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Iran: A Modern History

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This history of modern Iran is not a survey in the conventional sense, but an ambitious exploration of the nation that offers a revealing look at how events, people, and institutions are shaped by trends and currents that sometimes reach back hundreds of years. Abbas Amanat covers the dynasties, revolutions, civil wars, foreign occupation, and new Islamic regime of this co This history of modern Iran is not a survey in the conventional sense, but an ambitious exploration of the nation that offers a revealing look at how events, people, and institutions are shaped by trends and currents that sometimes reach back hundreds of years. Abbas Amanat covers the dynasties, revolutions, civil wars, foreign occupation, and new Islamic regime of this complex period in history. Amanat combines chronological and thematic approaches, exploring events with lasting implications for modern Iran and the world. Drawing on the latest historical scholarship and emphasizing the twentieth century in its coverage, the book addresses debates about Iran’s culture and politics. Political history is the driving focus of this narrative based on decades of research and study, which is layered with discussions of literature, music, and the arts; ideology and religion; economy and society; and cultural identity and heritage.


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This history of modern Iran is not a survey in the conventional sense, but an ambitious exploration of the nation that offers a revealing look at how events, people, and institutions are shaped by trends and currents that sometimes reach back hundreds of years. Abbas Amanat covers the dynasties, revolutions, civil wars, foreign occupation, and new Islamic regime of this co This history of modern Iran is not a survey in the conventional sense, but an ambitious exploration of the nation that offers a revealing look at how events, people, and institutions are shaped by trends and currents that sometimes reach back hundreds of years. Abbas Amanat covers the dynasties, revolutions, civil wars, foreign occupation, and new Islamic regime of this complex period in history. Amanat combines chronological and thematic approaches, exploring events with lasting implications for modern Iran and the world. Drawing on the latest historical scholarship and emphasizing the twentieth century in its coverage, the book addresses debates about Iran’s culture and politics. Political history is the driving focus of this narrative based on decades of research and study, which is layered with discussions of literature, music, and the arts; ideology and religion; economy and society; and cultural identity and heritage.

30 review for Iran: A Modern History

  1. 4 out of 5

    Mehrsa

    This book is so detailed and thorough and it was really hard to get through the pre-19th century half (and then it sped up a lot after the Constitutional revolution). Still, it was so good that I wished he had started even earlier--with the Persian empire. I know Iranians are prone to tragic thinking, but how can anyone read this history and NOT think of it as a total tragedy? Every time the Iranian people tried to reform from within some external power would swoop in and stop us from governing o This book is so detailed and thorough and it was really hard to get through the pre-19th century half (and then it sped up a lot after the Constitutional revolution). Still, it was so good that I wished he had started even earlier--with the Persian empire. I know Iranians are prone to tragic thinking, but how can anyone read this history and NOT think of it as a total tragedy? Every time the Iranian people tried to reform from within some external power would swoop in and stop us from governing ourselves. And then when Iranians finally did revolt, the most toxic thread of the Iranian psyche (a messianic shiism) takes over. These mullahs should have eventually died off or become an out of touch minority. Instead, they rule the country. Such a tragedy. It's not a book with a happy ending.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie Jane

    See more of my book reviews on my blog, Literary Flits Clocking in at a thousand pages, Iran: A Modern History is easy three times as long as books I usually choose so it is with all credit to Abbas Amanat's engaging writing that I happily immersed myself in this history for the best part of a week. I was fascinated to discover the rich history of this ancient nation and, although I have already forgotten many names, I do feel that I have a stronger understanding of Iran's culture and her people See more of my book reviews on my blog, Literary Flits Clocking in at a thousand pages, Iran: A Modern History is easy three times as long as books I usually choose so it is with all credit to Abbas Amanat's engaging writing that I happily immersed myself in this history for the best part of a week. I was fascinated to discover the rich history of this ancient nation and, although I have already forgotten many names, I do feel that I have a stronger understanding of Iran's culture and her people as a result. I certainly appreciated the differences in not viewing this history through British eyes and, in common with a depressing number of history and historical fiction books I read over the past few years, Britain's actions reveal our government to have been (and still be?) duplicitous, selfish and greedy. In common with many (all?) countries, Iran's history is primarily a story of violent men, but I liked that Amanat makes a point of frequently stepping away from war to also show us beauty. Artworks are reproduced in colour and black and white, plus I loved reading poetry and song lyrics, descriptions of theatre and film productions and even seeing a couple of satirical political cartoons. Such artistic creations are important to Iranian culture and their inclusion helped me to have a greater understanding. There are also maps which I think in a printed book would show various warring factions in a seemingly perpetual struggle for territory, however these details aren't reproduced in the ebook format so I was confused by the exact timelines of particular battles. I quite expected to read Iran: A Modern History in sections around other books and for reading it to feel like studying or work! Instead I was keen to keep reading and exploring Iranian history. Amanat draws out human stories and individual characters so this book didn't feel dry. I often enjoyed reading for several hours at a time! The 20th century, as Iran swings from one cultural extreme to another, takes a disproportionate number of pages compared to medieval times. Understanding the historic events that led there, albeit in an overview, is very satisfying. Readers do need a certain level of commitment to get the most out of this book I think, however I would recommend it for history buffs and fans of historians such as Simon Schama. A good book for long winter evenings!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Adam

    Big and detailed modern history of Iran. I learned a lot in the two months I spent reading this.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Toni

    I have always loved history and Persia holds a special place in my heart, so I was very excited to see this book offered on NetGalley. When I initially requested this book, I did not realize that it was some 1000 pages long. I was momentarily intimidated and thought it would take me months to get through it. Most history books tend to be somewhat and tedious to read and I was unsure of what to expect. I needn't have worried, however. Mr. Amanat writes in an engaging style and I was pulled in qui I have always loved history and Persia holds a special place in my heart, so I was very excited to see this book offered on NetGalley. When I initially requested this book, I did not realize that it was some 1000 pages long. I was momentarily intimidated and thought it would take me months to get through it. Most history books tend to be somewhat and tedious to read and I was unsure of what to expect. I needn't have worried, however. Mr. Amanat writes in an engaging style and I was pulled in quite easily. The book cover 500 hundred years of Persian and modern Iranian history and the author’s knowledge and authority on the subject is apparent throughout. The Persian empire’s history is among the most fascinating in the world. This book does not disappoint. It is detailed and the reader is fortunate to get a comprehensive picture of a complex and intriguing country with rich traditions and a unique culture. I would definitely recommend this book to readers interested in history and expanding their knowledge on the region. I will also be buying a copy for my personal library so that I can go back to certain periods and reread them at a slower pace. My 13-year old son is also a history buff and while he may not be ready for this book yet, he will be one day. Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing a free copy of the book.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Tom

    The author Abbas Amanat was born in Iran and is currently a William Graham Sumner Professor of History at Yale University and the Director of the Yale Program in Iranian Studies. Carl Sagan is known for saying "You have to know the past to understand the present." and in exploring the modern history of Iran Amanat starts with the Safavid Empire at the beginning of the 16th century in this extensive study of Iran's evolution as a nation to the present day. Granted this book is not a fast read but The author Abbas Amanat was born in Iran and is currently a William Graham Sumner Professor of History at Yale University and the Director of the Yale Program in Iranian Studies. Carl Sagan is known for saying "You have to know the past to understand the present." and in exploring the modern history of Iran Amanat starts with the Safavid Empire at the beginning of the 16th century in this extensive study of Iran's evolution as a nation to the present day. Granted this book is not a fast read but one packed with dates and names of those who had an impact on the intricate development of Iran. I came away after reading this book with a much better understanding of the makings of the Islamic Republic of Iran and a better understanding of the makeup of the Iranian people and what differentiates them from the Arab world. I also found the following 60 minute video very informative where Professor Amanat discusses modern Iran from the Constitutional Revolution of 1905 to the Islamic Revolution in 1979. https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=...

  6. 5 out of 5

    Ali

    This is the best book on history of modern Iran that I have come across to. Although, I wouldn't recommend it for a first read. It's a shame that this has no chance of being translated and published inside Iran, at least legally. This is the best book on history of modern Iran that I have come across to. Although, I wouldn't recommend it for a first read. It's a shame that this has no chance of being translated and published inside Iran, at least legally.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Josh Friedlander

    Stendhal's The Red and the Black refers to the colours of the radicals and the clergy, as his protagonist attempts to pass as a conservative cleric while hiding his radical credentials. In that vein did Mohammad Reza Shah (deposed in 1979) once describe the ayatollahs who replaced him as “the coalition of the red and black reactionaries”. While the Ayatollah Khomeini preached his own new and extreme religious doctrine, the revolution absorbed the thought of cutting-edge leftist and postcolonial Stendhal's The Red and the Black refers to the colours of the radicals and the clergy, as his protagonist attempts to pass as a conservative cleric while hiding his radical credentials. In that vein did Mohammad Reza Shah (deposed in 1979) once describe the ayatollahs who replaced him as “the coalition of the red and black reactionaries”. While the Ayatollah Khomeini preached his own new and extreme religious doctrine, the revolution absorbed the thought of cutting-edge leftist and postcolonial thinkers (among them Fanon, Sartre, and Massignon), primarily via the ideologue Ali Shariati. As Julian Sorel discovered, the combination was never really viable. (Above: the Azadi Tower in Iran, one of the Shah's last great extravagances.) This book, written by the director of Yale's program in Iranian Studies, covers the modern state of Iran from its founding with the Safavid Empire in 1501, through the Qajar and Pahlavi dynasties, and to the present day. However roughly the second half of the book is about 20th-century developments, and it goes deep on the current republic: the regime's crimes, economic and demographic changes, the Iran-Iraq war, and the cultural production both inside the country and in exile. Iran's founding made it the first Shi'i state, in some ways mirroring the cleavage in Christendom (Martin Luther nailed his theses to the door in 1517). During that time and the subsequent Qajar reign, the country was fairly closed off and underdeveloped, with bloody succession battles following the death of each shah. During the 19th century, the rise of European empires to its south (Britain) and north (Russia) resulted in Iran being torn between the two powers and losing much of its territory. When oil was discovered in 1901, things again took a turn for the worse. Reza Khan, a military dictator, became shah after a brief and chaotic interregnum, something akin to Germany's pre-Weimar period, when liberal, socialist and atheist ideas were briefly in vogue. Modern Iran has a tendency toward victimhood, and one upshot of this book is that is is fairly justified. From the de Reuter concession, the extortionate shenanigans of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, the Western overthrow of Reza Khan in place of his son, the "temporary invasion" during World War II, and of course the CIA's 1953 coup against Mosadegh. Even without going into the root causes of each event, one can understand why the country has a sense of grievance, a national childhood trauma compelling distrust of outsiders. The "Persiosphere" of time immemorial spans from India (via Babur and the Moguls) through the plains of central Asia (Tajik and the Afghan language Dari are Persian dialects) to Mesopotamia to the Caucasus. The modern state is far smaller, and its rogue government, which has tortured and executed without trial thousands of its citizens, has attempted to erase much of its past culture and beauty. Hopefully the next chapter of its history - whenever it comes - will be a more tolerant one which allows expression of this ancient people's vibrancy, creativity and romantic soul.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Wiom biom

    I should be revising for the examinations but I cannot bring myself to do it. Dear Diary, This book is so comprehensive it felt like a world in itself. I took about a month or more to finish this book and even though I skimmed parts of it, I never thought of giving up -- that's when you know there is a perfect balance between readability and scholarship. Although I know I've probably already forgotten more than 50% of what I've read, I really appreciated this book as my first foray into Iranian h I should be revising for the examinations but I cannot bring myself to do it. Dear Diary, This book is so comprehensive it felt like a world in itself. I took about a month or more to finish this book and even though I skimmed parts of it, I never thought of giving up -- that's when you know there is a perfect balance between readability and scholarship. Although I know I've probably already forgotten more than 50% of what I've read, I really appreciated this book as my first foray into Iranian history, especially since the presentation of the material and the authorial opinions were pretty unbiased. Amanat certainly succeeded in delivering an authentic portrayal of Iranian history, one that is adequately detached but also simultaneously immersed in the intricacies of the Iranian identity -- one that dates back to the Sasanian Empire to the Age of Islam, from the ambiguous Qajar period to the modern Pahlavi era, and finally to the present-day under the Islamic Republic. Like most people around me, and dare I venture, most people who consume Western news, I could not understand the vile anti-American rhetoric that seems to come out of the Islamic Republic every other day. I also could not really fathom how millions of people could possibly choose to subject themselves to despotic theocratic rule in the latter half of the 20th century. This book certainly illuminated otherwise forgotten incidents in history which are deeply engrained in the Iranian consciousness -- the Western-sponsored coups in 1911 and 1953, the Western-sponsored rise to power of Reza Khan in 1927(?), his subsequent exile during WWII. No wonder the Iranians seem to harbour so much animosity towards the Americans especially. On a side-note, this book also informed my opinion on the egregiously and abominably exploitative nature of Western colonialism. Despicable gosh, especially the coup in 1953. Also reading about the Islamic Revolution and the cult of personality around the detestable Khomeini has reinforced my belief that religion, when organised and institutionalised, is really just an arcane means to control the population. Sure, religion can strengthen national identity and perhaps bolster social cohesiveness but religion is just 1) never fully benevolent and 2) never fully depoliticised! Almost all religions establish a moral code of sorts and hierarchise society based on believes vs non-believers -- the positive social cohesiveness that comes from religion rests on the collective rejection of another segment of society, leading to entrenched discrimination and possible persecution. This is compounded when religion is invariably brought into politics by opportunists or pure radical clerics -- state-sponsored persecution happens, and worse still, brainwashing on a national level proceeds; those in power will just use religion to remain in power (case in point: the coterie of male clerics in Iran!) What's the point of having a prime minister and a popularly-elected president if the Supreme Leader still has supreme power? Make it make sense. Anyways I don't think the Islamic Republic will last... the autocratic nature of the theocracy and their regressive reading/application of Islamic law are just not compatible with the desires of a modern citizenry. yeah But anyways you can learn to admire a nation and its culture/heritage/history without being a fan of its government.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Rune Clausen

    This is an incredibly encompassing work. It goes into rich detail about every aspect of the various kings, elite people, social movements, culture, and just life in general that has transpired throughout the past 5 centuries of Iranian history. The book is a literal typhoon of information just blasting you with so much knowledge that you become dazed and mesmerized. Despite having read a few works on Iranian history previously, I still learned so much from this book, as there can obviously be pu This is an incredibly encompassing work. It goes into rich detail about every aspect of the various kings, elite people, social movements, culture, and just life in general that has transpired throughout the past 5 centuries of Iranian history. The book is a literal typhoon of information just blasting you with so much knowledge that you become dazed and mesmerized. Despite having read a few works on Iranian history previously, I still learned so much from this book, as there can obviously be put a lot of information into a 1000 densely written pages. It is almost futile to try to summarize it here. All that I can say is that Irans history is a very lively one, full of intrigue, drama, revolutions, murders, social movements, enigmatic and ruthless leaders, cunning warriors, smart and stunning queens, political and religious cabals, suffocating social control both towards the islamic and secular direction. It is in other words, a very interesting history, that at times almost reads like a fictional story rather than actual history. But unavoidably, there's a lot of fluff and perhaps unnecessary details interspersed into the chapters. It can get a fair bit slow at times. Another thing I do like about this work, is the way that Abbas also focuses on cultural icons, be it poets, singers, movie directors or sport stars of the time, and gives time and room to include them and their works (where applicable), which is important as this is as big a part of understanding a culture as the history of its people. I do however find it slightly unfortunate that Abbas doesn't cover the recent decades in the post islamic revolution era very deeply. There's very brief and superficial mentions of Rafsanjani, Khatami, Ahmadinejad and barely a mention of Hassan Rouhani. While I understand that the scope of this book is probably to cover the more distant centuries more, and the recent history still being so fresh in memory as to not warrant being included in this work. Especially Rouhani makes sense, as he's still the president as of right now (and the writing of the book). But Rafsanjani and Khatamis tenures, and to some degree Ahmadinejads could've used a slightly more in-depth coverage. Especially, the Green Movement of 2009 deserves a lot more coverage than the barely 2 pages vague description it was granted at the end of the book. Beyond this, I have a hard time finding any faults with this work!

  10. 5 out of 5

    Stephen Morrissey

    Amanat's book is a magisterial history of Iran, and with some additional editing and more elegantly flowing prose, could have earned more stars from this reviewer. Amanat's strength lies in tracing the vast political, economic, social, and religious history of Iran from the beginnings of the Safavid Empire in the 1500s through the consolidation of Khomeini's Islamic Revolution in 1989. Amidst dueling dynastic heirs, countless invasions, and the tensions between the monarchy, the bureaucracy, and Amanat's book is a magisterial history of Iran, and with some additional editing and more elegantly flowing prose, could have earned more stars from this reviewer. Amanat's strength lies in tracing the vast political, economic, social, and religious history of Iran from the beginnings of the Safavid Empire in the 1500s through the consolidation of Khomeini's Islamic Revolution in 1989. Amidst dueling dynastic heirs, countless invasions, and the tensions between the monarchy, the bureaucracy, and the Shi'i religion, Amanat provides a portrait of a country in the thorough and detailed way of a Norman Davies or Richard J. Evans. Unfortunately, the book is pock-marked with grammatical and spelling mistakes that mar the flow of the history being told. Particularly troublesome is the lack of the word "the" before capitalized terms, as well as numerous other grammatical mistakes that leaves one scratching their head as far as the editor's role in releasing this book (note that I read the Kindle, and so I cannot comment on whether such errors are in the print version). Amanat leaves the reader with the sense that the Islamic Republic of Iran that we encounter today bears striking resemblance to the Pahlavi and past imperial predecessors, though suffused with the Qom-ified veneer of Shi'i Islam. The best way to understand Iran, in the context of its place in the world, its nuclear ambitions, and its posture towards the West, may not be Islam, but the country's long and troubled history with those beyond its borders of the Zagros Mountains.

  11. 4 out of 5

    mohammed munir uddin

    This book is amazing I personally love it 🌷🌷🌷🌷

  12. 4 out of 5

    Victor Negut

    I need to add Abbas Amanat’s other books to my reading list! (Read again, maybe)

  13. 4 out of 5

    Kopratic

    A comprehensive overview that still manages to be detailed and fulfilling.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Victoria Rodríguez

    A very interesting book about Iran's history. The book describes Iran since the beginning of the Ottoman Empire. It also describes important cities as Isfahan and Tehran. Isfahan was an important trade site, especially for silk that was brought from China, and then transported to Europe. The history of the shahs is very interesting, as well as the role Islam played during the shaping of this wonderful country. Abbas Amanat details the information about the important historic Iranian figures that A very interesting book about Iran's history. The book describes Iran since the beginning of the Ottoman Empire. It also describes important cities as Isfahan and Tehran. Isfahan was an important trade site, especially for silk that was brought from China, and then transported to Europe. The history of the shahs is very interesting, as well as the role Islam played during the shaping of this wonderful country. Abbas Amanat details the information about the important historic Iranian figures that are remembered today.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Tony Gualtieri

    This is a long book that covers a great deal of history, much of it either unfamiliar to me or known through the distorting lens of western propaganda. It reaches back as far as the foundation of the Safavid Empire around 1500 and proceeds logarithmically up to events as recent as the Green Revolution of 2009. Miraculously, the author maintains a coherent narrative throughout the text. It’s readable and has just the right amount of information to hold the attention of someone ignorant of even th This is a long book that covers a great deal of history, much of it either unfamiliar to me or known through the distorting lens of western propaganda. It reaches back as far as the foundation of the Safavid Empire around 1500 and proceeds logarithmically up to events as recent as the Green Revolution of 2009. Miraculously, the author maintains a coherent narrative throughout the text. It’s readable and has just the right amount of information to hold the attention of someone ignorant of even the basics of the material covered.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jim

    For a generation, the word Iran has conjured up a variety of images and thoughts here in the west some filled with hope and others of a more pejorative nature. As a college senior, this reviewer remembers the frustration, futility, and anger, of America and the West, during the events of 1979 and 1980 when the United States embassy in the capital of Tehran was overrun and the staff taken hostage for over a year. Since then, Iran, as an Islamic Republic, has been much maligned and disregarded by t For a generation, the word Iran has conjured up a variety of images and thoughts here in the west some filled with hope and others of a more pejorative nature. As a college senior, this reviewer remembers the frustration, futility, and anger, of America and the West, during the events of 1979 and 1980 when the United States embassy in the capital of Tehran was overrun and the staff taken hostage for over a year. Since then, Iran, as an Islamic Republic, has been much maligned and disregarded by the America and the West in the forty years since the fall of perhaps the last of Pahlavi Shah. It has also brought turmoil to the American political scene since the late 1970's (the Iran-Contra scandal, aka Irangate, of the mid-1980's for instance). But when the opportunity to review Abbas Amanat's new history of his native country Iran: A Modern History (2017, Yale University Press) was made available to this reviewer, I eagerly began to read it with the hopes of understand the events of 1979 and the history of the nation and people who were behind them. I was not disappointed. What I found was the history of a proud and resilient people with a dynamic and turbulent past and present. Amanat's book begins in 1501 with the Safavid Dynasty and ends with an insightful analysis of why the nation of Iran has been able to exist. But there is more to this book that the historical narrative of the seven dynasties through which Iran has passed to the current Islamic Republic. This is a book in which the cultural history of Iran is also told - architecture, literature, music, and from the mid-20th century to today - film. It is also book in which the depth and tenacity of the Shia branch of Islam is shown and has been a major part, according Amanat, of Iran's survival, thriving, and identity. Iran: A Modern History, is a history that has depth and breadth to it. If you are a first time reader of Iranian history, this book will challenge you, as it did this reviewer, with a scholar's, and a native son's, understanding and analysis of Iran. But you will discover a perspective, a very long perspective, on a nation who has sat astride history of both the east, and since the 18th and 19th centuries (and before, really) the west. A position that created external tensions with Russia and England and internal tensions between the Muslim clerics, the progressive element seeking democratic forms of government, and the deeply rooted supporters of monarchy. I really enjoyed this book. I helped me to understand the turbulent nature of contemporary Iran as well as the reasons behind much of what has happened since 1979. It is a book that would be great for book clubs, as well as probably upper class history classes as well as graduate level history and perhaps in Christian seminaries as part of the study of Islam and the Muslim world. I gave this book a five-star rating on Goodreads! Note: I received a kindle copy of this book from the publisher via Net Galley in exchange for a review. I was not required to write a positive review.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Joseph Spuckler

    Iran: A Modern History by Abbas Amanat is a detailed five hundred year history of Iran. Amanat received his B.A. from Tehran University in Social Sciences in 1971 and his D.Phil. from the Faculty of Oriental Studies, Oxford University in 1981. He is a Professor of History and International Studies and Director of the Yale Program in Iranian Studies. Amanat is a historian of Iran and Shia Islam, and the modern Middle East. He specializes in Qajar Iran as well as the history of messianic and apoca Iran: A Modern History by Abbas Amanat is a detailed five hundred year history of Iran. Amanat received his B.A. from Tehran University in Social Sciences in 1971 and his D.Phil. from the Faculty of Oriental Studies, Oxford University in 1981. He is a Professor of History and International Studies and Director of the Yale Program in Iranian Studies. Amanat is a historian of Iran and Shia Islam, and the modern Middle East. He specializes in Qajar Iran as well as the history of messianic and apocalyptic movements in the Islamic world. For many, Iran became a fixture in American politics 1979 with the revolution and the taking of American hostages by college students. Iran was in the news again with talk of Reagan and the hostage release and later arms for hostages. Today Iran is the news as the US and others work to stop their nuclear weapons development. For those with a sense of history, President Hassan Rouhaniseemed to mimic Woodrow Wilson with his statement that "Death to America" is not directed to American people but to the actions of the American government. Iran (or Persia) has a long a history and a deep culture that is detailed in Amanat's book. Culture in arts and life adds greatly to a country's history, changing it from a detailed listing of events and adding a human factor. This is, unfortunately, missing from many histories that are not typically Western. Culture adds to the reader's understanding. That being said, the revealing of the history is done with great detail and clarity. Perhaps the best thing about a well-written history is it explains how a country became what it is today. Why is Iran anti- American (government)? Why is Iran so concerned about its security? Are nuclear weapons a power grab or just a deterrent? Why do so many allies of the US have full diplomatic relations with Iran? How can one Muslim state be at odds with nearly all other Muslim states? I found the period between World War and World War II the most interesting and, for my part, the most unexpected.  This is the birth of modern Iran and its regional and international struggles.  Here too is where the internal struggle between conservative Islam and Western culture seem to clash and continue to struggle even today.   Iran has a rich history that is a struggle.  That history also explains why present-day Iran evolved into what it is.  For many Americans, it seems more like a Cold War situation, a representation of worldwide terrorism.  To Iran, it sees a world ready to exploit any weakness and remembers every betrayal on the world stage.  This is a book that will bring a broader understanding of a country that only preconceptions exist.  The first step in better relations is understanding. Amanat does a tremendous job of educating the reader, even a reader with a background in history. 

  18. 4 out of 5

    Lee

    This is a comprehensive of modern Iran, starting with the rise of the Safavid Dynasty to the early twenty-first century. If you know nothing about Iran and want to become someone who can discuss Iran in an educated way, this is your book. This book, particularly the later sections on the 20th century, will tell you everything you need to know about. The book is particularly good at explicating the twists and turns of 20th century Iranian culture and politics, the aspects of Iran that will be mos This is a comprehensive of modern Iran, starting with the rise of the Safavid Dynasty to the early twenty-first century. If you know nothing about Iran and want to become someone who can discuss Iran in an educated way, this is your book. This book, particularly the later sections on the 20th century, will tell you everything you need to know about. The book is particularly good at explicating the twists and turns of 20th century Iranian culture and politics, the aspects of Iran that will be most of interest to most readers, are covered exhaustively, but never too much. For me, personally, I knew so little about Iran, so I welcolmed the attention he gave to these topics. But that gets to the flaw of this book and the reason I almost abandonned this tome fifty pages in. The beginning starts out with a whirlwind history of pre-Safavid Iran, Cyrus the Great and all that. This whirlwind history was cursory, and intentionally so. It was a little hard for me, having little background on Iranian history, to feel like I was understanding anything, but that was okay, because it was not meant to be an in-depth history, so me not understanding what propelled the downfall of a dynasty or the rise of Shi'aism was to be expected. However, when Amanat begins talking about the Safavid Dynasty, where the whirlwind tour ends and the main text begins, I still felt like Amanat's treatment of the history was too breezy. Maybe he expected me to understand the intricacies of Shia Islamic philosophy in the Middle East in the early Modern period, but I did not, and I don't think that the average educated English speaker, who this book is targetting, would have known. At several points, I almost gave up, just because I felt unmoored by Amanat's cursory discussions of things that should have been more explained. That said, this is still an excellent history, especially in the latter half of the book, after the fall of the Qajar Dynasty and into the modern era.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Behrooz Parhami

    I listened to the unabridged audio version of this title (read by Derek Perkins, Tantor Audio, 2018). This isn’t a history book in the usual sense of the term. Amanat augments historical facts and chronology with cultural and sociological observations to tell us the complex story of a nation that has survived for millennia, despite multiple invasions, occupations, revolutions, civil wars, coups, and inept rulers. The book covers the last 500 years of Iran’s history, with emphasis on the 20th cen I listened to the unabridged audio version of this title (read by Derek Perkins, Tantor Audio, 2018). This isn’t a history book in the usual sense of the term. Amanat augments historical facts and chronology with cultural and sociological observations to tell us the complex story of a nation that has survived for millennia, despite multiple invasions, occupations, revolutions, civil wars, coups, and inept rulers. The book covers the last 500 years of Iran’s history, with emphasis on the 20th century, in four parts, sandwiched between an introduction and an epilogue. Part 1. Early modern era, Safavid Empire to the end of the 18th century (1501-1797) Part 2. Qajar Dynasty, encounters with the European powers, to the Constitutional Revolution (1797-1911) Part 3. World War I to the end of the Pahlavi era (1914-1977) Part 4. Shaping of the Islamic Revolution during its first phase (1977-1989) In fact, the second half of the book perhaps contains too much in way of details of events that may be deemed less important from a historical perspective, even when literature, arts, and culture are blended in. This is an all-too-common occurrence in contemporary historical accounts, given that there are a lot more documents and testimonials describing recent events: Sort of like the drunk looking for his lost keys under a lamp-post, because the lighting is better there! The book isn’t for the faint-hearted. About 42 hours long in its audio version, it is roughly four times as long as the average 11-hour (100,000-word) audiobook. The narrator, Derek Perkins, is a seasoned, award-winning performer, but he fails in his attempts to pronounce names of Persian individuals and geographic locations. This is a minor nuisance, however. I recommend the (audio)book highly.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jon Glazer

    This is an excellent history of Iran over the past 500 years. Just as I had hoped, I learned a lot about the country's unique past and how it influences current events. Despite its length the book held my interest all the way through. Unfortunately the proofreader seems to have nodded off around page 400 or so; the latter half of the book is riddled with an astounding number of typos, spelling mistakes, and inappropriate tense usage. Within the space of about 20 pages the word "message" is twice This is an excellent history of Iran over the past 500 years. Just as I had hoped, I learned a lot about the country's unique past and how it influences current events. Despite its length the book held my interest all the way through. Unfortunately the proofreader seems to have nodded off around page 400 or so; the latter half of the book is riddled with an astounding number of typos, spelling mistakes, and inappropriate tense usage. Within the space of about 20 pages the word "message" is twice written as "massage", causing some unintentional humor. Women are referred to as "reproductive unites"; I can only assume the author meant "reproductive units". The beautiful Shahyad Tower is referred to as Shayhad Tower, which is a bit like describing one of America's landmarks as The Statute of Liberty. Presumably the author's brother (who designed the tower) never read the galley proofs. Obviously these are all minor criticisms but they do slightly undermine the author's extensive knowledge and erudition . I hope these many errors will be corrected in subsequent editions.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Chris Duval

    This is an indispensable book for understanding today's Iran, and how it is, and is not, consistent with its past few hundred years. The knowledge gained will be enjoyable in its own right, particularly in the areas of poetry, music, theater and cinema, as well as in mainstream and less orthodox religious beliefs and attitudes. The author translated many of the samples from poems and speeches, and, supported or illustrated his statements with reproductions from posters, picture postcards and pai This is an indispensable book for understanding today's Iran, and how it is, and is not, consistent with its past few hundred years. The knowledge gained will be enjoyable in its own right, particularly in the areas of poetry, music, theater and cinema, as well as in mainstream and less orthodox religious beliefs and attitudes. The author translated many of the samples from poems and speeches, and, supported or illustrated his statements with reproductions from posters, picture postcards and paintings, some from archives or private collections. The author's opinions, and some of the emotion behind them, manifested sometimes, but not in a way that hurt the exposition. The book's weakness is its many minor errors--mostly word omissions or mistaken substitutions. I made a list of those that I spotted along with suggested corrections: http://duvalfamily.net/chris_zone/mis... It's likely that I made an error typing up the referenced document; if so I can live with the irony.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Nate Bate

    It is hard to write a short review of a book that is nearly 1,000 pages. I was pleased with how Abbas Amanat explored the fabric of Iranian society. It wasn't simplistic, but it didn't feel excessive either. He covers religious, cultural, governmental, and the international placement of Iran. Although I have not done enough reading on Iran to say much, It seems to me Amanat's portrayal of Iran is essentially insightful for us to understand the Iran we see today. Many people do not understand the It is hard to write a short review of a book that is nearly 1,000 pages. I was pleased with how Abbas Amanat explored the fabric of Iranian society. It wasn't simplistic, but it didn't feel excessive either. He covers religious, cultural, governmental, and the international placement of Iran. Although I have not done enough reading on Iran to say much, It seems to me Amanat's portrayal of Iran is essentially insightful for us to understand the Iran we see today. Many people do not understand the historical complex relationship that Iran has had with the international community. To assess Iran without these understandings is simplistic and unhelpful although a natural path of least resistance for most people. My advice to people who realize they need to learn more about Iran is to pick up this book and read through it's major highlights. Don't feel the need to get everything on the first read through. Or, find a shorter book with less detail but with overarching themes. One more final note, this book covers from 1500AD to 2013AD.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Omarustwani

    After almost three months reading this book at a consistent pace, I finished it with the exuberance of accomplishment yet the anticlimax of a good movie that has a mediocre end. I am genuinely debating between giving this 4 or 5 stars. Overall it is very well written with a thorough account of the last 500 history of the Persian empire starting with the sefavids. Amanat is a serious scholar with excellent story telling abilitiy. However I felt that he went out on a limb in the middle of the book After almost three months reading this book at a consistent pace, I finished it with the exuberance of accomplishment yet the anticlimax of a good movie that has a mediocre end. I am genuinely debating between giving this 4 or 5 stars. Overall it is very well written with a thorough account of the last 500 history of the Persian empire starting with the sefavids. Amanat is a serious scholar with excellent story telling abilitiy. However I felt that he went out on a limb in the middle of the book especially when he tries to explain the culture and ambience of the era in every chapter. I think there is a level of fatigue and loss in irrelevant details that occurs after the Qajar era. I would have expected better chapters starting with transitioning the power to khoumaini. I sensed also a hint of preferential justification to the Islamic republic, almost seeking excuses whey they did the things they did. The Iran contra affair was mentioned vaguely in passing. The book deserves a better ending, yet that may be because of the lack of one

  24. 5 out of 5

    XXX

    A faithful telling of the major people & events of Iranian history. As with many works of history, however, it is unfortunately far too involved in describing what happened rather than what we might learn from it. For instance, it is clearly important to state that the 1979 revolution came with an imposition of Islamic morality. But, could that have been avoided? Was there a potential secular revolution or would this have been untenable? An additional disappointment is that there is very little A faithful telling of the major people & events of Iranian history. As with many works of history, however, it is unfortunately far too involved in describing what happened rather than what we might learn from it. For instance, it is clearly important to state that the 1979 revolution came with an imposition of Islamic morality. But, could that have been avoided? Was there a potential secular revolution or would this have been untenable? An additional disappointment is that there is very little focus on economics, much less than summaries of the "great literature" of the period. There are some brief notes that the country industrialized at the time & many discussions of the oil fields, but there is little about what might have been done differently to better (or, alternatively, worsen) the outcomes for the country's economy.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Brian

    Save this one for when you have lots of patient reading time. It is a dense history that covers 500 plus years, with a chronological organization that doubles back on itself frequently to cover major themes. I wish I could say that I understand Iran better for having read it, but Iranian/Persian culture and history remains somewhat confusing, overwhelming, and complex to the point of "the more I read, the less I feel I understand." Nevertheless, my overwhelmed sense of the complexity of this geo Save this one for when you have lots of patient reading time. It is a dense history that covers 500 plus years, with a chronological organization that doubles back on itself frequently to cover major themes. I wish I could say that I understand Iran better for having read it, but Iranian/Persian culture and history remains somewhat confusing, overwhelming, and complex to the point of "the more I read, the less I feel I understand." Nevertheless, my overwhelmed sense of the complexity of this geographical area and its people has been enhanced (some of the details from this history will surface at times, I'm sure, and remind me to not be superficial or stereotypical in my judgements and reactions), and I will be following the developments in Iran with an new compassion that comes from the realization that nations, cultures, and peoples are never as easy to define as we'd like to believe.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Daniele Purrone

    I probably bought the wrong book. :-) I was, yes, looking for an accurate history of Iran, but, apart from history, you will find a lot of emphasis on philosophy, arts, poetry and (of course) religion. This surely makes the telling of Iran’s history even more complete, but, honestly, I had to skip long sections that weren’t of much interest to me. If you are looking forward to have a complete understanding of Iran’s society through the ages, this would be the book for you. Otherwise you might wan I probably bought the wrong book. :-) I was, yes, looking for an accurate history of Iran, but, apart from history, you will find a lot of emphasis on philosophy, arts, poetry and (of course) religion. This surely makes the telling of Iran’s history even more complete, but, honestly, I had to skip long sections that weren’t of much interest to me. If you are looking forward to have a complete understanding of Iran’s society through the ages, this would be the book for you. Otherwise you might want to look into something else.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Matt Gio

    I managed to complete around 40% of the book. I imagine it's a decent book for someone with prior knowledge looking for more depth on Iranian history, but for a lay person such as myself the excessive detail was a drag. It would have probably been quite interesting if it was half the length. I thought I would try to hold out 'til the section of the 20th century, which is what I was most interested in, but it was a struggle for me to do even 15 pages at a time. I managed to complete around 40% of the book. I imagine it's a decent book for someone with prior knowledge looking for more depth on Iranian history, but for a lay person such as myself the excessive detail was a drag. It would have probably been quite interesting if it was half the length. I thought I would try to hold out 'til the section of the 20th century, which is what I was most interested in, but it was a struggle for me to do even 15 pages at a time.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Nick Harriss

    A very long book, but a great place to get an understanding of Iran. I am personally mostly interested in the 20th and 21st century history of the country, so the first half was less interesting to me, but still worthwhile. The final quarter, covering the last years of the Shah and the Islamic Revolution was very good. What was especially interesting is how the same problems and tensions keep reoccurring in slightly different ways.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Carol

    This is a long and difficult read. Saying that it covers 500 years of Iranian history, it really rushes somewhat randomly through the first 400 years and then skips around in time quite a bit as it tells the narrative. This requires some base knowledge of the history and geography involved in order to make sense of the direction. Then the Epilogue shifts somewhat ineffectively to those histories on current Iranian literature and arts.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Joe

    I need to read more in depth histories of single countries/geographic regions. The book is excellent overview of social and political events inside Iran since about 1500, with increased detail between around 1890 and 1990. It also covers its place in international politics and the perceptions of foreign powers within Iran. If anyone wants to know more about how Iran got where it is today, this book is a good starting place.

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