Customer Reviews: The Persians: Ancient, Mediaeval and Modern Iran
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on February 18, 2010
I am no book critic. I have been reading and enjoying Dr. Katouzian's books for twenty years. This book brings together his vast and scholarly knowledge of 2500 years of Iranian history. No writer has achieved this. The narrative is very fluid and easy to read and understand, despite the sometimes complex subjects. I could not wait to finish it, so that I could start reading it again.

If you are an Iranian, then you owe it to yourself to read this book. If you have adult children, please encourage them to read it. If you have young children, save this book in a safe place, and let them read it when they grow up.

Finally, if you are interested in modern Iran, his two books about Musaddiq and the Emergence of the Pahlavis are unsurpassed for their quality of research and writing. You can find these and his other works on Amazon.
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on February 19, 2011
Prof. Katouzian shows how the Iranian "social DNA" developed over centuries in a way to desire emproers who had a divine favor, similar to China's mandate from heaven, but how that favor in Iran often was more fickle than the Chinese mandate. Problems of succession plagued many dynasties in the past, and can be seen in the post-Khomenei days of today.

So, there's nothing new under the sun today, but it's been a long time developing.

For the period of the last 125 years or so, most likely to interest Americans, this is a good overview. But, before that, the past gets skimmed at many times.

There's little on the glories of the Achaemenids. Nor is there anything beyond the superficial on the founding and development of Zoroastrianism. The one thing new I learned about Iran's religious is that apparently it was NOT Shi'a majority until forcible conversion in a dynasty of the 1600s.

There's some other things missing, speaking of that.
1. A good glossary of religious terms.
2. A two-paged, nicely sized map of the country, or more than one. A geological map would be nice as part of this. So would better mapping of ancient and modern political division.
3. More discussions of Iranians' relations with Turks, over nearly 1,000 years of Turkish slaves passing through on the way to forming various dynasties, plus the Turkic presence fronting different Iranian empires in Transoxania. It's clear that Iran has many Turkish, as well as Arabic, loan words.

Anyway, I don't have further comparison because this is the first in-depth history of Iran I've read.
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on February 26, 2014
This book is an interpretative history of Iran from the Achaemenid empire until today. It is intended for a general reader and not for scholars. The book is prefaced by a chapter in which the author describes his overall analysis of Iranian culture and the impact of history on Iranian psychology. This chapter alone is worth the price of the book. The first two and a half millennia of Iranian history are covered in only 150 pages. Thus Iran's ancient past receives only the most glancing overview. Unfortunately the author seeks to provide a chronology of almost every significant event in this immense period of time and this makes for a somewhat difficult read. I found that I often had difficulty following the course of so many events covered so briefly. The bulk of the book is concentrated on 20th century Iran. Although the author has firm opinions about the individuals who have figured in recent Iranian history, I believe that his treatment is fair. He documents the reasons for his judgements and his analysis is not only quite believable but, in my opinion, convincing. In particular, I felt that his coverage of the era of Mohammad Mosaddeq as prime minister was well balanced and enlightening. The U.S participation in the coup to overthrow Mosaddeq is so often cited as a justifiable source of hostility toward the U.S. that it was most helpful to understand 1) The basis for Iranian sensitivity regarding western intervention in Iranian affairs and 2) the domestic Iranian circumstances that made Mosaddeq's ouster likely in the first place. Katouzian attributes the 1979 revolution primarily to mismanagement on the part of both Reza Shah and his son, Mohammed Reza Shah. In particular, the unwillingness of either of the two Pahlavis to build toward a constitutional monarchy, insisting instead upon a traditional Iranian autocracy, doomed their regime. In summary, this book seeks to provide an interpretation of the history of Iran that will assist the reader in understanding contemporary Iran. I believe that it is completely successful in this regard. It is a slightly tedious read due to the copious detail it offers but the reward is worth the effort.
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on November 19, 2014
I had read the Farsi translation of this book (printed in Iran) before I bought it. The Farsi translation is done extremely well, but due to restrictions imposed on what could or could not be printed in Iran (due to the "gangster" nature of government in Iran,) the last two chapters of the book (which contained history of the current "government" over the past 36-years) were missing in Farsi version.

This book is the best summary-type Iranian history book of the past 2,500 to 3,000 years that I have seen and read. I recommend this book to everyone, specially all Iranian-Americans, and to their families-- the best book to familiarize young generation with Iranian history. I also highly recommend the Farsi version (translation)-- all unfamiliar Farsi and Arabic names (in English language) can be easily read and understood in Farsi Translation. Otherwise, readers who do not have Farsi language background, would have problems to follow-up the history in the English version, alone.

This book is the best Iranian summary-type history book that (I believe) has been researched and prepared by a very qualified person, and printed, over the past 100 years. I also believe that the funding for such a First Class work must have come from U.S. government-- perhaps from the U.S. National Security apparatus.

Thank you, Professor Katouzian.
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on February 4, 2016
It gives an outsider a good look. Find it logical, easy to understand the flow of Iranian history. Recommend to demanding readers who are familiar with history books (may be not the one start with if you have not read anything like that before).
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on February 3, 2010
This is an excellent history of Persia / Iran ; author not only gives us an accurate chronological description of events but also and most importantly delivers an accurate , intelligent and hard hitting analyses of political and social culture of Iranian state and society from its inception to the present ; contrary to most historians author convincingly argues that Iran was never a feudal society ; Iran had either a strong arbitrary ruler who imposed order and territorial integrity with brute force or there existed chaos and disorder ; there never was a power sharing with an aristocratic or other ruling class ;
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on June 29, 2012
I have the book, It's awesome, There are many maps, from ancient times to modern times. in all of the it's Persian Gulf not just the Gulf. I can not locate a single map with just the Gulf. I guess some reviewers try hard to put down the book for suspicious intentions.
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on December 26, 2009
Katouzian opens up a mysterious landscape that has been far too long on the periphery of my radar screen. It is a land which has been brutalized by Roman, Mongol, and Arab invaders and shahs who saw intrigue under every stone. Nevertheless it provided sufficiently fertile ground for a wealth of poets, mathematicians, and theologians who helped lay the groundwork for the modern world.

Not until the early twentieth century did liberal constitutional government begin to take root, albeit weakly in a factional tribal society where strong men for centuries ruthlessly seized power and ruled arbitrarily. In the the midst of this transformation, the West came to be emulated for its assumed cultural superiority: women achieved greater equality, ancient meandering thoroughfares were replaced by linear streets conforming to European standards, and as a result many majestic buildings and traditions embodying Persia's glorious past were plowed under.

In the hyperbole of current affairs much is lost by merely focusing on Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's unqualified antagonisms toward the West without first looking to the causality that contributed to that cancer. Let us suppose, for example, 'the Brits' were behind a coup d'etat which overthrew President Obama and saw to it that a new leader, one who was more malleable to Anglo business concerns, was inserted in his place. With the most dedicated scholarship Katouzian lays bare the short-term opportunism of the CIA, which, in support of a British oil monopoly's ledger sheet, overthrew Iran's populist Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh, and, in the process, revealed a certain emptiness and hypocrisy in America's call for democratic values; and in reaction the secular state and liberal values evaporated in favor of an ephemeral Islamic political panacea.
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on February 12, 2016
Tough to get through sometimes but very factual
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on January 12, 2013
I struggled to read this book straight through. It definitely has all of the history there, but is a rather dry history. I will use it as a refernce book, as I read other books about Iran.
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