Dr. John Ghazvinian discusses his recent book America and Iran: A History, 1720 to the Present (Knopf, 2021). 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 his new book, Dr. 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.
John Ghazvinian is Executive Director of the Middle East Center at the University of Pennsylvania, as well as an author, historian and former journalist, specializing in the history of US-Iran relations. Since 2008, he has been under contract with Knopf to write America and Iran: A History, 1720 to the Present—a comprehensive new survey of the bilateral relationship, based on years of archival research in both Iran and the United States. He is also author of Untapped: The Scramble for Africa's Oil (Harcourt, 2007), as well as coeditor of American and Muslim Worlds before 1900 (Bloomsbury, 2020). He has written for such publications as Newsweek, The Nation, the Sunday Times and the Huffington Post, and has taught modern Middle East history at a number of colleges and universities in the Philadelphia area. He earned his doctorate in history at Oxford University and was the recipient of a "Public Scholar" fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities in 2016-2017, as well as a fellowship from the Carnegie Corporation's special initiative on Islam in 2009-2010.