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Iran's enduring impact

Concordia professor Richard Foltz's new book explores the ancient civilization's influence on the West

Concordia University

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Credit: Oxford University Press

This news release is available in French.

Montreal, December 1, 2015 -- In recent days, Iran has made headlines for issues including a nuclear deal with Russia, human rights violations and the imprisonment of a Western journalist.

But the news from Iran hasn't always been bad. Home of one of the most ancient and enduring civilizations, Iran has been at the nexus of world history for the past 3,000 years.

That's what Concordia researcher Richard Foltz reminds readers in Iran in World History (Oxford University Press). Encompassing religion, literature, the arts and politics, his new book provides a comprehensive history of one of the most influential civilizations, and gives compelling examples of its continuing role in the world today.

"It is my hope that Iran in World History will help remind readers that, since the time of the ancient Greeks, Iran has been the civilization against which the West defined itself," says Foltz, a professor in the Department of Religion. "And beyond the stereotyping which still continues today, there has always been considerable mutual influence and interaction between Iran and the West."

Situated at the crossroads between East and West, Iran has been marked by its encounters with other cultures and has influenced them with its own. From paradise gardens and Persian carpets to the mystical poetry of Rumi and Hafez, Iran's contributions have earned it a place among history's most refined and sophisticated societies.

Foltz's book traces the spread of Iranian culture among diverse populations from the Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean, and along the Silk Road as far as China, from prehistoric times up to the present day.

The author emphasizes the range of contributions Iran has made to world history by highlighting the roles of key figures such as the ancient empire builders Cyrus the Great and Darius I, the medieval polymath Avicenna, and early modern Mughal rulers such as Shah Jahan, who built India's celebrated Taj Mahal.

The book also takes readers into present day Iran. Foltz shows how, from the establishment of the Pahlavi dynasty by Reza Shah in 1925 until the 1978-9 revolution under Ayatollah Khomeini, Iran embarked on a modernization process that led to the spread of literacy and the growth of the women's movement, making it one of the most advanced nations in the developing world.

"Despite this progress, lack of political freedoms has continued to frustrate many Iranians, and the country is often seen as an international pariah in the West," says Foltz. "Iran today is rarely treated well in Western news headlines, despite remarkable achievements by individual Iranians in a wide range of fields."

He notes that Iran is the most stable -- and in some ways the most advanced -- country in the contemporary Middle East.

"Iran was the major power in the Middle East for 25 centuries and it is therefore unrealistic to try to deny them that status today. It is hypocritical to single them out for human rights abuses while supporting other countries in the region whose record is no better in that regard," says Foltz.

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Related links:

Iran in World History https://global.oup.com/academic/product/iran-in-world-history-9780199335497?cc=ca&lang=en&
Richard Foltz https://www.concordia.ca/artsci/religion/faculty.html?fpid=richard-foltz
Department of Religion https://www.concordia.ca/artsci/religion.html
Centre for Iranian Studies https://www.concordia.ca/artsci/iranian-studies.html

Media contact:
Cléa Desjardins
Senior advisor, media relations
University Communications Services
Concordia University
Phone: 514-848-2424, ext. 5068
Email: clea.desjardins@concordia.ca
Web: http://www.concordia.ca/now/media-relations
Twitter: @CleaDesjardins

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