West and Iran. He stresses the wrong-headedness of using military
force to solve the Iranian "problem." He notes the negative and positive
aspects of Iranian and Western policies and lectures the American and Israeli
governments on the importance of understanding Iran and having good
relationships with it. He thinks that the West (mainly the United States) has
been unfair towards Iran over the last several decades: "The present government
of Iran is far from perfect, but there are other governments in the Middle East
that are as bad or worse -on democracy or human rights- whom we have few
scruples about describing as close allies".
Axworthy also conveys some of the underappreciated or misunderstood aspects
of Iranian society that have contributed to Westerners' negative opinion of
Iran. For instance, Iran expressed its sorrow after the September 11 attacks,
and many Iranians sympathized with America. Axworthy also mentions that the
Iranian government supported the military operations against the Taliban in
Afghanistan led by the United States. In this context, the author openly
criticizes the Bush administration for neglecting these facts.
Even though Axworthy's book offers a compelling overview of Iranian
history, it does not go into much depth. This is understandable considering the
lengthy period that the author covers in only 300 pages. For instance, the U.S.
hostage crisis of 1979-80, the Iran-Contra Affair during Ronald Reagan's
presidency, and the roles of the Council of Experts and Council of Guardians
are either not mentioned or glossed over. In his comprehensive book, Axworthy
uses simple, personalized language, rather than a scholarly tone, to deal with
a three thousand-year-old, very complex civilization. This feature will make
his survey accessible to a general audience with little or no prior knowledge
of Iran. [Ohio State University].
REVIEW: Iran has for several decades projected a dismal image—repression of
political and human rights; crippling censorship in the press, literature, the
arts, and self-expression; the ideological distortion of education; and the
increasing burden of economic hardship. Sadly, this current Iranian reality
heavily overshadows the great and glorious civilization that we associate with
an older “Persia” (in 1935, Reza Shah decreed the name change to Iran). For
most of us, that civilization is shrouded in a golden haze: Persepolis, the
Peacock Throne, and Omar Khayyam come to mind, a Cyrus, Darius or Xerxes
perhaps more than one of each) are only just remembered. But help is at hand.
In "A History of Iran", Michael Axworthy, a lecturer in Arabic and Islamic
Studies at the University of Exeter, UK, provides a clear, swift-moving
narrative, detailed but not cluttered, that takes the reader briskly down the
highway (and more significant byways) of two and a half millennia of Persian
Axworthy’s subtitle—"An Empire of the Mind"—is important. He demonstrates
that Persia, and particularly ancient and medieval Persia, was never a rigidly
unified or culturally or religiously homogeneous state. Zoroastrianism made
Persians acutely aware of good and evil in contention, while the empire of the
Achaemenid dynasty (559-330 BC), extending from Bactria to beyond Egypt and
uneasily rubbing shoulders with unconquered mainland Greece, introduced the
goods and thought of half the world. The author argues that Alexander’s
conquest of the empire did not permanently “hellenize” Persia; Persian
influences, in fact, were to shape Rome and Byzantium’s imperial conduct. If
Rome’s centuries of war with Persia of the home-grown Arsacid dynasty (247
BC-AD 224) intermittently rewarded the West with a larger share trade goods of
Asia, it also brought in Mithraism—a religion that was to pervade the empire,
including its outposts along Hadrian’s Wall in northern England.
For many readers Axworthy will be tracing less familiar history in his
accounts of the Arab, Turk, and Mongol invasions of Persia. Among much else,
the Arab conquest (followed by the Sunni-Shia rift and the permanent ascendancy
of the latter in Persia) created a crucible out of which unrivaled Persian
poetry was born, including Ferdowsi’s magnificent Shahnameh, recalling the
glories of pre-Islamic Persia, and that of the ever-popular Omar Khayyam.
Islamic Persia was home to al-Kindi and al-Ferabi, translators of Aristotle and
Plato, and ibn-Sina and many scholar—authors whose work advanced medieval
medicine and science. The horrors of the Mongol conquest did not extinguish
creativity: Rumi, Iraqi, Sa’di, and Hafez wrote universally admired works.
Axworthy’s analyses of the key elements in the outlook and expression of this
diverse quartet will add to our appreciation of their enduring poetry. Given
the state of the world, such lines as Hafez’s “Tumult and bloody battle rage in
the plain: / Bring blood-red wine, and fill the cup again” are indeed timely.
Few would claim that Persia has enjoyed stability or tranquility; accession
to the Peacock throne and dynastic change was often violent and the Shia form
of Islam was no stranger to internal dissension, to Sunni threats, or to the
intermittent persecution of other faiths. Yet the heterogeneous nation’s
wealth, productivity, and trade (Persia straddled the Silk Route) enabled great
rulers such as Abbas (1571-1629) to develop and rule a culturally and
materially rich state, hence its interest to French, British, and other
merchants. Persia’s wealth also served to attract Afghan and Ottoman invaders,
particularly in the troubled eighteenth century. Axworthy recounts events con
brio, particularly the spectacular career of Nader Shah (1736-41), who won the
throne and extensive territories beyond Persia. In the 1790s the civil
war/ruthless victor theme replayed under Aga Mohammed—and long continued,
though the glory seems to have ended with Shah Reza Pahlevi and the glamour
with Farah Diba. The author’s brisk retelling of contemporary Iran’s recent
history clearly depicts the Revolution, its belligerent politics, burdensome
religiosity, and the nuclear threat. He ends on a cautiously optimistic note:
current Iranian films may hint at a more open society.
Particularly telling throughout this fine book is Axworthy’s exploration of
the intellectual and religious aspects of Persian life, in which Allah and the
perfection of man have long been a concern. We share the passions and the
poetry of a great culture that despite war and cruelty never lost its
refinement, its concepts of beauty, and of truth. Readers are likely share this
reviewer’s sense that a fragmentary knowledge of Persian history suddenly, with
the author’s engaging help, approaches a rounded picture—one well worth
enlarging. It is hard to imagine a better treatment of Persia within a single
volume than this. [Peter Skinner, Foreward Reviews].
REVIEW: Sweeping, sensitive and evenhanded overview of the ancient nation,
from the days of the prophet Zoroaster to those of the Islamic Republic. Former
British foreign-service officer and Iranian historian Axworthy ("The Sword of
Persia: Nader Shah, from Tribal Warrior to Conquering Tyrant", 2006) covers an
enormous amount of material in elegant, upbeat fashion. Aware of the country's
accomplishments without being blind to its failings, he emphasizes Iran's
diversity, noting that nearly half the population is made up of ethnic Azeris,
Kurds, Gilakis, Buluchis and Turkmen, and that its native tongue, Farsi, is the
sole Indo-European language in the Arab-speaking Middle East.
Called Persia until the Reza Shah promoted an official name change in
1935, the nation formed its identity from nomadic migrations imbued with the
spirit of Zoroastrianism. This early form of monotheism offered a new concept
of heaven and hell, and of the free human choice between good and evil, that
exerted a huge influence on later religions, Axworthy asserts. In the sixth
century BCE, tribes coalesced around the first royal house, founded by Cyrus
and extended by his conquering descendants, Darius et al. The empire's
magnificent capital, Persepolis, was burned by the victorious Alexander the
Great in 330 BCE.
Successive dynasties jockeyed for power and battled with the Roman Empire,
while Persian poets created such heroic works as Ferdowsi's Shahnameh ("The
Epic of Kings"), as significant to Iranian culture as Shakespeare is to the
West. Islamic incursion occurred gradually, and Axworthy cogently dissects the
Sunni/Shi'a schism that roils Islam today. His wide-ranging, in-depth knowledge
of the Middle East enriches hisanalysis of the Pahlavi dynasty and the
revolution of 1979. "The deeper, reflective, humane Iran is still there beneath
the threatening media headlines," he opines, and its citizens are gearing up
for a more significant role in the world community. Axworthy's reasoned survey
will be especially helpful to lay readers and students of Arab history. [Kirkus
REVIEW: A revolution breaks out in Iran, led by "a cleric asserting religious
orthodoxy...and drawing support from economic grievances". This, however, was
in 52BC. Soon Darius, the Persian "king of kings", quashed the revolt. Over
2,500 years, the grand sweep of Iranian history shows continuity as well as
Locals always grasp that this epic past informs the present, while it
eludes Western observers. At this time above all, we need a deeply informed,
engagingly written history of the nation from Cyrus to Khomeini and beyond.
Axworthy does the job with balance and aplomb. Readers who fear that they may
shrink in confusion will warm to his human-scale portrait of a self-renewing
culture that, as with its world-beating cinema today, shows "enduring
greatness" and "creative power". [The Independent (UK)].
REVIEW: Axworthy combines his very impressive academic credentials (Arab and
Islamic studies, Univ. of Exeter) and his many years of diplomatic experience
in the British Foreign Service (and the Head of the Iran Section) to guide
readers through the dramatic history of the Iranian nation--tragic and brutal
at times and often heroic. His analysis of events, particularly since the
beginning of the rule of the Qajar dynasty (at the end of the 18th century) to
the present time, is refreshingly informative and objective. This is what
distinguishes this study from most others. There has been, unfortunately,
little unbiased and solidly scholarly coverage of the history of Iran in modern
times. Axworthy's portrayals of and commentaries on the rule of the Pahlavi
Shahs and the leaders of the Islamic Republic that followed are superb. This
remarkable work should be on the reading list of any serious student of Iranian
history and culture. Summing Up: Essential. All levels/libraries. [N. Rassekh
Lewis and Clark College].REVIEW: The peoples of the Iranian plateau have a
written history of at least 2,500 years. The Persian Empire extended from Egypt
to northern India, and the influence of the Persian language, literature, and
architectural styles is still evident across western and central Asia.
Unfortunately, most Americans view Iran today through the prism of staged
anti-American demonstrations and the rantings of their current president.
Axworthy, Honorary Fellow at the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies at the
University of Exeter in England, has provided a valuable counterpoint to those
distorted impressions. He has written a compact but still inclusive narrative
account that conveys both the diversity and richness of the various empires and
cultural forces that have shaped the Iranian people. He offers fascinating
insights into the political developments in the Achaemenid, Parthian, and
Sassanid empires, and his efforts to illustrate how Iranians adopted Islam
while resisting the “Arabization” of their culture is provocative. This is an
excellent examination of the forging of a people who are poised to, once again,
play a prominent role in world affairs. [Booklist].
REVIEW: Fitting three millennia of history into just under 300 pages -
and making them readable - would be an impressive feat even with a less
sprawling topic than Iran's past. So Michael Axworthy's deft untangling of the
country's history, from the advent of Zoroastrianism to the 1979 revolution, is
a stunning achievement. With nods to the country's artistic heritage as well as
its volatile political history, Axworthy repeatedly asserts that 'the best of
Iranian genius' lies in the tolerance towards a broad range of cultures, while
maintaining a 'strong central principle of identity'. So it's unsurprising that
his assessment of the present regime is stinging. Cheeringly, however, his
predictions for the country's future are cautiously positive. [The Guardian
REVIEW: Michael Axworthy's deft untangling of the country's history, from
the advent of Zoroastrianism to the 1979 revolution, is a stunning achievement.
The Observer (UK)].
REVIEW: Inviting us to look beyond the menacing bluster of the Iranian
president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Axworthy celebrates Iran's rich history of
tolerance and creative expression. [Chronicle of Higher Education].
REVIEW: An engrossing, powerfully argued, and elegantly written history of a
country which finds itself once again at the center of international affairs.
Justin Marozzi, author of “Tamerlane: Sword of Islam, Conqueror of the World”].
REVIEW: The best available single-volume introduction to Iran's history. [New
REVIEW: Michael Axworthy's excellent 2008 "A History of Iran: Empire of
the Mind" covers 3,000 years of Iranian history in less than 300 pages. His
approach is sensitive and generally even-handed, reflecting an interest in Iran
that in places borders on reverence. The result is a nuanced narrative
accessible to the general reader and the student of Iranian affairs. The
sub-title, "Empire of the Mind", conveys the central narrative theme that
modern Iran is a product of multiple invasions, whether of men or ideas, that
have somehow been assimilated without obliterating Iran's cultural and
political continuity. Its many contradictions are the product of a civilization
founded by Aryan immigrants from central Asia, that was overrun by Greek,
Roman, Arab and other armies, and is now the principal home of the Shia varient
Axworthy traces the impact of the various ruling dynasties, but he also pays
close attention to the finer aspects of its culture, especially its poetry. Of
most interest to this reviewer was his description of the current government,
with its interwoven secular and religious strands. Axworthy, a former foreign
service officer, tries to be evenhanded about the nature of the current regime.
The corruption and repression revealed by the June 2009 presidential elections
reinforces his idea of a regime both brutal and divided. His handling of the
ongoing nuclear crisis is less sure; Axworthy probably undersells both Iran's
diplomatic stonewalling and its interest in nuclear weapons. "A History of
Iran: Empire of the Mind" is highly recommended as a concise introduction to
the country and its idea of its place in the world.
REVIEW: This is an excellent exposition of Iranian history surveying the
nation's history through the age of empire from the times of Cyrus the Great to
the present government led by the Islamic Republic. One of the first things
that will surprise you about this book is how extensive but yet quickly you
will be able to move through the time periods of Persian history. The book
starts by describing Persia from the first true Persian Dynasty, the Achaemenid
dynasty, followed by the Seleucid, Parthian, Sassanid, Umayyad, Abassid,
Saffavid, Qajar, and Phavali dynasties. The chapters are linked together by
stories and important historical developments in each era and transistions
smoothly by describing the fall and the rise of the subsequent powers.
In addition, the author dedicated an extensive chapter to the accomplishment
of Persian poets including works of Rumi, Saadi, Hafez, and Iraqi. It is most
interesting to understand the role of poetry and its development in Persian
history. The symbolism of the poetic works corresponds to subjects such as
love, power, war, and life. So if you are someone who wants to thumb through a
well composed survey of Iran's history, culture, and people this book is
definitely the right one for you. It is always breathtaking to see how
civilizations can influence each other in the most subtle manner and thus have
profound effects just as how people may influence each other.
REVIEW: This short history covers over three thousand years of history of
the Iranian people, and other groups that now inhabit the modern nation of
Iran. Naturally, that means it is extremely short on detail. But for the reader
who only wants an overview, or an introduction before a more serious study, I
recommend this book. Axworthy spreads his focus evenly throughout the various
phases of history (as opposed to breezing quickly through ancient empires to
get us to the present). I agree with his decision to do so. Many Iranians have
a sense of history that makes it necessary to have at least a passing
understanding of Iran's pre-Islamic heritage in order to understand modern
I also believe that pre- and early-Islamic history are interesting in their
own right. But for readers who are mainly interested in the modern world, this
might not be the best book; Axworthy doesn't start discussing the Pahlavi
period until page 221, and spends about 65 pages on the last 100 years.
Regardless, the book is very well written overall. It is accessible to the
casual reader. The several maps help create a coherent picture of the
ever-shifting historical boundaries. I recommend this book to anyone with an
interest in Iran who has little or no background in the country. I also
recommend following this book up with something more detailed.
REVIEW: 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 proclivity of their
present governments. The reader is forced to re-evaluate the common notions of
Iran as a homogeneous entity and recognize it as a hodgepodge of different
groups who are bound by a common belief in the uniqueness of their
civilization, culture and history.
Perhaps the greatest contribution of the book is the portrayal of Iranian
minorities. It is no small feat to trace their histories in the Iranian
context. Yet, as Axworthy implies, it is their historical contributions and
continued existence that make Iranian culture unique. It would be a sad day if
any government forced uniformity on such a great and diverse culture. Overall
the book is accurate, immensely readable and truly major contribution to
REVIEW: 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.
The author's style is easy to follow and enjoyable. He even tells a few
jokes. The book is generally even-handed, though he did seem to soft-pedal
British mistakes in the region (understandable given his nationality).
Overall, this is a great book and a must-read for someone interested in ancient
Iranian history and the events/people that shaped a country sure to be in the
news for a while.
REVIEW: I've been meaning to learn more about Iran, its history, and its
sense of identity for several years now (certainly ever since I first read
Persian Fire" by Tom Holland nearly a decade ago), and this book serves as an
excellent starter to anyone who wishes for a general overview of the various
historical, religious, philosophical, and literary strands that shape the
modern Islamic Republic. Right off the bat, I appreciate Axworthy's
clarification on the confusion of "Iran vs. Persia". It's Iran. End of. They've
been calling themselves Iranians for the last 3,000 years. You can thank the
Greeks for the mix-up.
I must admit there were passages that required a second reading in order to
fully grasp the concepts that the author was highlighting. However, I think
this is owed more to my unfamiliarity with such topics as Shi'a clerical
hierarchy and abstract multifaceted poetical metaphors. In the final chapters,
Axworthy does his best maintain a balanced narrative surrounding the events of
79 and the ensuing geopolitical fallout, while also rooting that narrative
firmly in an Iranian perspective and context. His hopeful closing thoughts have
certainly done much to encourage my dreams of one day visiting this historic
REVIEW: I have read a fairly large number of books about Iranian history,
including several overviews of that country's history, and I think this one is
reasonably well-done. Iran has a very long history. Prof. Axworthy is correct
to point out the ambiguities in defining "Iran," since we can speak of a
Greater Iran that has, at times, included Mughul India, much of the Caucasus,
Central Asia, and even parts of Ancient Greece. Conversely, influences from the
Arab world and North America have flowed into Iran.
An important concern for Prof. Axworthy is introducing Iran as a cultural
entity, which requires attention to the 1200 years before Qadisiyyah, plus a
brief description of Zoroastrianism. This is a pretty easy decision to defend,
since Zoroastrianism does cast a long shadow over the history of Iran (and the
Western world, too). However, translating the ultra-condensed textbook account
of the period 576 BCE-636 CE into any sort of shadow is a big challenge.
Axworthy handles this tolerably well, and I highly recommend his book.
REVIEW: Michael Axworthy has indeed done his homework and produced a
diligent, authoritative documentation of the history of Iran, touching on the
many people who live there, the many times and tribes of conquest and
tribulation, and presents the minutae that almost day by day has characterized
the government, and the people's response, since the 1979 Islamic revolution.
He is often naive, however, more the reporter than the political analyst, but
he lays out the overall facts and we have to take it from there. He delves
hardly at all into political skulduggery and seems to take events at face
value. One thing is evident: Mr. Axworthy loves Iran, as well he might, an
extraordinary country with a gorgeous culture and enchanting people (especially
the women, who are so noble and hospitable), so vast and diverse in tradition,
landscape and regional heritage it's amazing it was ever integrated as a nation
under s single central leadership. Overall, the book is a worthy addition to my
library on the region, not so much "the Middle East" as the modern incarnation
of the ancient Near East.
REVIEW: I bought this book in order to try to understand the present Iran,
old Persia. Somehow, it only gave me partial answers why such a multiple rich
country -- in previous empire (2300 years ago), civilization, knowledge,
strategic power and staunch racial and historical independence from Arabs --
could nowadays be so mentally blinded by Islamic-fascism to the point of
persecuting Christian and Jewish communities that so much contributed to the
diversity wisdom and independence of old Persia.
I personally think, strengthened by book contents, that without Persians
the political and commercial pseudo-theocracy of Islamic-fascism could never
have evolved beyond the 8th century. Persians had then the know how and the
organization that enabled the then Arab expansion and domination of the Middle
East, when Europe was being invaded by the Alans, Suevs, Gods, etc that came in
hordes from the Eurasian plateau. The text easy to read and absorb. Very good
quality of pictures. Overall a very good book, recommendable for anyone that
enjoys History without fanaticisms or sectarianism.
REVIEW: 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
REVIEW: A nice, easy to read, sweeping narrative of the History of Iran from
ancient history to the present. Covers most if not all major events of the
history of Iran , with dates, names of rulers etc., typical of what you would
find in a good introduction. I especially enjoyed the sections on poetry and
the author's attempt to convey a rather interesting cultural identity of Iran I
previously had not known of. Perfect read for beginners or anyone remotely
interested/curious about the history of Iran. I would have liked to see a bit
more detail overall , however, I would recommend this book to introduce
yourself to the history of Iran and to build a solid foundation upon which to
further your studies with additional books which conveniently enough, the
author provides at the end of the book a plethora of further readings.
REVIEW: The history of Iran, foreign invasions against it, and its cultural
and intellectual movements makes for fascinating general-interest reading.
Empire of the Mind: A History of Iran" is a fine addition to any college
library strong in Middle Eastern studies. Here the author focuses on the
evolution of Iran and its world, exploring the true story of the interplay of
Iran's faiths and peoples, and placing Iran's history within context of the
region's development. A welcome discussion of Iranian progress and a top pick
for any library strong in Middle Eastern studies.
REVIEW: This overview of Iran's history is well-written, with a good
balance between political and cultural history. Given the extremely long period
of time covered it is necessarily somewhat cursory, but it does a good job of
showing the continuity of Iranian identity through the successive invasion of
Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Mongols, and modern Western powers. I would certainly
recommend the book. Along with Hourani's history of the Arab peoples and
Kinross's book on the Ottoman Empire, it constitutes an important and
even-handed account of the rise of Islamic civilization, a subject that should
certainly be better known.
REVIEW: As the title might indicate, the author specializes in Iranian
culture and development of religion. A good historical synopsis is incorporated
for readers who want more. The book depicts Ahura Mazda, Zoroaster, Manacheaism
Bahaism and other splinter ideologies as well as the role of Iran in the
Sunni-Shia struggle. Sufism has been in and out of political favor. There is
good background on Ferdowsi and other literati and historians. Axworth is good
at crediting sources with minimal interruption to the text.
There is not much prior to Cyrus, after whom the book follows Greeks,
Seleucids, Parthians, Sassanids, Romans, Arabs and the Safavid and Qajar
dynasties that set the Shiite order of modern Iran. Besides religious
development the best of the book is in the character development on Nader Shah,
Fath Ali Shah, Reza Shah Pahlevi and Ayatolla Khomenie, but few others are
REVIEW: To start out with the conclusion - Michael Axworthy has written a
good one volume history to Iran. Before you purchase this book, you might find
it useful to keep the following in mind that Michael Axworthy's goal is "to
cover it all" in 300 pages, starting out ~1000 BC and contiues up to the
Ahmadinejad years. If that is what you look for, this is good news for you. If
you are interested in a better understanding of modern Iran or Geopolitics, you
can probably jump directly to page 123 Shi'ism and the Safavids. If you are
interested in the Zoroaster religion, scient architecture and acient Persian
civilization then page 1-122 probably is most interesting to you.
REVIEW: “Iran: Empire of the Mind” explores the history of this enigmatic
country from its founding days, right up until the current government. This
looks at its art and culture, as well as the various wars and conquests it has
been involved in over the years. I found the last hundred pages the most
interesting as it dealt with the recent history and I could relate to it more.
It was good to put the Western influence into perspective to understand some of
the Iranian animosity towards some Western nations. It also clarifies some of
the stereotypes and shows that the picture in Iran is a lot more complex than
we are led to believe. This has many small black and white photos dotted
throughout, as well as many maps that show how the country shrunk and grew over
the years. You are left with an overwhelming picture of Iran as a cultured and
enduring nation and this contrasts well with the image portrayed in the western
media. All in all this is a fascinating and eye-opening read about this
influential and often maligned nation.
REVIEW: Axworthy's “History of Iran” provides a brief, accessible overview of
Iranian history from Antiquity to Ahmadinejad. The book's subtitle, “Empire of
the Mind”, reflects Axworthy's main argument: the conquest of Iran by a
succession of empires (Greek, Roman, Arab, Seljuk, Mongol, etc.) belies the
story of an Iranian Empire of the mind, whose rich culture not only survived
but effected its conquerors as well. Overall, Axworthy's analysis is even
handed, and offers readers a perspective on Iran they won't find in the Western
media. Catholic readers may take exception to Axworthy's unflattering critique
of St. Augustine in the section on Mani, nonetheless, Axworthy's work provides
an overview of an incredibly long history that is informative and succinct.
REVIEW: This is a nice, concise history, and gives a good sense of the bases
of Persian passions and attitudes concerning themselves and their relationships
to the several countries that border or interact with them. Occasionally
conclusions seem to reflect a bit of the author's desires or sentiments, but on
the whole it gives a good sense of who the Iranians are. Recommended for anyone
who wants to understand the Iranians as a people, comprehensible to but
distinct from westerners.
REVIEW: “Empire of the Mind” is a history book written by Michael Axworthy
who was head of the Iran section of the British Foreign Office for two years,
1998-2000. As such, he's done an amazing job of transferring the collective
will of the Iranian people to a book written by a Westerner. The reader senses
by the focus and detail of the early part of Iranian culture the importance of
early empires. It is impressive to read about Persian Imperial interaction with
the Roman Empire. Well written and recommend by this reviewer.
REVIEW: I like Axworthy's conversational manner of covering history, with
somewhat informal digressions that put things in a bigger perspective. His
account goes a long way toward presenting the experience of ordinary people,
and takes some steps toward including the experience of women. He always does
more than re-tell a received story, and embellishes every previous explanation
with a bit more background.
REVIEW: Michael Axworthy's “A History of Iran” begins with a thorough layout
of what is known about events influencing the history of Persia, the name of
the area now called Iran. When the book reaches the time when an avalanche of
related details becomes available, the history is presented like a novel in
captivating terms of the men and woman that influenced events. The book is a
good history and an entertaining read.
REVIEW: I enjoyed this book immensely as an introduction to Iranian history.
Keep in mind, this book should only be treated as an overview. A single book
cannot possibly go into the level of detail that would be necessary if someone
wanted to go deep on one topic.
REVIEW: This is the first book I have read exclusively about Iranian history
and felt it provided a clear, fair and brief overview of the region's history
up to modern times. Definitely five stars!
REVIEW: Covers the history of Iran in a pleasant easy to read language. Just
right for those with little or no prior knowledge about Iranian history,
covering just the right level of details.
REVIEW: his is a condensed history. It is, however, insightful and gives a
broad overview of a fascinating culture. If the people of Iran get there way it
could be a very stabilizing influence on the troubled Middle East. Sometimes
tedious reading but for the mot part it flows well.
REVIEW: The first half of the book seems like a repetitive cycle with the
invasions, ruthlessness, building up and destruction of empires. But, this all
ties in with modern history of Iran. This was third book I have read about Iran
and I learned much.
REVIEW: A well written and well researched book. I must give credit to the
thoroughness of the book and its lack of bias.
REVIEW: A highly recommended masterpiece by an ace historian. His attention
to detail is simply marvelous, and this book is a must read for anyone who
wishes to learn about the history of this once great nation.
REVIEW: A decent narrative and good read describing the history of Iran or
Persia". It is a good read that helps the reader understand the history of
Persia and Iran.
REVIEW: Very easy to read unlike most academic history, and unlike many pop
history books, the book is factual. An excellent introduction into Iranian
REVIEW: A very well written and concise history of Iran. If the Education
Ministry of Iran had any brains they would translate and make this book a
history textbook for the high school.
REVIEW: This book is a must read for those who are interested in the History
of Iran but do not want too much details. It is well written and easy to read.
REVIEW: This is a well written short narrative of Iran history, a must read
for anyone who likes to understand Iran.
SHIPPING & RETURNS/REFUNDS: We always ship books domestically (within the
USA) via USPSINSURED media mail (“book rate”). Most international orders cost
an additional $17.99 to $48.99 for aninsured shipment in a heavily padded
mailer. There is also a discount program which can cut postage costs by 50% to
75% if you’re buying about half-a-dozen books or more (5 kilos+). Our postage
charges are as reasonable as USPS rates allow.ADDITIONAL PURCHASES do receive a
VERY LARGE discount, typically about $5 per book (for each additional book
after the first) so as to reward you for the economies of combined
Your purchase will ordinarily be shipped within 48 hours of payment. We
package as well as anyone in the business, with lots of protective padding and
containers. All of our shipments are fully insured against loss, and our
shipping rates include the cost of this coverage (through stamps.com,
Shipsaver.com, the USPS, UPS, or Fed-Ex). International tracking is provided
free by the USPS for certain countries, other countries are at additional cost.
We do offer U.S. Postal Service Priority Mail, Registered Mail, and Express
Mail for both international and domestic shipments, as well United Parcel
Service (UPS) and Federal Express (Fed-Ex). Please ask for a rate quotation.
Please note for international purchasers we will do everything we can to
minimize your liability for VAT and/or duties. But we cannot assume any
responsibility or liability for whatever taxes or duties may be levied on your
purchase by the country of your residence. If you don’t like the tax and duty
schemes your government imposes, please complain to them. We have no ability to
influence or moderate your country’s tax/duty schemes.
If upon receipt of the item you are disappointed for any reason whatever, I
offer a no questions asked 30-day return policy. Send it back, I will give you
a complete refund of the purchase price; 1) less our original
shipping/insurance costs, 2) less non-refundable eBay payment processing fees.
Please note that eBay does NOT refund payment processing fees. Even if you
accidentally” purchase something and then cancel the purchase before it is
shipped, eBay will not refund their processing fees. So all refunds for any
reason, without exception, do not include eBay payment processing fees
typically between 5% and 15%) and shipping/insurance costs (if any). If you’re
unhappy with eBay’s “no fee refund” policy, and we are EXTREMELY unhappy,
please voice your displeasure by contacting eBay. We have no ability to
influence, modify or waive eBay policies.
ABOUT US: Prior to our retirement we used to travel to Europe and Central
Asia several times a year. Most of the items we offer came from acquisitions we
made in Eastern Europe, India, and from the Levant (Eastern Mediterranean/Near
East) during these years from various institutions and dealers. Much of what we
generate on Etsy, Amazon and Ebay goes to support The Hermitage Museum in St.
Petersburg, as well as some other worthy institutions in Europe and Asia
connected with Anthropology and Archaeology. Though we have a collection of
ancient coins numbering in the tens of thousands, our primary interests are
ancient jewelry and gemstones. Prior to our retirement we traveled to Russia
every year seeking antique gemstones and jewelry from one of the globe’s most
prolific gemstone producing and cutting centers, the area between Chelyabinsk
and Yekaterinburg, Russia. From all corners of Siberia, as well as from India,
Ceylon, Burma and Siam, gemstones have for centuries gone to Yekaterinburg
where they have been cut and incorporated into the fabulous jewelry for which
the Czars and the royal families of Europe were famous for.
My wife grew up and received a university education in the Southern Urals of
Russia, just a few hours away from the mountains of Siberia, where alexandrite,
diamond, emerald, sapphire, chrysoberyl, topaz, demantoid garnet, and many
other rare and precious gemstones are produced. Though perhaps difficult to
find in the USA, antique gemstones are commonly unmounted from old, broken
settings – the gold reused – the gemstones recut and reset. Before these
gorgeous antique gemstones are recut, we try to acquire the best of them in
their original, antique, hand-finished state – most of them centuries old. We
believe that the work created by these long-gone master artisans is worth
protecting and preserving rather than destroying this heritage of antique
gemstones by recutting the original work out of existence. That by preserving
their work, in a sense, we are preserving their lives and the legacy they left
for modern times. Far better to appreciate their craft than to destroy it with
Not everyone agrees – fully 95% or more of the antique gemstones which come
into these marketplaces are recut, and the heritage of the past lost. But if
you agree with us that the past is worth protecting, and that past lives and
the produce of those lives still matters today, consider buying an antique,
hand cut, natural gemstone rather than one of the mass-produced machine cut
often synthetic or “lab produced”) gemstones which dominate the market today.
We can set most any antique gemstone you purchase from us in your choice of
styles and metals ranging from rings to pendants to earrings and bracelets; in
sterling silver, 14kt solid gold, and 14kt gold fill. When you purchase from
us, you can count on quick shipping and careful, secure packaging. We would be
happy to provide you with a certificate/guarantee of authenticity for any item
you purchase from us. There is a $3 fee for mailing under separate cover. I
will always respond to every inquiry whether via email or eBay message, so
please feel free to write.