By Ervand Abrahamian

In a reappraisal of Iran's smooth historical past, Ervand Abrahamian lines its tense trip around the 20th century, throughout the discovery of oil, imperial interventions, the rule of thumb of the Pahlavis and, in 1979, revolution and the start of the Islamic Republic. within the intervening years, the rustic has skilled a sour battle with Iraq, the transformation of society below the clergy and, extra lately, the growth of the nation and the fight for strength among the previous elites, the intelligentsia and the industrial heart type. the writer is a compassionate expositor. whereas he adroitly negotiates the twists and turns of the country's local and overseas politics, on the middle of his ebook are the folks of Iran. it truly is to them and their resilience that this ebook is devoted, as Iran emerges firstly of the twenty-first century as essentially the most robust states within the center East.

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For the same reasons, as the Empire began to be seriously challenged by invading hordes, the Romans showed a much stronger inclination than the Greeks to give in rather than attempt to maintain their distinctiveness. This can be seen by comparing the responses of the Western and Eastern Roman Empires to the invasions from the north in the 4th and 5th centuries. Ferguson and Bruun 1958: 84 observe that ‘the strongest characteristic in the mental attitude of fourth- and fifthcentury Romans was apathetic resignation,’ and (Frend 1972: 64–6) writes that: Determination to survive.

Even radical modernists, such as Hobsbawm, acknowledge the existence of premodern ‘proto-nationalism’, which, as he says, ‘where it existed, made the task of nationalism easier, however great the differences between the two insofar as existing symbols and sentiments of proto-national community could be mobilized behind a modern cause or a modern state’ (1990: 77). On the other hand, ethnosymbolists must certainly acknowledge that modern nations differ in significant ways from what they consider to be premodern nations.

One significant factor was the disappearance of the royal line descended from David, in circumstances that are not at all clear, with which all possibility of associating national identity with the kingship or even a vassal kingship was lost. After the end of the royal line, the Persians, who in 539 BCE had replaced the Babylonians as overlords of the homeland and of Babylonia itself, governed the homeland through Jewish governors who were appointed from the Babylonian community (Sacchi 2000). From what can be reconstructed from the Bible (the only relevant source for these developments), the key figure in the formation of Jewish identity appears to have been Nehemiah, a governor who served in the middle of the 5th century BCE.

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A History of Modern Iran by Ervand Abrahamian
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