Michael Axworthy does a great job of demonstrating continuities through several thousand years of Iranian history. He writes and reasons at a gallop. Putsches and palace coups are covered with particular gusto, the cruelties and heroisms of wave after wave of king/emperor/Shah exposed. So what's not to like? The book is at least honestly titled: Axworthy's central thesis of national habits of thought, recurrent themes (religion-inspired outbreaks of extreme moralism) at times takes over; and he is heavily prone to a reasoning coloured by knowledge of what actually transpired. There is also less social history than I would have liked - perhaps explained by paucity of sources in the predominantly nomadic era that accounts for most of these millennia. Do read the book: it's amusingly and thrillingly written. But don't rely on it as your sole source of knowledge of the topic.
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