From the Medes to the Mullahs: a History of Iran


This book offers an accessible, but comprehensive, introduction to the long and rich history of Iran. Starting around 600 BCE it traces the main historical events, finishing with the modern Islamic Republic of Iran. It covers the Islamic conquest of Persia and the Sunni-Shi’a schism.

It would be of particular interest to the non-academic person who wants to understand a country that is frequently misunderstood yet central to issues relating to the Middle East today.

Mention of Iran may bring to mind images of turbaned Mullahs and nuclear weapons. On the other hand Persia may provoke other images; of Persian Gardens, romantic poetry or the beautiful wives of the last Pahlavi Shah.

But this in no way does justice to the people of Iran, or its rich and complex history. For much of the ancient period Iranian empires ruled vast areas from Afghanistan in the East to Egypt in the West. Starting around 600 BCE with the Medes and ending with the modern Islamic Republic of Iran this book traces the key events of this history.

It is aimed at the general reader who is looking for a short, accessible history of Iran. Rather than giving detailed accounts of particular events this book offers the big picture, an outline of the history. It is rather like building a house; starting with the frame, then dividing the interior into different rooms and finally putting the furniture in place.

Occasionally you will find events that may not perhaps be central to Iranian history, for example the Battle of Marathon or the meeting of Anthony and Cleopatra at Tarsus in modern Turkey. Such events have been included in order to enable the reader make links between what might be familiar within Western European history to that of Iran.

It is hoped that this book might provide an introduction to a complex country that is central to understanding the wider issues of the Middle East today.

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