Episode 2: Geography

Episode 2 is released… download or stream it from here

Of course, you can subscribe from here too!

Here is the map for the episode

Topographic Map

Topographic Map of Central and West Asia



  1. Regarding the origin of the term “Hindu Kush”, well, it’s a matter of debate.

    The Encyclopedia Iranica states (http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/hindu-kush): “Ebn Baṭṭuṭa sees the origin of the name Hindu Kush (Hindu-killer) in the fact that numerous Hindu slaves fell victim to the dangers of the unknown world of the high mountain range while crossing the pass on their way from India to Turkestan. Later the name spread to the east; in the 19th century it was used for the whole range up to the Baroghil Pass (Yule, p. LXII).”

    1. (It appears to be more recent than the 13th century, and unrelated to the Mongol conquest of the area. Aside from these details, I know as much as the next guy…)

    2. Thanks very much. Yes, the name has various explanations, all of which sound unusual to me. But for now, it is best to take at face value

  2. I’m very much looking forward to this podcast! I loved Mike Duncan’s History of Rome, and am enjoying The History of Byzantium. I’ve looked for a History of the Persian Empire podcast, with much disappointment. Best of luck and thank you.

  3. Great start. Just a few comments.

    On music: I didn’t think the music was off on the first episode (or this one for that matter.) I can see why the genre of music might not fully convey its Iranian-ness, but that is really a moot point. I think any type of music should be good as long as it originates from the “Iran” that you’re covering. I think anything from Azari pop to Persian rap to Uzbek folk music should be fair game. Perhaps it would be a good idea to identify the song and artist at the very beginning of the podcast, which may satisfy some of the critics from the first episode.

    On length: Again, I have to express dissenting opinion. I didn’t think the first episode was too long. Perhaps if the masses crave shorter episodes, you can still record 30-40 minute episodes and break them up into parts and follow a weekly release schedule. (e.g. instead of a 40 minute episode on Geography released after two weeks, you could release a 20 minute Geography – Part I one week and another 20 minute Geography – Part II the following week, etc.)

    And because I was late for the first episode, on “Iran”: I really wish there was a better way to distinguish between Iran the modern nation state, Iran the geographical formation, the Iranian ethno-linguistic family and “Iran” the cultural entity. I’ve heard of the latter referred to as the Iranian Cultural Continent, Greater Iran (particularly by Richard Frye), Iran Zameen, and just plain Iran. I can certainly understand why anyone not familiar with the area would be confused. It would be great if there was one name that everybody used, but expecting consensus in academia (of any field) is a pretty tall order.

  4. Thank you for continuing the tradition of high quality history podcasts begun by Mike Duncan and continued by Robin Pierson. Iran/Persia is a great culture and has been central to Roman, Byzantine, and Islamic civilization. I especially enjoyed Mike’s frequent humorous remarks which added some entertaining lightness to his project. Best of luck with your project

  5. Just wanted to say that I’m very happy this podcast now exists, have enjoyed what’s there so far, and am looking forward to the rest.

    It’s a part of history that’s always seemed to brush against the parts I’m more familiar with (being a Westerner). Whether it’s while rereading Gibbon, or listen to the History of Byzantium podcast or what have you, I’m continually reminded of a large gap in my knowledge when history leans East. It’s about time I filled it, I think.

    So, thanks.

  6. I just started listening to your podcast last night, and I’d like to thank you for starting this project! A few years ago I read Michael Axworthy’s ‘Iran: Empire of the Mind’ and found it a fascinating introduction to a region and culture that, though in some respects very different from my own European background, is still rather fascinating.

    Since you requested some feedback, I’d like to say that I thought the length of the first episode was fine. Perhaps it was the nature of the introduction – with its remarks on the theory of history – that some people found harder to get through, but I don’t see why later episodes can’t be 30 minutes long like you seemed to prefer. Laszlo Montgomery’s The China History Podcast does just fine with 30-45 minute long episodes, and Mike Duncan’s The History of Rome episodes were often 25 minutes long once he moved into the Imperial period. It was really only the first few episodes of his that were only 10-15 minutes long. In any case: I’m looking forward to hearing the story develop, whether it is in chunks of 15, 20, or 30 minutes at a time!

    Also, thank you for sticking with the local (or Iranian) pronunciation of the places and names. It’s a small detail, but I like it! Being Dutch, the scraping G sound of the region comes quite natural, and I’ll be sure to use it when next talking about Qatar!

    As an aside, I’ve always found it interesting that Shāh ‘Abbās I allowed the Dutch East India company to build a regional headquarters at Isfahan starting in 1623. The company also traded in places like Bandar Abbas, Bushehr , Kerman, Kharg, and Shiraz.

    With thanks and greetings from Holland!

  7. Khodadad, I’m incredibly happy to hear a professional historian engaging with the public in this informal but very informative way. Question: where did the map come from? I remember having seen that color style a few times before but I can’t unearth them.

  8. This is great! I love how thoughtful and thorough you are! Half hour is baaaarely long enough, please don’t listen to people who ask for shorter.

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