"Empire of the Mind" offers the reader a compelling overview of Iranian history from the earliest times up to the present day. It highlights the uniqueness of Iranian identity, as one of the oldest continuing civilisations in the world. In doing so, as well as covering military and dynastic matters, it emphasises the role of cultural and intellectual movements in Iran in order to demonstrate how Iran has had an influence in the Middle East and Asia beyond her borders through the power of Persianate culture rather than through conventional political and military means - an 'Empire of the Mind' as much as an 'Empire of the Sword'. Axworthy also conveys some of the under-appreciated and misunderstood aspects of the history of Iran in the last fifty to sixty years, particularly religious developments, ignorance of which has contributed to the baffled incomprehension with which many contemporary Westerners view the country.
Michael Axworthy lived in Iran in the 1970s and read history at Cambridge. He was head of the Iran section in the British Foreign Office from 1998-2000. Axworthy has written on contemporary Iran for Prospect magazine and commented on Iranian affairs for the BBC. He teaches at the University of Exeter.