An essential exploration of the pivotal rebellion whose repercussions continue to be felt throughout the West, this timely study reclaims the early twentieth-century Iraqi revolution narrative to emphasize the voices of the vanquished, who lost the battle but ultimately won the war for Iraq’s independence.
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.
- Chapter 1: The 1920 Revolution in History
- Chapter 2: The Causes of the Revolution
- Chapter 3: The Revolution in the Middle Euphrates and Beyond
- Chapter 4: The Journalism of the Revolution
- Chapter 5: The Revolutionary Networks
- Chapter 6: The Revolution's Aftermath
“This is an important and well-documented study that should be read by those seeking to understand Iraq’s new Shi’a rulers and the formative historical narrative that underlies much of their political thinking. Kadhim focuses on a seminal event in Iraq’s modern history, the 1920 ‘revolution’ against the British, led mainly by Shi’a leaders of the mid-Euphrates—tribal, religious and urban—that helped create an independent Iraqi state and government. He shows how—and why—the Shi‘a failed to benefit in its aftermath, outgunned by the British and outmaneuvered by Sunni notables, army officers, and politicians, who went on to dominate the state, creating continuing Shi’a resentment. This groundbreaking study is likely the opening chapter in a new interpretation of Iraqi history.”
Phebe Marr, scholar and historian of the modern Middle East. The third edition of her major work, The Modern History of Iraq, was published in 2011.
“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