It is with great regret that we announce the passing of our colleague and friend Michael Axworthy on 16 March 2019.
Michael read History at Peterhouse, Cambridge before moving on to a successful career at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office; he met his wife Sally while they were both working at the British Embassy in Bonn. He subsequently headed the Iran Desk at the FCO between 1998 and 2000, crucial years when a thaw in Anglo-Iranian relations became a very real possibility. Michael always retained a passion for scholarship and eventually decided to leave the FCO for a career as a writer and academic, combining at this stage, his growing – and undiminished – love for Iran, with his natural historical curiosity. It was a bold move which was to yield spectacular results. His first book, The Sword of Persia, a new biography of Nader Shah (2006), drew on his intimate knowledge of military history to provide a fascinating and nuanced perspective of the conqueror and the consequences of his rule for Iran. This was swiftly followed (2008) by his single volume history of Iran – Empire of the Mind – which again perfectly encapsulated and exhibited the fluency of his pen and his ability to collate and analyse vast amounts of information, presenting them in an accessible and entertaining manner and thus reaching a wider readership beyond the confines of the academy.
By now Michael had secured a position at Exeter University where he headed its new Centre for Persian & Iranian Studies, to be followed by an award of a PhD by publication by his alma mater. His new responsibilities slowed but by no means stopped his tenacious capacity for producing books and in 2013 he published his study of the Islamic Republic, Revolutionary Iran, which was again exceptionally well received. Further important contributions to the field were to follow including, Iran: What everyone needs of know, published in 2017, synthesizing much of his long accumulated wisdom about the country, followed in 2018 by the edited volume, Crisis, Collapse, Militarism and Civil War: The History and Historiography of 18th-century Iran, arising from the conference he organised in Exeter in 2013. More recently he had returned to policy-orientated work with his Westphalia project for the Middle East, which he convened with his old college Peterhouse.
Michael retained his passion for Iran through thick and thin; he was in every sense ‘Irandoust’. He was elected to BIPS Governing Council in 2017.
BIPS send our deepest condolences to Sally and his entire family. He will be sorely missed by his colleagues and friends.
Professor Ali Ansari, BIPS Honorary Secretary.