This BBC Radio program aired in the summer of 2012 in the following
"Many in the west have described Iran as a rogue state. Yet this so-called rogue state has a recorded history that tracks back more than 3000 years. It is a civilization that has given rise over the millennia to philosophies and religions, to science and medicine, to architecture and the arts.
But these are contributions that are often overlooked. We tend to construct history through the prism of the Greek and Roman empires. We see their influences on contemporary western civilisation. But the Persians fought the Greeks to a standstill and successfully withstood the might of the Roman Empire. Embracing the teachings of the prophet Zoroaster, they built a culture in 500 BC that helped shape the Near East and beyond. In the 11th century AD, Iran was home to the golden age of Islam.
From that great age we recognize the Persian polymath Omar Khayyam. But there are others that few in the West know, poets and thinkers like Avicenna, Hafiz, Saadi and Ferdowsi who continue to have pride of place with Iranians today.
In this three-part series Professor Ali Ansari argues that world history takes on a different hue when seen through Persian eyes, as he takes the listener on a grand journey from ancient past to immediate present."
"In the second part of the series Professor Ali Ansari looks at a reversal of fortune as the Iranians are in turn subsumed into Arab Muslim, Turkic and Mongol empires. And he shows how captive Persia took prisoner her conquerors.
The conquest of Iran by Muslim Arabs in the 7th Century AD marked a watershed moment in Iranian history. Absorbed into the wider Muslim Caliphate, the political reality of Iran had vanished. Yet as Professor Ansari argues the cultural reality survived and would re-emerge to flourish within the new Islamic world. What is remarkable about this achievement is not simply the survival of Iranian culture and ideas, but their domination of the new environment.
Science, maths, medicine, philosophy and above all poetry flourished in a golden age. Iranians today cherish the great poets probably more than they do their kings and statesmen, perhaps because their poetry has encapsulated and protected Iranian culture and civilisation through political turmoil for future generations. Many of these poets: Rumi, Hafez and Saadi are known in the West. But arguably the greatest of all is Ferdowsi the 10th century poet who compiled the traditional pre-Islamic history of Iran, the epic Shahnameh."
"By the end of the 18th century Iran was emerging from nearly a century of political and economic turmoil. Imperial frontiers were in disarray and under threat; while its population and economy had suffered the depredations of war. The state was a shadow of its former self.
Professor Alli Ansari begins part three with the story of a very peculiar despot, Agha Mohammad Khan, the founder of the Qajar dynasty. Castrated at the age of 6 - an act of mercy we are told since the alternative was death - Agha Mohammad Khan grew into a very angry young man, determined to secure the throne at all costs. With a combination of ruthlessness and political agility he succeeded in restoring Iranian greatness.
But within a short period Iran faced the new challenge of European imperialism from both north and south as the Russian and British empires competed for dominance. The modern age had arrived and the Iranian response was typically diverse: resistance, rebellion, revolution and modernisation as despots and democrats fought for the soul of modern Iran. That is a struggle that in the 20th century brought in two great revolutions, one in 1906 was constitutional and the second with Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979 was theocratic. And that struggle between constitutional and theocratic revolutions continues today.
Professor Ansari is one of the world's leading experts on Iran and its history. Professor Ansari's books include Iran, Islam and Democracy: the politics of managing change, Confronting Iran and The Politics of Nationalism in Modern Iran."