A modern history of Iran

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Iran: A Modern History. By Abbas Amanat. Yale University Press; 1,000 pages; $40. To be published in Britain in January; £30.

ABBAS AMANAT is an authority on Iranian culture and political history. In his new book he presents the past five centuries of Iran’s history in its Persian, Shia context. At 1,000 pages, it is not for the fainthearted. But Mr Amanat is a skilful narrator whose use of sources and anecdotes is illuminating. His book should be read by anyone who is curious about the history of political philosophy and ideas.

It is especially strong on cultural, literary and intellectual history and the role this has played in Iran’s interpretations of political and clerical authority. Mr Amanat dips into the lives and works of key figures, from those who articulated the country’s responses to European imperialism, such as Mirza Malkom Khan, a prominent modernist who died in 1908, to the ideologues of the Islamic revolution of 1979. These include Jalal Al-e Ahmad…Continue reading

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