While some scholars would argue that there was no “Iraq” before King Faysal’s coronation in 1921, Iraqi history spans fourteen centuries of tribal communities that endured continual occupation in their historic homeland, including Mongol invasions in the thirteenth century and subsequent Ottoman and British invasions. An Iraqi identity was established long before the League of Nations defined the nation-state of Iraq in 1932. Drawing on neglected primary sources and other crucial accounts, including memoirs and correspondence, Reclaiming Iraq puts the 1920 revolt against British occupation in a new light—one that emphasizes the role of rural fighters between June and November of that year.
While most accounts of the revolution have been shaped by the British administration and successive Iraqi governments, Abbas Kadhim sets out to explore the reality that the intelligentsia of Baghdad and other cities in the region played an ideological role but did not join in the fighting. His history depicts a situation we see even today in conflicts in the Middle East, where most military engagement is undertaken by rural tribes that have no central base of power. In the study of the modern Iraqi state, Kadhim argues, Faysal’s coronation has detracted from the more significant, earlier achievements of local attempts at self-rule. With clarity and insight, this work offers an alternative perspective on the dawn of modern Iraq.
By Abbas Kadhim
Abbas Kadhim is Assistant Professor of Middle East Studies at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, and a visiting scholar at Stanford University. He is the editor of Handbook of Governance in the Middle East and North Africa, and his translations include Shi’a Sects.
“A new interpretation of one of the foundational events of modern Iraq. There have been relatively few studies of the 1920 Revolution and no comprehensive study in English. Abbas Kadhim’s excellent analysis constitutes an important contribution to our understanding of modern Iraqi political history, as well as offering numerous insights into processes of contentious politics throughout the Middle East.”
—Eric Davis, Professor of Political Science, Rutgers University, and former Director, Rutgers Center for Middle Eastern Studies