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. --Jay Freeman
"His account of modern Iranian politics and culture is more gripping than most novels.... Consistently intelligent, notably up to date and lucidly written."