Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Empire of the Mind: A History of Iran” as Want to Read:
Empire of the Mind: A History of Iran
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Empire of the Mind: A History of Iran

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  1,012 ratings  ·  119 reviews
An overview of the ancient nation, from the days of the prophet Zoroaster to those of the Islamic Republic.
Hardcover, 333 pages
Published April 1st 2008 by Hurst & Co.
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Empire of the Mind, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
D. Denise I, likewise, found the writing engaging. I was interested in the topic because my husband is Persian, and I wanted to understand the culture better…moreI, likewise, found the writing engaging. I was interested in the topic because my husband is Persian, and I wanted to understand the culture better and to be able to help my son learn more about that part of his family ancestry. In addition, I recently learned that there some genetic evidentiary indication that my Celtic-Scottish ancestors may be traced to a region of what is now part of Iran, and it gave me an idea for a story I’m considering, a work of historical fiction.(less)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Rating details
Sort: Default
Dec 06, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
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.
Cenk Gokce
Jul 27, 2015 rated it did not like it
If you think this book will tell you much about the history of Iran / Persia, save your time and money and look elsewhere.

Boring, filled with Persian poetry that does not really contribute to the subject matter, plenty of parenthetical commentary as well as ad hominem attacks at Alexander's "bisexualism" and Richard Dawkins' views on religion--neither of which is germane to a book about Iranian history.

Also, I understand that Persian is written in the Arabic script so there are multiple ways of
A rather negative and simplistic picture of Iran has been painted in some circles. Michael Axworthy, a British diplomat who served in Iran, presents us the entire history of the region to provide us with a broader perspective. It is a reasonably good read, though it can sometimes bog down with details about every dynasty. I have read other histories of Iran, and this one is not significantly different or overly controversial in my opinion.

The Persian Empire was one of the great civilizations, si
Sharon Barrow Wilfong
An excellent history of ancient Persia, the origins of the country up to the present day, or rather 2007 when the book was written.

I especially found the ancient history and pre-Islamic religions, such as Zorastrianism interesting. Axworthy describes the leaders of that ancient religion, its development and its eventual usurption by Islam.

The reader learns of the rich and colorful culture of this ancient country and their line of rulers, their interaction with other rulers and countries, such as
Axworthy introduced the book by calling it "an introduction to the history of Iran for a general readership, assuming little or no prior knowledge." That is basically true...but if that is where you are coming from, you are most likely going to find some sections slower going than others.

The first one-third is a very good overview of ancient central Asian history through Cyrus the Great; the middle third was overwhelming for its wealth of unknown names and specialised terms that demanded one's
Dec 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, nonfiction
Výborný úvod do dějin téhle velké země, hodně mě to zaujalo. Neutečou vám žádná fakta, je to psané nestranně a hlavně dobře. Na začátku se to čte jako pohádky tisíce a jedné noci, uprostřed je to skoro jako horror a závěr jako politický thriller... kruciš, nějak jsem se rozjel :)
Stojí to za přečtení, vždyť dneska se o Íránu mluví jen v souvislosti s islámským fundamentalismem, fatvou nad Salmanem Rushdiem, nebo hypotetickými jadernými zbraněmi. Zapomínáme na krále Kýra, pohádkovou Persii, nebo
Apr 02, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
They say "Esfahan is half the world", and a history of Iran is most definitely a history of humanity itself. From Darius of Persepolis to Alexander the Great, from the Romans to the Mongol Invasions, passing by the birth of Islam and Shi'ism and ending with Western meddling and the 1979 revolution, this is a great book to understand not only Iran but also much of the current world order.

"For it is a fact that to have knowledge of the truth and of sciences and to study them is the highest thing
Sep 12, 2012 rated it really liked it
Prior to reading, my knowledge on Persian history was less than basic. It 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.
Jamie MacDonald Jones
This book quite simply does a disservice to Iran and its rich, fascinating history.

Notwithstanding the numerous printing errors in the book (Penguin's fault) the thesis of the book is simply poor. Axworthy mentions the notion of 'Empire of the Mind' twice in the book - three times if you count the fact it is a subtitle - and never bothers to elaborate on it in any meaningful way. The book also seems to go from Zoroastrian history to present day with barely a mention of anything in between. The
Sep 02, 2017 rated it it was ok
به فارسی ترجمه شده ولی اینجا نبود.
محققین خارجی ای که چیز خاصی از ایران میدونن خیلی کمن و بقیه در بهترین حالت از منابع داخلی و خارجی موجود کپی میکنن مثل همین کتاب.
مطلب به خصوصی نداشت کتاب نهایتا به درد مروری بر تاریخ ایران برای شب امتحان میخوره
گول اسمش که امپراتوری اندیشه است رو نخورید.
Aug 07, 2009 rated it liked it
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
Jul 27, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 03, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Monty Milne
Mar 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
Like many of us, before I read this I knew a reasonable amount about ancient Iran and a little about modern Iran, but almost nothing about everything in between. This book did fill some of the gaps, and seemed pretty fair minded, but inevitably there are a lot of constraints imposed by trying to fit such a big subject into only 300 pages. I have a number of Iranian friends - all of them exiles, Anglophiles, and supporters of the Shah. I'm glad that having read this I can talk to them with a litt ...more
Aug 16, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition

It took me a while to finish this. The sheer scope of the book is extremely impressive - the author covers the entire history of the Persian Empire, Iran and Iranian cultural identity in 300 pages. It's definitely a fascinating introduction to one of the oldest and most interesting cultures in the world.

The sections I found most engaging were the first and final third of the book, in which Axworthy writes of the origins of the Persian Empire and 20th century Iran, respectively. In the middl
Mar 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Dec 25, 2016 rated it did not like it
What was in the book is clearly this very unimportant details without the big picture. It's like a scattered thoughts poured down in a book. Also if you search hard enough in blogs, you can find almost everything written in this book. No, I'm not saying the author plagiarized anything, it's just it was all common facts here.
The only thing new is a ton of Persian poems. The boring ones.
So I suggest you to save your money and time, there's nothing really interesting with this book.

Anyway, if you w
Aug 07, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was super interesting, and really cleared up a lot of confusion I had about cultural clashes in middle Eastern politics.

My only big criticism is, as with a lot of overview histories, this went from narrative history to themes and back again. The period between the rise or the Abbasid caliphs and the Savafid dynasty was mostly taken up by a discussion of Iranian poetry, which while interesting, left me slightly confused as to what exactly happened in a 1000 year period that was pretty busy e
Jun 05, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Iran is probably the most fascinating country in the world. One of the oldest civilisation in the true sense of the world, a land with a history of intellectual vigour and a tradition of defiance to the western world. While the book sweeps through the four millenia of Persian existence with detail, I would have preferred a more simple and fluid output to describe this complex but extraordinary nation. To me, it appears, despite a brilliant tapestry of the poetry, mysticism and religion which Axw ...more
Feb 11, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: history, iran
+ Разбираемо написана.
+ Без излишни подробности.
+ Накратко и ясно обяснени основни неща от исляма и разделенията в него.
- За периода след 1905 година Revolutionary Iran: A History of the Islamic Republic е по-добра.
- Прекалено много поезия за моя вкус към исторически книги.
- Видни сериозни проблеми с транслитерацията на различни персийски, тюркски и арабски имена и думи към английската азбука.
Oct 15, 2008 rated it it was ok
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.
Feb 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A very good history of Persia/Iran. He goes fast through thousands of years of history, but really captures the identity of the country and its conflicts and issues with the west. If you want to understand the modern conflict, you have to at least go back to 1907 or even 1951.
Jul 27, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
About as superb a history of Iran from Zoroaster to Ahmedinejad as can be crammed into 300 pages.

Well worth reading.
D. Denise
Apr 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
An exceptional book on the history of Iran. One of the few unbiased looks at the history of the country.
Graham Mulligan
Nov 22, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
It took me too long to finish this book especially writing the review, maybe because I just wanted to be fair in my judgment.

“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. “

I’m sorry GoodReads but I do not agree with that. I believe all lands are full of contradictions, name me one that is not! Attending the Friday prayer also is not obligatory. Praying the five prayers is a must and a Muslem can
Arno Mosikyan
Jan 21, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
It is a country with an ancient tradition of monarchical splendour, now an Islamic republic; but one where only 1.4 per cent of the population attend Friday prayers.

But all through that time the people of those empires called themselves Iranians, and called their land Iran. The word derives from the very earliest times, apparently meaning 'noble'. It is cognate both with a similar word in Sanskrit, and with the term 'Aryan,' that was used and abused in the racial ideologies of the late nineteent
Mahdi Mirhoseini
Oct 30, 2018 rated it liked it

کتاب بناست کلیتی از تاریخ ایران به دست دهد، از ابتدا تا سال ۲۰۰۷ که کتاب به چاپ می رسد. از مفاهیم اولیه ی ماوراالطبیعه ی مزدائیسم و زرتشتی ها شروع میکند و امپراتوری های قبل از اسلام را شرح میدهد. بعد حمله ی مسلمانان و دوران شکوفایی ادبیات فارسی و عرفان اسلامی تا حمله ی مغول. سپس شرح نسبتا مفصلی از صفویه میدهد تا به قاجار و مشروطه و پهلوی میرسد. در انتها انقلاب اسلامی را بحث می کند و با فصلی در مورد دوران احمدی نژاد تمام میشود. در چاپ جدید کتاب در سال ۲۰۱۶، نویسنده موخره ای هم در مورد دوران اوبام
Feb 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing

Sunday, 15th February, 2015

1. The History of Iran, may have involved a lot of war and blood but it was one of the first civilizations to emerge. The Iranians or also known as the persians back then did a lot of great things. Since the Persians were one of the first civilizations, most european languages nowadays come from early Persian languages. "It has no structural relationship with Arabis or the other Semitic languages of the ancient Middle East" (Axworthy 2). The only regions who's language
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Understanding Iran: Everything You Need to Know, From Persia to the Islamic Republic, From Cyrus to Khamenei
  • A History of Modern Iran
  • Treacherous Alliance: The Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran, and the United States
  • When Baghdad Ruled the Muslim World: The Rise and Fall of Islam's Greatest Dynasty
  • Afghanistan: A Cultural and Political History
  • The Persian Puzzle: The Conflict Between Iran and America
  • The Ottoman Empire, 1700-1922 (New Approaches to European History)
  • The Ayatollah Begs to Differ: The Paradox of Modern Iran
  • The House Of Wisdom
  • We Are Iran: The Persian Blogs
  • Osman's Dream: The History of the Ottoman Empire
  • Persian Mirrors: The Elusive Face of Iran
  • All the Shah's Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror
  • The Arabs: A History
  • The Red Flag: A History of Communism
  • Modern Iran. Roots and Results of Revolution, Updated Edition
  • City of Oranges: An Intimate History of Arabs and Jews in Jaffa
  • Mirrors of the Unseen: Journeys in Iran
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
“We have made enquiries about the rules of the inhabitants of the Roman empire and the Indian states. . . . We have never rejected anybody because of their different religion or origin. We have not jealously kept away from them what we affirm. And at the same time we have not disdained to learn what they stand for. For it is a fact that to have knowledge of the truth and of sciences and to study them is the highest thing with which a king can adorn himself. And the most disgraceful thing for kings is to disdain learning and be ashamed of exploring the sciences. He who does not learn is not wise. —Khosraw I Anushirvan (according to the Byzantine historian Agathias)” 2 likes
“At first impression, the interminable series of wars between the Roman Empire and Persia (both in the Parthian period and again in the Sassanid period) look almost inexplicable. They went on and on, century after century. There was a potential economic gain for both sides—the disputed provinces were rich provinces. But it was evident, certainly by the time of Ardashir, that the wars were very costly, that it would be very difficult indeed for either party to deliver a knockout blow to the other, and that any gains would be difficult for either side to hold permanently. The wars and the disputed provinces had taken on a totemic value—they had become part of the apparatus by which Persian shahs and Roman emperors alike justified their rule. This explains their personal participation in the campaigns, the triumphs in Rome and the rock-reliefs carved on the hillsides of Fars. Upper Mesopotamia, Armenia, and Syria had become an unfortunate playground for princes.” 0 likes
More quotes…