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A myth-busting insider’s account of the Iranian Revolution of 1979 that destroyed US influence in the country and transformed the politics of the Middle East and the world. The 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran was one of the seminal events of our time. It inaugurated more than thirty years of war in the Middle East and fostered an Islamic radicalism that shapes foreign poli A myth-busting insider’s account of the Iranian Revolution of 1979 that destroyed US influence in the country and transformed the politics of the Middle East and the world. The 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran was one of the seminal events of our time. It inaugurated more than thirty years of war in the Middle East and fostered an Islamic radicalism that shapes foreign policy in the United States and Europe to this day. Drawing on his lifetime of engagement with Iran, James Buchan explains the history that gave rise to the Revolution, in which Ayatollah Khomeini and his supporters displaced the Shah with little diffi­culty. Mystifyingly to outsiders, the people of Iran turned their backs on a successful Westernized government for an amateurish religious regime. Buchan dispels myths about the Iranian Revolution and instead assesses the historical forces to which it responded. He puts the extremism of the Islamic regime in perspective: a truly radical revolution, it can be compared to the French or Russian Revolu­tions. Using recently declassified diplomatic papers and Persian-language news reports, diaries, memoirs, interviews, and theological tracts, Buchan illumi­nates both Khomeini and the Shah. His writing is always clear, dispassionate, and informative. The Iranian Revolution was a turning point in modern history, and James Buchan’s Days of God is, as London’s Independent put it, “a compelling, beautifully written history” of that event.


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A myth-busting insider’s account of the Iranian Revolution of 1979 that destroyed US influence in the country and transformed the politics of the Middle East and the world. The 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran was one of the seminal events of our time. It inaugurated more than thirty years of war in the Middle East and fostered an Islamic radicalism that shapes foreign poli A myth-busting insider’s account of the Iranian Revolution of 1979 that destroyed US influence in the country and transformed the politics of the Middle East and the world. The 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran was one of the seminal events of our time. It inaugurated more than thirty years of war in the Middle East and fostered an Islamic radicalism that shapes foreign policy in the United States and Europe to this day. Drawing on his lifetime of engagement with Iran, James Buchan explains the history that gave rise to the Revolution, in which Ayatollah Khomeini and his supporters displaced the Shah with little diffi­culty. Mystifyingly to outsiders, the people of Iran turned their backs on a successful Westernized government for an amateurish religious regime. Buchan dispels myths about the Iranian Revolution and instead assesses the historical forces to which it responded. He puts the extremism of the Islamic regime in perspective: a truly radical revolution, it can be compared to the French or Russian Revolu­tions. Using recently declassified diplomatic papers and Persian-language news reports, diaries, memoirs, interviews, and theological tracts, Buchan illumi­nates both Khomeini and the Shah. His writing is always clear, dispassionate, and informative. The Iranian Revolution was a turning point in modern history, and James Buchan’s Days of God is, as London’s Independent put it, “a compelling, beautifully written history” of that event.

30 review for Days of God: The Revolution in Iran and its Consequences

  1. 5 out of 5

    Michael Gerald

    Another recommended book on modern Iran. I will update this review later.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jerome

    A great history of the Iranian revolution. Mostly as Americans we tend to focus on the hostage crisis rather than the revolution that produced it. Buchan’s book is a straightforward, balanced and well-written. He does a great job describing all aspects of the Revolution: origins, factionalism, leadership, legacy, etc. Khomeini hated the shah’s regime because it Westernized society, not because it was an oppressive regime, although many students considered it one. Buchan gives us good portraits of A great history of the Iranian revolution. Mostly as Americans we tend to focus on the hostage crisis rather than the revolution that produced it. Buchan’s book is a straightforward, balanced and well-written. He does a great job describing all aspects of the Revolution: origins, factionalism, leadership, legacy, etc. Khomeini hated the shah’s regime because it Westernized society, not because it was an oppressive regime, although many students considered it one. Buchan gives us good portraits of the all the Iranians that contributed to the Revolution’s origins or the Revolution itself: Mossadegh, the reformer who ended up making things worse and probably committed treason, the perhaps well-intentioned Shah who let money distort reality, and Ayatollah Khomeini, who hated a world that had left his theocratic fantasy behind. Unlike other historians, Buchan questions the claim that the CIA’s anti-Mossadegh coup of 1953 contributed to to the 1979 revolution. The planned coup was actually foiled by Mossadegh’s supporters, and the actual overthrow of Mossadegh was carried out by locals that had nothing to do with the CIA’s plan. What motivated these locals is difficult to determine. The revolutionaries’ takeover of the US embassy originated in the student politics of Tehran’s universities, and most of its leaders later came to regret their actions and became “Law of Nations” sticklers. The Ayatollah Khomeini was uninvolved in the takeover, and sat back to see what opportunities would present themselves. Some of the revolutionaries opposed the embassy takeover because it was technically illegal under Islamic law and because they felt it would strengthen their Marxist rivals. Buchan’s book has relatively little about Operation Eagle Claw, but this isn’t a problem; there are enough books and memoirs dealing with that. In any case, Buchan simply explains what actually happened there. Contrary to conservative mythology, the disaster at Desert One had little to do with Carter’s “weakness”; the operation went sour because of a tragic accident, and the decision to abort was made by the commander, Charlie Beckwith. Under any circumstances, Eagle Claw’s chances of success were iffy at best, and I fail to see how Carter was to blame for any of it. And the Iranians eventually released the hostages after Carter left office not because they were intimidated by Ronald Reagan (whose political grandstanding during the crisis did not reflect too well on him), but because they simply wanted to discredit Carter. They knew nothing about Ronald Reagan, and even hoped that he would beat Carter just to show that they could make Carter look feckless. In fact, many of the students hoped Reagan would win for this reason. The deal for releasing the hostages was made before Reagan was even elected. The Iranians released the hostages because they needed US sanctions lifted in order to fight the Iraqis, not because of anything Reagan did. In all, a great book.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Carly

    Obviously this isn't a side they are teaching in just any classroom today but being 29 years old I learned something amazing here. This book is packed full of knowledge and gives you a lesson in everything no one deemed important enough to put in a textbook. I highly recommend this book. Its a page turner that challenges everything you thought you knew and sheds light on truths overlooked by many. Loved this book!! Obviously this isn't a side they are teaching in just any classroom today but being 29 years old I learned something amazing here. This book is packed full of knowledge and gives you a lesson in everything no one deemed important enough to put in a textbook. I highly recommend this book. Its a page turner that challenges everything you thought you knew and sheds light on truths overlooked by many. Loved this book!!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Philip

    Foreign Affairs' Best Books of 2013: Editor's Picks choice. http://www.foreignaffairs.com/article... Foreign Affairs' Best Books of 2013: Editor's Picks choice. http://www.foreignaffairs.com/article...

  5. 5 out of 5

    Michael Nash

    An imminently readable narrative account of the 1979 Iranian Revolution, which was exactly what I wanted when I got this book. I don't know enough about Iranian history to judge the accuracy, but Buchan's seems obviously more sympathetic to the Shah than I'm used to seeing (surely much more sympathetic than the film Argo), but given what happened in Iran it's difficult not to look at the Shah's reign as the glory days. I have some issues with the style; Buchan seems to be trying to have things b An imminently readable narrative account of the 1979 Iranian Revolution, which was exactly what I wanted when I got this book. I don't know enough about Iranian history to judge the accuracy, but Buchan's seems obviously more sympathetic to the Shah than I'm used to seeing (surely much more sympathetic than the film Argo), but given what happened in Iran it's difficult not to look at the Shah's reign as the glory days. I have some issues with the style; Buchan seems to be trying to have things both ways writing his history in a literary style, but the clarity of historical style is thereby lost. However, Buchan seems to much attached to details to keep a good narrative flow going. That said, recommended as a good introduction to the topic.

  6. 5 out of 5

    joseph

    I can't even remember how long ago I finished this, guess I haven't been on here in a while. This is a book written by a British author, who relies a lot on the correspondence of various British functionaries and diplomats during the Shah's regime, but gives a fairly close up look of life up to the Revolution. Written from the vantage of those closest to the Shah it doesn't give much of a glimpse into the life of the rest of the country - the two other powers in society are just referred to as ' I can't even remember how long ago I finished this, guess I haven't been on here in a while. This is a book written by a British author, who relies a lot on the correspondence of various British functionaries and diplomats during the Shah's regime, but gives a fairly close up look of life up to the Revolution. Written from the vantage of those closest to the Shah it doesn't give much of a glimpse into the life of the rest of the country - the two other powers in society are just referred to as 'The Clergy' and the The Baazar - or the religious clerics and the merchants. I found it a pretty interesting account of what was going on behind the scenes as the Shah's regime was unraveling - and it offers a lively account of the chaos as the Ayatollah took over and foreign interests successfully or unsuccessfully decided whether to stay. The period after the Revolution obviously doesn't get as much detail since foreigners were largely absent, and what went on behind the ranks of power is probably not well known to Irani's themselves. Worth it if you want an interesting read of Iran 1950-1979, but not very useful for current affairs.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Robert Petrosino

    A necessary book - 1949 assassination attempt on the Shah goes awry, 5 shots from six feet away, he's hit twice once in the the shoulder once in the cheek - he's convinced God has spared him so he can transform Iran and make it modern. His reforms bring modernity, challenge the clerics, raise the status of women, make Iran rich but dislocate a proud, tradition bound society. There is an inevitable reaction, fact and rumor inter-mingle and a messianic Khomeini returns from a long exile to exultan A necessary book - 1949 assassination attempt on the Shah goes awry, 5 shots from six feet away, he's hit twice once in the the shoulder once in the cheek - he's convinced God has spared him so he can transform Iran and make it modern. His reforms bring modernity, challenge the clerics, raise the status of women, make Iran rich but dislocate a proud, tradition bound society. There is an inevitable reaction, fact and rumor inter-mingle and a messianic Khomeini returns from a long exile to exultant crowds - the Shah, like Gorbachev, refuses to order widespread killings and exits the country. Terror, one minute trials that end in immediate execution, the U.S Hostage Crisis, Iraqi attack, World War I attrition, chemical warfare, child-soldiers and the Shiite cosmology of martyrdom and self-sacrifice are all deftly examined. The end chapters on Khomeini's acceptance of a cease fire with Iraq, the mass execution of thousands of political prisoners and his funeral thronged by millions of hysterically grieving co-religionists - a rich history, well-told and complex.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Kieran

    It took me a while to get into this book, but I think that was mainly as I had only the sketchiest idea of Iranian history. Buchan, on the other hand, immerses the reader in several centuries of Iranian history, society and culture. Once I was over the initial cultural barrier, I was gripped, as the Shah over-reached, buckled, then collapsed in spectacular fashion, and was replaced in one of the great revolutionary moments of the 20th century. With Iran once again looming large in the news, this It took me a while to get into this book, but I think that was mainly as I had only the sketchiest idea of Iranian history. Buchan, on the other hand, immerses the reader in several centuries of Iranian history, society and culture. Once I was over the initial cultural barrier, I was gripped, as the Shah over-reached, buckled, then collapsed in spectacular fashion, and was replaced in one of the great revolutionary moments of the 20th century. With Iran once again looming large in the news, this book is essential if you want to know why Iran and the West are locked in seemingly endless conflict.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Bill

    Overall - good overview of Shah Mohammed Reza Shams in power but lacked detail in describing the revolution and its consequences. If you're looking for a general overview of the Revolution, this works. If you want specifics on what caused the revolution and what it means to Iran now, find another book. Overall - good overview of Shah Mohammed Reza Shams in power but lacked detail in describing the revolution and its consequences. If you're looking for a general overview of the Revolution, this works. If you want specifics on what caused the revolution and what it means to Iran now, find another book.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Sam

    Good read. The early chapters set the groundwork for the evolution of Iranian politics and lay the groundwork for the revolution. Some good chapters on the Iran/Iraq war. This is the only book I have read so far that presents the Iranian side of the Iran-Contra affair.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Peter Green

    Beautifully written, perceptive and engaged account of the Iranian revolution, its context and its consequences. The early sections on the Pahlavi regime show a strong command of the history and are particularly well written. The book dips a bit in the final two chapters, which examine in a slightly rushed and mechanical way the Iran-Iraq war and the final years of Khomeini’s life. Fortunately, the final few pages and epilogue brought the book together and were extremely moving.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Matt Payne

    A beautiful book about the personalities and power struggles that led up to the violent revolution that turned Iran from a semi-progressive monarchy into an anti-social Islamic regime. It's a tragic story, but it's really informative for anyone who wants to understand more about the Middle East and Islamic power structures. It explains the political transformations from the 1800's up to the present date, focusing mainly on the two-generation Pahlavi monarchy who made Iran a more stable country, b A beautiful book about the personalities and power struggles that led up to the violent revolution that turned Iran from a semi-progressive monarchy into an anti-social Islamic regime. It's a tragic story, but it's really informative for anyone who wants to understand more about the Middle East and Islamic power structures. It explains the political transformations from the 1800's up to the present date, focusing mainly on the two-generation Pahlavi monarchy who made Iran a more stable country, but then lost it all to Khomeini and his extremists. I was amazed at the level of detail in this book. There are so many personalities, so many groups struggling for power, that it can be a daunting read. But the author is very sympathetic to the desires, strengths, and weaknesses of the people involved. He's a British author who lived in Iran during some of the most important events, so he has an insiders' perspective AND a Western perspective. The only drawback to the story was the thick level of detail, which was sometimes like a wall of information. Still, all that detail is useful, and the research is impressive. (The citations alone are a little novella LoL).

  13. 4 out of 5

    Daniel Simmons

    This book hits its stride on page 165 (where a new chapter begins with the title "High Noon"). You've gotta wade through a near-impenetrable thicket of names and dates to get to page 165 (necessary context material for what happens next, I suppose, but awfully rough going), but once you do, you'll be finely rewarded by a gripping, gritty, granular account of the Iranian revolution in all its complexity. Some readers may complain that the level of detail is TOO finely-grained, but I appreciated a This book hits its stride on page 165 (where a new chapter begins with the title "High Noon"). You've gotta wade through a near-impenetrable thicket of names and dates to get to page 165 (necessary context material for what happens next, I suppose, but awfully rough going), but once you do, you'll be finely rewarded by a gripping, gritty, granular account of the Iranian revolution in all its complexity. Some readers may complain that the level of detail is TOO finely-grained, but I appreciated all the little moments that occurred between more epic events. This book is at its best when it takes larger-than-life figures and reduces them to their simple humanity. To pick just one small example among many: in October 1965 when Khomeini is semi-exiled to Iraq with a traveling companion, "There was nobody to meet them at Baghdad airport and so, after waiting some time in the terminal, they took a taxi to the Shia shrine of Kazemain, in the western suburbs of the city. Khomeini haggled over the fare."

  14. 5 out of 5

    Aaron

    Per FTC regulations, I received this book as a Goodreads First Reads giveaway. I think one of the most incredible things about this book is that this history has happened in my lifetime. I grew up despising Khomeini and Iran because they hated America. As with most things, time has eased this tension, and even though I'm still not a huge fan of Khomeini, I see through his book that he merely played a role in history and, by and large, he seemed mostly an unwilling participant, albeit a significan Per FTC regulations, I received this book as a Goodreads First Reads giveaway. I think one of the most incredible things about this book is that this history has happened in my lifetime. I grew up despising Khomeini and Iran because they hated America. As with most things, time has eased this tension, and even though I'm still not a huge fan of Khomeini, I see through his book that he merely played a role in history and, by and large, he seemed mostly an unwilling participant, albeit a significant one. Buchan has done an outstanding job in his description of events throughout history that led to the Iranian Revolution. I now have a clearer understanding of events, what happened, who was involved, etc. Only 4 stars because there was a section where the "cast of characters" became simply too entangled and lengthy to remember who was who. Anyway, I recommend this book to anyone who lived through this era, and certainly to people who "hate Iran."

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jean Bart

    I started reading this book in the context of my having a fascination with many Iranian history and cultural aspects I find baffling and intriguing. From Iranian troops marching on the Israeli flag, Iranian troops simulating a missile attack on the US White House, and Iranian crowds chanting "Death to America," one would think that Iranian government and people obsess over the West. However, this seems sensationalistic and hard to credit, as I live (and have always lived) in the West. Therefore, I started reading this book in the context of my having a fascination with many Iranian history and cultural aspects I find baffling and intriguing. From Iranian troops marching on the Israeli flag, Iranian troops simulating a missile attack on the US White House, and Iranian crowds chanting "Death to America," one would think that Iranian government and people obsess over the West. However, this seems sensationalistic and hard to credit, as I live (and have always lived) in the West. Therefore, I wanted to get an idea as to why the Iranian government engages in such hysterics. This book provides an excellent historical explanation.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Yashar

    This could be a much better book if the whole epilogue section had been omitted, because it is simply too short for giving a credible describtion of a period of 20 years. Moreover, and maybe even more important, the epilogue section contains obivious historical mistakes and the author's standards for writing that section had been well below the previous sections. Without the epilogue I would give this book 3 or maybe even 4 stars. It was an informative book and distinct about other books written This could be a much better book if the whole epilogue section had been omitted, because it is simply too short for giving a credible describtion of a period of 20 years. Moreover, and maybe even more important, the epilogue section contains obivious historical mistakes and the author's standards for writing that section had been well below the previous sections. Without the epilogue I would give this book 3 or maybe even 4 stars. It was an informative book and distinct about other books written about Iran, especially because of its good coverage of the post revolutionary Iran history and the Iran-Iraq war.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Keval

    Lots of details, lots of characters -- I was lost and confused several times while reading this book. But once you get past that, you'll appreciate Buchan's work (I really like the fact that he went into the Iran-Iraq War here). I'd definitely recommend this for anyone wanting a better understanding of why Iran took the path it did, and how it's shaped the country and the region since. Lots of details, lots of characters -- I was lost and confused several times while reading this book. But once you get past that, you'll appreciate Buchan's work (I really like the fact that he went into the Iran-Iraq War here). I'd definitely recommend this for anyone wanting a better understanding of why Iran took the path it did, and how it's shaped the country and the region since.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Danny

    A comprehensive review of Iranian politics from the nineteenth century to today. "Days of God" is well written and James Buchan clearly knows his material. For the history buff or a student of Middle Eastern politics, Days of God is highly recommended. A comprehensive review of Iranian politics from the nineteenth century to today. "Days of God" is well written and James Buchan clearly knows his material. For the history buff or a student of Middle Eastern politics, Days of God is highly recommended.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Murtaza

    Blow by blow account of the revolution, almost too granular at times to the point where it becomes tedious. Nonetheless some good stuff for people very interested in the subject; was somewhat sympathetic to the Shah and critical of the IRI.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Viktoria

    The book is very detailed and informative. I found it difficult to read, because the modern history of Iran is so complicated. The book would have been easier to get through for me if it had an appendix with maps, names of people and places, and chronology of events.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Glen

    Putatively a history of the Iranian revolution, probably serves better as a biography of the two Shahs and the Ayatollah. For what it is, it is interesting, and well researched, but I was really expecting a more holistic study of the revolution.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Harry

    I won a copy of this work as a part of a Goodreads "Giveaway". It is an entertaining history of the collapse of the Shah's regime and the early years (inclusive of the war with Iraq) of the current regime in Iran. I won a copy of this work as a part of a Goodreads "Giveaway". It is an entertaining history of the collapse of the Shah's regime and the early years (inclusive of the war with Iraq) of the current regime in Iran.

  23. 4 out of 5

    !Tæmbuŝu

    KOBOBOOKS Reviewed by The Independent (17 Nov 2012) KOBOBOOKS Reviewed by The Independent (17 Nov 2012)

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jerome

    An easy to read account of 20th century Iran dealing mostly with the time between 1953 and the present.

  25. 5 out of 5

    William

    If you only have time for one book to help you understand the Islamic Revolution in Iran, this would be it.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jim Jewell

    Solid book on Iran

  27. 5 out of 5

    Stephen Boiko

    Why for centuries did the spiritual classes give their support to Kings and Princes? If power belongs exclusively to the spiritual classed, how come they have taken so long to recognize it?

  28. 5 out of 5

    Cathy Hartel

    A good read, slow in parts due to the complex history involved.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Mathias.adriaenssens

    Solid story of the events. To much names in the beginning, to academic. Second half much more fluent. Good read to understand Iranian revolution.

  30. 5 out of 5

    John

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