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Empire of the Mind: A History of Iran
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Empire of the Mind: A History of Iran

3.84 of 5 stars 3.84  ·  rating details  ·  395 ratings  ·  49 reviews
"Empire of the Mind" offers the reader a compelling overview of Iranian history from the earliest times up to the present day. It highlights the uniqueness of Iranian identity, as one of the oldest continuing civilisations in the world. In doing so, as well as covering military and dynastic matters, it emphasises the role of cultural and intellectual movements in Iran in o ...more
Hardcover, 333 pages
Published by Hurst & Co. (first published May 6th 2008)
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This is a good a history of Iran but it is by no means a masterpiece and I don't think it will make it through the test of time.

Axeworthy did an excellent job with the medieval mystical poets and included many beautiful verses throughout the text. Unfortunately there was less emphasis on intellectual and literary history in modern times and absolutely no mention of music and the arts.

As people have already mentioned, the author is very biased in matters of religion. He has a shallow understandin
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 ...more
Stan Murai
Michael Axworthy’s Empire of the Mind: A History of Iran
gives readers a broad overview of Iranian history from the earliest
times to the present day. Military and dynastic matters are
covered in detail, but it also emphasizes the cultural and intellectual contributions of Iran that have shaped much of region that includes modern Turkey, the Middle East, Central Asia, and the Indian Subcontinent. It does so concisely in only about three hundred pages, but nevertheless the material provided is eng
Iran has a LONG history, and this book started WAY back at the beginning. Not really knowing anything about Iran, I think I would have preferred it spent a little MORE time on the more recent stuff (for example, the Iran-Contra affair and the American hostage situation each only had one page of mention, and the Iran-Iraq war had only about 2 pages total). In contrast, there were about 18 pages on olden-day Persian poetry.

Anyway, it was an interesting book and I learned a lot. I've started anoth
Oct 15, 2008 Blake rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: No one
Recommended to Blake by: No one
Shelves: middle-east
The author's knowledge of Iran is eclipsed by this book's poor organization of topics. Empire of the Mind tries to pack every detail of persian history into 300 pages, skipping between intellectual movements, poetry, religion, philosphy, court intrigue, and political/military history. My interest quickly faded everytime I picked up Empire of the Mind, simply because the narrative is so disjointed.
Prior to reading, my knowledge on the Persian history was less than basic. The Book covers a staggering amount of information (over 25+ centuries in only 300 pages), so it obviously lacks depth. Still, I found the language and subject-matter to be enjoyable, and definitely recommend it as an introductory book.
Michael A
For me, this is a 3 to 3.5 star book.

This is a breezy book, in that you can read it in a short amount of time and learn a lot. I think it achieves its stated goal of introducing the neophyte to the overall arcs of political and some social history of the modern day Iranian area. I am a fan of it in the sense that it tries to cover more than just names and dates - it tries to get into the artistic and intellectual achievements of some of the empires and time periods as well. That's a worthy effor
About as superb a history of Iran from Zoroaster to Ahmedinejad as can be crammed into 300 pages.

Well worth reading.
This book is a serious document, useful for research, but written in a style that means anyone can understand what is being discussed. It didn't appear to have a bias or slant towards anything - just the facts. Im a believer that you shouldn't have an opinion on a subject until you have done your homework. While I have a lot more to understand yet, as suspected the Iranians are just like us. The newspapers need to stop writing stories that make the uninformed believe that a government represents ...more
Empire of the Mind: A History of Iran (EotM) by Michael Axworthy was a comprehensive history of Iran right from around 2000 BCE to the present.

Like any history that tries to pack so much time into so few pages, EotM suffers from being too brisk and therefore a little confusing at times. Axworthy is no trained historian but rather a British diplomat who has served in both Iran and many parts of the Middle East. This gives EotM a unique perspective and makes for an excellent, easy to read introduc
frisco morisco
E' difficile condensare la cultura plurimillenaria persiana, una delle più antiche civiltà del mondo, in un solo libro.

Riconoscendo una simile premessa è quindi normale che ad esempio, per quanto mi riguarda, avrei voluto maggiori approfondimenti sulla storia più recente della Persia/Iran, come ad esempio l'Irangate e il colonialismo statunitense, il Tudeh, lo sciismo rosso di Ali Shariati, e anche la stessa Velāyat-e faqih (ولایت فقیه) dell'ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, vera e propria rivoluzio
Antti Salovaara
Arvio Tapani Kilpeläisen suomennoksesta (Into Kustannus 2013).

Axworthyn teos ansaitsisi monilta osin enemmän kuin kaksi tähteä, mutta sitä vaivaa ajoittain paha epätasaisuus, sekä koko ajan voimistuva kirjoittajan oma ääni. Esimerkiksi Iranin viime vuosikymmenten tilanne peilataan jo täysin subjektiivisten linssien läpi.

Vaikka historiaa ei olisikaan mahdollista kirjoittaa täysin objektiivisesta lähtökohdasta, vaikeuttaa poliittisten suosikkien esiinnostaminen ja yksinkertaistava kiistaosapuolte
Sensei Sage
I deliberated for a while whether to give this book 2 or 3 stars.

As a work of a historian, I think this book is good. It delivers a lot of fact and it's easy to go through. Sadly though, this author as a Western academic, was quite ignorant of all religious matters and in a book on Iran, they are very key. Then there is the issue of his obvious political bias. He would have done a much better job to never express his subjective opinions, yet he does exactly on the subjects he is most ignorant ab
Daniel Cunha
A concise but sharp and enlightening history of Iran. For someone looking to have a better understanding of this nation that may be at the core of our geopolitical future, this is a great read, which confronts much of the limited portrait with which we are exposed to Iran in the media these days. You will learn here of the history of a people that have been in the fore of History between Middle East and West for many centuries, that has been touched by and has influenced modern culture through m ...more
Graham Mulligan
A History of Iran; Empire of the Mind.
Michael Axeworthy, Basic Books, 2008.

The division between nomadic or semi-nomadic peoples and settled, crop-growing agriculturalists, created a tension that drives history. Nomadic wealth was in livestock, which meant it was moveable and they could escape threats or attack. By contrast peasant farmers were vulnerable, especially at harvest time, when the accumulated value of a year’s work could be lost. In happy times trade (meat and wool for grain) between
The subtitle of this book, "The Empire of the Mind," should have been its main title: while the narrative does cover the political and military events that formed Iran's history, its focus is on the literary, cultural, and intellectual history of Persia. The Iranians once occupied an empire that encompassed what is now modern Iraq, Afghanistan, Turkey, Tajikistan,Kazakhstan, and parts of Greece, Egypt,and Libya. They were proudly nationalistic and scorned attempts by their Arab conquerors follow ...more
For an introduction to Iran this seems like a very good place to start. Histories that cover such a huge period of time tend to be dull, but Axeworthy keeps your attention with plenty of anecdotes and an overarching idea of Iran as a “Civilization-state” . In contemporary media Iran is often seen as either baffling or mad, or a combination of the two. Here you get a much better idea of how Iranians might see themselves as inheritors of a longstanding and continuous culture from the earliest time ...more
Mrs. Miska
Next year we're adding Persepolis to our eleventh grade curriculum, and I decided I'd better learn something about Iranian history before I attempted to help kids understand some of the issues of the modern Middle East. Axworthy's history was a good balance for me; not too much textbook, not too much historical interpretation. He begins at the dawn of civilization, and I soon began to see that the history of Iran is a history of the Middle East. Notions of empire, dynasty, religion, borders, and ...more
As many have said, this is the best 300 page introduction to Iranian history you could hope for; an excellent broad-sweep, spanning two and a half millennia. I didn't care much for the periodic detours discussing contemporary Persian poetry, and I thought Axworthy devoted too many pages to the topic, but hey-ho, I suppose it was refreshing to take a break from high politics every now and then. Also, I don't think the author fully explained his 'empire of the mind' theory very well - if what he w ...more
Sean Callaghan
Pretty good, but felt like he glossed over the reign of the Shah leading up to the revolution. Also would have liked a glossary for unfamiliar terms.

Would love to read something that takes us into the Arab Spring, but maybe I read the wrong edition.
Brittany Petruzzi
Well, that was certainly a crash course. Whew! His digressions into Sufi poetry and the rise of Islam were a bit jarring because I worried I'd spaced out for 300 years of narration at times, but Axworthy ends up coming back to Iran proper. I'm glad he spends such a small amount of time on Ancient Persia (better books have been written) and modern Iran (too contemporary for proper historical thought) and spends most of his time with what's going on in Persia while everything I learned in Western ...more
I very much enjoyed reading this book. For the most part Michael Axworthy was unbiased in his writing. I have always wanted to read about the history of Iran and this is a good book to start with.
Joe Smyth
Engaging and endlessly fascinating, this radically changed my view of Iran. Axworthy manages to cover an impressive amount of Iranian history, but in some (rare) instances this book runs the risk of becoming a list of names and places in its efforts to get through everything.

Nevertheless, I would quickly recommend this to any Western reader. The Iran revealed here bears little resemblance to the grinning demon-monkey face of Ahmadinejad that seems to accompany every report on the country that ap
I found it to be a pretty intelligent and comprehensive history of Iran. I appreciated some of the editorial commentary that showed the author was not lifelessly citing historical events chronologically, but lending the narrative some restrained personal insight. Though not necessarily the aim of the book, the content helps the reader understand Iran's current relationship with its neighbors and the world, and the legacy of colonial meddling that many non-western countries have endured over the ...more
These days I begin to buy and read books on Iran, as my mind begins puzzling comparing the huge different of the foreign policy, especially towards Jews, from King Darius and Cyrus of the ancient Persia and the current policy of Ahmadinejad, it's almost unthinkable that they come from the same origin. Can anyone help me explaining this? anyway this book is a highly readable one, concise yet the author does a good job sketching major events in Iranian history. Ps: My name is of Iranian origin heh ...more
A very indepth look at the history of Iran from the days before written history to present day. I applaud this book though I could say that there were some political undertone though quite mild. Overall quite neutral considering the topic. Good overall summary of subject not just concentrating on the present day as so often we would believe Iran's history is about. There is a whole body of history before the Revolution that you would not know about if you just watched TV.
Milan Gupta
This is as much political history of Iran as it is a cultural history. The narrative is very smooth and the evolution of politics and culture over time has been described very smoothly. It concludes with a discussion of the current political context, but within the context of Iranian history and heritage, and makes one think of Iran as a unique nation with values different from the West, rather than another hopeless middle-eastern dictatorship.
This is a very informative and fair book about Iran/Persia. It covers most historical events (3000 years) and traces the impact that each ruler had for Iran, one of the oldest civilizations remaining on earth. It also contains poems from various ages which give you an idea for the cultural and artistic level that persians had achieved. Finally it clarifies many of the stereotypes that western nations have about Iran
Ieva Sūnāksle
Comprehensive and easy-to-follow introductory book about history of Iran.
A good overview of Iranian history, from antiquity until 2007-2009. Despite its numerous references to poets and a bit too many mentions to the treatment of Jews in Iran over the past 2000 years (several other minorities are mentioned but do not get the same coverage), it is well worth reading to better understand and appreciate one of the great civilizations of mankind.
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In the 1980s Michael Axworthy studied history at Peterhouse, Cambridge before joining the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in 1986. After a variety of work in London and overseas, he served as the Head of Iran Section in the FCO from 1998-2000, coinciding with the improvement in UK/Iran relations at the beginning of the Presidency of Mohammad Khatami. Since 2000 he has been working in Cornwal ...more
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