2010

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Winning Titles

Janet Afary
Sexual Politics in Modern Iran  (Cambridge University Press)

Janet Afary is a native of Iran and a leading historian. Her work focuses on gender and sexuality and draws on her experience of growing up in Iran and her involvement with Iranian women of different ages and social strata. These observations, and a wealth of historical documents, form the kernel of this book, which charts the history of the nation's sexual revolution from the nineteenth century to today. What comes across is the extraordinary resilience of the Iranian people, who have drawn on a rich social and cultural heritage to defy the repression and hardship of the Islamist state and its predecessors. It is this resilience, the author concludes, which forms the basis of a sexual revolution taking place in Iran today, one that is promoting reforms in marriage and family laws, and demanding more egalitarian gender and sexual relations.

 

Touraj Daryaee
Sasanian Persia  (IB Tauris)

Of profound importance in late antiquity, the Sasanian Empire is virtually unknown today,except as a counterpoint to the Roman Empire. In this highly readable history, Touraj Daryaee fills a significant gap in our knowledge of world history. He examines the Sasanians complex and colourful narrative and demonstrates their unique significance,not only for the development of Iranian civilization but also for Roman and Islamic history. The Sasanians were the last of the ancient Persian dynasties and are best known as the pre-eminent practitioners of the Zoroastrian religion. Founded by Ardashir I in 224 CE, the Sasanian Empire was the dominant force in the Middle East for several centuries until its last king, Yazdgerd III, was defeated by the Muslim Arabs in the seventh century. In this concise yet comprehensive new book, Touraj Daryaee provides an unrivalled account of Sasanian Persia. Drawing on extensive new sources,he paints a vivid portrait of Sasanian life and unravels the divergent strands that contributed to the making of this great empire.

 

Ziad Elmarsafy
The Enlightenment Qur'an  (Oneworld)

Iconoclastic and fiercely rational, the European Enlightenment witnessed the birth of modern Western society and thought. Reason was sacrosanct and for the first time, religious belief and institutions were open to widespread criticism. In this groundbreaking book, Ziad Elmarsafy challenges this accepted wisdom to argue that religion was still hugely influential in the era. But the religion in question wasn’t Christianity – it was Islam.

Charting the history of Qur’anic translations in Europe during the 18th and early 19th Centuries, Elmarsafy shows that a number of key enlightenment figures – including Voltaire, Rousseau, Goethe, and Napoleon – drew both inspiration and ideas from the Qur’an. Controversially placing Islam at the heart of the European Enlightenment, this lucid and well argued work is a valuable window into the interaction of East and West during this pivotal epoch in human history.