Michael Axworthy visited Iran many times as a teenager in the 1970s, and in the 1980s studied history at Peterhouse, Cambridge before joining the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in 1986. After a variety of work in London and overseas, he served as the Head of Iran Section in the FCO from 1998-2000. From 2000 he worked in Cornwall as a writer and editor, and wrote his first book THE SWORD OF PERSIA about the great Iranian conqueror Nader Shah (published in 2006).
Michael has also written a series of pieces on contemporary Iran and other subjects for Prospect magazine, for the Independent, The Guardian, The New Statesman, The Telegraph and other publications, and has made TV and radio appearances discussing Iranian subjects (BBC World, Sky News, CNN, BBC Radio 4’s Today, History of the World in 100 Objects, and Start the Week with Andrew Marr). He has done consultancies for Credit Suisse and Citibank, and for a time in 2015 was non-Executive Director for a fund investing into Iran, OLMA Damavand. He has also done briefings and other speaking engagements for the US, British, German, Norwegian and Dutch governments, and NATO.
Michael’s second book appeared in November 2007 as EMPIRE OF THE MIND: A HISTORY OF IRAN (Hurst Books); it was published by Basic Books in the US and by Penguin in paperback in November 2008 as IRAN: EMPIRE OF THE MIND – now translated into Dutch, Czech, Italian, Spanish, German and Finnish.
Since October 2005 he has taught Middle East History at the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies at the University of Exeter, where he was made founding Director of Exeter University’s Centre for Persian and Iranian Studies (CPIS) in the autumn of 2008 and senior lecturer in 2012. He is a Fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society, and the Royal Society of Arts. His third book, REVOLUTIONARY IRAN, was published in March 2013 by Penguin and in the US by OUP. Reviewing this book in the Times Higher, the historian Ervand Abrahamian wrote – ‘If you were to read only one book on present-day Iran you could not do better than this’.
In 2016 Michael was appointed to the Board of the British Institute for Persian Studies. In 2017 he published another book for OUP; IRAN: What Everybody Needs to Know, and in 2018 an edited volume; CRISIS, COLLAPSE, MILITARISM AND CIVIL WAR: The History and Historiography of 18th Century Iran. He was also made a Senior Research Associate at Peterhouse, Cambridge, and co-published TOWARDS A WESTPHALIA FOR THE MIDDLE EAST with Patrick Milton and Brendan Simms.