links to the early involvement of britain in mesopotamia/iraq until 1973   

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   Archaeologist, linguist, Arabist and a great woman mountaineer of her age. In Baghdad in 1921 she drew the boundaries of the country that became Iraq. For links to a biography, click the image. To find out more go to Section 3 ("British Mandate") below casahistoria - web site for students of modern history!

  on this page
Browse down the page or just click one of these sections.... 
1. General
2. 19th c: Ottoman collapse
3. British Mandate, 1918-32
End of the mandate
British invasion, WW2
4. The Oil factor
Early British oil exploitation
British-US rivalry, & cooperation 1918-73
Nationalisation 1973
5. Independence & continued intervention
Overview of the internal politics
See also part 2 of the Iraq site:
Iraq, Hussein, the West & War


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The main value of these Iraq pages is in the links to specific articles from section 2 onwards. Use the first, general section for an overview. However, using the later links will indicate clearly the longstanding involvement of the UK and the US in Iraq well before the current conflict & occupation that followed.



1. General
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Concise Timelines & Overviews

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2. 19th century: The collapse of the Ottomans
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3. The British Mandate, 1918-32
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  • The First World War and the British Mandate Detailed description of the 1920's mandate (US Library of Congress)
  • Miss Bell's lines in the sand She was an archaeologist, a linguist and the greatest woman mountaineer of her age. And in Baghdad in 1921 she drew the boundaries of the country that became Iraq. James Buchan in the Guardian, March 2003.
  • Gertrude Bell, Adventurer, archaeologist and Arabist. BBC interview with biographer Victor Winstone about Bell's life and achievements, not least her role in choosing Iraq's first king and setting up the National Library and Museum in Baghdad. Links to an audio file of interview.
  • The Gertrude Bell Project. Apart from giving a description of her travels and including documents, this has an excellent archive of her photographs of early 20th century Mesopotamia (use the left hand frame to select "Iraq")
  • British British Mandate Territory, from Iraq's History Page  
  • British welcome in Baghdad Guardian article from March 16 1917: "Our vanguard entered Baghdad soon after nine o'clock this morning. The city is approached by an unmetalled road between palm groves and orange gardens...."
  • Hanna Batatu on Iraq Elections The historian of modern Iraq, Hanna Batatu, describes parliamentary elections during British colonial rule. Brief excerpt from The Old Social Classes and the Revolutionary Movements of Iraq, Princeton, 1978. (Iraq pages of the Global Policy Forum)
  • Iraq and the Empire This is a look at the Imperial Airways route to the British Empire in India and the Far East during the 1920's & 30's, showing the key strategic position of Iraq for the route staging posts. Shown through a set of contemporary cigarette cards. Worthwhile.  §
Control End of the mandate
  • Iraq was first Iraq was the first Arab country to join the League of Nations, having acquired this status by virtue of a treaty signed with Britain in 1930. Its membership ended the formal British League mandate & was a landmark in the advancement of Arab nationalism. Three-quarters of a century later, Iraq was invaded and occupied. Professor Yunan Labib Rizk examines the two events. (Al-Ahram)
British invasion of independent Iraq, World War 2

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4. The Oil factor: Britain & the US take control  
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Early British oil exploitation
  • The Byzantine Beginnings: The Quest for Oil  By Dr. Ferruh Demirmen. Thorough, accessible account from the Global Policy Forum site looks at the key role played by Britain and the early US use of obstructing League of Nations measures to gain access to the oil.
  • The Turkish Petroleum Company Looks at the history of the company, set up by the British whilst Turkey controlled Iraq and used later by the British & US partners to exploit oil in Iraq until nationalisation.
  • Great Power Conflict over Iraqi Oil: the World War I Era (October, 2002) More concise, covering similar ground. This article by James A. Paul describes how major international powers combined military force, government pressure and the action by powerful companies to control Iraq’s oil. Global Policy Forum
  • Iraq Oil and British Foreign Policy after World War I By G. H. Bennett Excerpt from British Foreign Policy During the Curzon Period, 1919-1924 (London: Macmillan, 1995). Global Policy Forum
  • The Lion and the Eagle Military Historian Colonel Bernd Fischer (Ret) looks at Britain’s long-standing pursuit of Iraqi oil. Excerpts from the communist monthly RotFuchs (Red Fox), November 2002, Berlin, quoted by the Guardian.
  • Britain's Priority: Control of Oil Reserves  By Helmut Mejcher Excerpt from Imperial Quest for Oil: Iraq 1910-1928, (London: Ithaca Press, 1976). Mejcher demonstrates that oil was in fact at the centre of British government thinking. This text was published as part of a research series by St. Antony's College, Oxford University. Global Policy Forum
  • The Primacy of Oil in Britain’s Iraq Policy Excerpt from Peter Sluglett’s book Britain in Iraq. (London: Ithaca Press, 1976.) Analyzes British Foreign Secretary Lord Curzon’s statement that oil’s influence was “nil” on the posture of the British government in Iraq. Global Policy Forum
British - US rivalry, and cooperation, 1918-73


Nationalisation 1973
  • The Oil Companies vs. Iraq: Leadup to Nationalization, 1958-1973  Excerpt from Joe Stork's Middle East Oil and the Energy Crisis (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1975). Shows how the Anglo-American companies ignored pressure by the Iraqi government to prospect more widely and pump more oil. Iraq finally nationalized its oil industry in June, 1972. The settlement left Iraq with full control of 75 percent of its crude production, but compensation for the takeover was set at $300 million. The price was not cheap: more than a dozen years of economic stagnation, political instability, and confrontation. Global Policy Forum
  • Oil in the 1980s from US Library of Congress (1988)

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5. Independence 
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General overview of the internal politics of the period
(to be used in conjunction with previous section)

  See the casahistoria site Iraq, Hussein, the West & War for links to the history of Iraq up to and including the Gulf Wars

The casahistoria core Middle East Pages:

    British Mandate in Palestine
    The Arab Israeli conflict, 1947-78  
    The British in Mesopotamia/Iraq
    Iraq, Hussein, the West & War





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