955: Revolutionary Iran by Michael Axworthy

by Gerard


955.054: Axworthy, Michael. Revolutionary Iran: A History of the Islamic Republic. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2013. 423 pp. ISBN 978-0-1993-2226-8.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 900: History and geography
  • 950: History of Asia
  • 955: History of Iran
  • 955.05: 1906-2005
  • 955.054: 1979-2005

In Revolutionary Iran, Michael Axworthy makes a wonderful observation: “Iranian history can be seen as a microcosm of human history as a whole: empires, revolutions, invasions, art, architecture, warriors, conquerors, great thinkers, great writers and poets, holy men and lawgivers, charismatic leaders and the blackest villains.” I whole-heartedly agree with this statement. Iran (and the Middle East) has been a focal point for civilization in all its good and bad forms for the last ten millennia. With the Iranian revolution of 1979, however, we see the nation of Iran enter into a new era, one where the traditions and battles of the past come head-to-head with the beliefs of its people and the pressures of a global society. Axworthy’s modern history of Iran is a thick, educated, and brilliant look into this often-misunderstood country.

Axworthy allows his readers their misconceptions, though. His aim is not to belittle the reader but to re-inform. He concentrates on Iran’s pivotal moments during the last 35 years—the Islamic traditions that inform its past, the 1979 Revolution, the ensuing war, Reconstruction under the Ayatollah, the Reform Era under Khatami, and the current administration headed up by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. His history is tight but filled with rich detail about the shifts in the political, religious, and social landscape of the country. If you’re looking for an excellent history of modern Iran, then go no further. Be warned, though, this is not a book you should read straight through. It’s best to read small bits, reflect, look at the today’s Iran, and then go back for more. It may be too soon to tell where the nation of Iran is headed, but at least we can see where it came from. This may be one of those rare books that change the way you look at a country.