America and Iran

Pages: 688
Subject: History
Imprint: Oneworld

America and Iran

A History, 1720 to the Present

John Ghazvinian

An epic history revealing how the US and Iran went from allies to adversaries over three hundred years
9781786079473 (22 Oct 2020)
RRP £35.00

The Book

In recent times, the United States and Iran have seemed closer to war than peace, but that is not where their story began. When America was in its infancy, Thomas Jefferson and John Quincy Adams turned to the history of the Persian Empire as they looked for guidance on how to run their new country. And in the following century, Iranian newspapers heralded America as an ideal that their own government might someday emulate. How, then, did the two nations become the adversaries that they are today?

In this rich, fascinating history, John Ghazvinian traces the complex story of America and Iran over three centuries. Drawing on years of research conducted in both countries - including access to Iranian government archives rarely available to Western scholars - he leads us through the four seasons of US-Iranian relations: from the spring of mutual fascination, where Iran, sick of duplicitous Britain and Russia interfering in its affairs, sought a relationship with the United States, to the long, dark winter of hatred that we are yet to see end. A revealing account, America and Iran lays bare when, where and how it all went wrong - and why it didn't have to be this way.

Additional Information

Subject History
Pages 688
Imprint Oneworld


About the Author

John Ghazvinian is a historian at the University of Pennsylvania. He was born in Iran, raised in London and Los Angeles, and has a doctorate in history from the University of Oxford. He is the author of Untapped: The Scramble for Africa's Oil and he has written for the Sunday Times, New Statesman, Slate and The Nation. He lives in Philadelphia.


‘Delightfully readable, genuinely informative and impressively literate.'

- Abbas Milani, New York Times

‘Ghazvinian recounts a tragic story of Iranian overtures spurned by Americans in cahoots with their Israeli and Saudi allies… Ghazvinian has a witty style.'

- The Economist

‘An important, urgently needed book - a hugely ambitious, illuminating portrait of the entwined histories of Iran and America, and the first book to examine, in all its aspects, the rich and fraught relations between these two powers.'

- Kirkus, starred review

‘a stimulating and well-written study of one of the key relationships in today's world.'

- Literary Review

a magnificent, bold, wide-reaching and potentially significant book on the thorny subject of Iranian-American relations… throws fresh historical light on the original exchanges between Americans and Iranians, and shows us fascinating historical characters, brought vividly to life with pen portraits and amusing anecdotes… The framing of the book into four seasons, ending with winter, is a stroke of genius as it lends to [Ghazvinian's] overall argument a poignant resonance: there are better days ahead… This is history as history should be written: accessible, humane, thoughtful, insightful and in places extremely funny… someone just has to get a copy of this book to the White House, fast.'

- Catholic Herald

‘Iran's Islamic Revolution is just one small dot on a much wider trajectory of Iranian history this book explores with rigorous analysis, invaluable interviews, and archival evidence - from Iran and the United States… a compelling and insightful read. It tells a nuanced version of history that is normally presented as a catastrophic eschatological clash of civilisations… Ghazvinian eschews these headline-grabbing histrionics and makes a much more convincing argument instead.'

- Irish Examiner

‘History in the hands of a master.'

- Ambassador John Limbert, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Iran (2009–10), and hostage in the US Embassy in Tehran (1979–81)

‘Ghazvinian describes in exquisite detail the relationship between Iran and the United States - from its inception in the years before the American Revolution to the present day. Beautifully laid out and at time reading like a thriller you don't want to put down.'

- Hooman Majd, author of The Ayatollah Begs to Differ

Table of Contents



Part I: Spring

1  East of Eden

2  Tashrifat

3  The Amateurs

4  The Professionals

5  The Man from Manila

6  War and Peace


Part II: Summer

7  "The Sordid Side”

8  The Warrior-King

9  Hello Johnny

10  Tehran Spring

11  "One Penny More”

12  The Liberty Bell and the Wool Pajamas

13  1953


Part III: Autumn

14  "Yes” and "Yes, Sir”

15  You Say You Want a Revolution?

16  This Turbulent Priest

17  The Final Emperor

18  The Unthinkable


Part IV: Winter

19  1979 309

20  Dulce et Decorum Est

21  Goodwill Hunting

22  The First Hopey-Changey Moment

23  That September Day

24  The Moral Cold War

25  Atoms for Peace?

26  Designed to Fail




Archival sources



Illustration credits