Records of Iraq 1914–1966

ISBN:  (13) 978-185207-820-1    Extent:  15 volumes, 13,730 pages  

Editor: Research Consultant A. De L. Rush, Research Editor J. Priestland    Published: 2001
Paper: Printed on acid free paper
Binding: Library bindings with gilt finish
See sample pages: not available

"Records of Iraq 1914-1966" makes available an extensive collection of primary documents for the study of the formation and development of the modern state of Iraq. The collection begins with the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, the creation of a new Iraqi monarchy and the conduct of the British mandate, and ends with the death of President ´Aref and the rise to power of the Ba´athist regime.
The purpose of this publication is to provide scholars, diplomatic personnel and political analysts with a comprehensive vision of Iraqi history, based on the evidence of authentic papers from British Government archives. There is a huge amount of material extant and these 14000 pages represent an expert selection. A schedule of documents is given in each volume, together with file references to make corroboration or further research possible.


T Contemporary reports, comment and analysis are used to describe the principal events of the period, including: the establishment of the monarchy and the Iraqi constitution in the 1920s; the activities and succession of Kings Faisal I, Ghazi and Faisal II; the activities of the Regent, ´Abd al-Illah; the numerous seizures of control of the government and successive cabinets; the events leading to the 1958 overthrow of the royal family; the rise of the Ba´ath party.
In addition there is much material on the influence of regional factors, such as the Arab-Israel conflict, the Baghdad Pact of 1955 and the Suez Canal debacle of 1956. The volumes reflect the progress of internal development, including civil administration, transport, economics and petroleum affairs. In particular there is information on the treatment of minorities, including the Assyrians, the Yezidis, Jews and, running throughout the collection, on the Kurdish question.


The volumes have been organised to focus on key historical events and periods.
Volume 1: 1914-1918: Ottoman Iraq (Mesopotamia) and the First World War
Volume 2: 1918-1921: The Provisional Government and the Insurrection
Volume 3: 1921-1924: Establishing the Kingdom
Volume 4: 1925-1927: The Constitution and the Mosul Settlement
Volume 5: 1928-1930: Crown and Cabinet
Volume 6: 1930-1932: Mandate to Treaty
Volume 7: 1932-1936: The Rise of the Army
Volume 8: 1936-1941: Politics and the Palace
Volume 9: 1941-1945: The Second World War
Volume 10: 1946-1952: Communism and Disaffection
Volume 11: 1953-1956: Development and Martial Law
Volume 12: 1956-1958: The Fall of the Monarchy
Volume 13: 1958-1960: The Régime of Qasim (1)
Volume 14: 1961-1963: The Régime of Qasim (2)
Volume 15: 1963-1966: ´Arefites, Nasirites and the Ba´athist Challenge


This work is reprinted from original materials in the India Office Library and Records, London. Documents are reproduced in facsimile. A detailed list of contents including library file references appears in each volume. The volumes are organised by country and in chronological sequence. Oil Concessions in Five Arab States 1911-1953 has been prepared by the research staff at Archive Editions.


Extract from Records of Iraq 1914–1966, Preface by A. de Lacey Rush
"History is the art of memory...rescuing the past from the enormous condescension of posterity",
Raphael Samuel, Theatres of Memory, [Volume 1]
The documents reproduced in these volumes relate how, in the course of the twentieth century, three provinces of the Ottoman Empire - Baghdad, Basra and Mosul - became the nation-state of Iraq. Since this transformation was achieved by, or in partnership with, the British Government, it forms part not just of Iraq´s history, but, in the years preceding 1958, of the British Empire´s history too. No doubt, like myself, many readers regret the withholding of Iraqi government papers currently, one hopes, safely stored in the Markaz li Hifz al-Watha´iq al-Watani (National Archives) in Baghdad. Only when these are released will Iraq´s history be properly documented... Meanwhile I have supplied a partial remedy by presenting the thoughts and comments of leading Iraqi personalities as expressed in conversations with British diplomats who later wrote them down for the benefit of the British government.
The introductory sections of this work provide glimpses of the region just before the First World War when it was known as Mesopotamia, or Turkish Arabia. In 1831, the Ottoman Sultan, Mahmud II, extended direct rule over the area. Soon afterwards, steps were taken to modernise it and develop its commercial potential. The British, who had traded there since the seventeenth century, exploited the new opportunities and, in doing so, damaged the interests of Iraqi traders and entrepreneurs. In a typical dispute - the affaire Lynch - we read of Iraqi opposition to a British navigation company on the Tigris and Euphrates rivers (see Volume 1, section 1).
The relationship with Britain became more contentious during the First World War when Arab leaders, aiming to advance their regional and dynastic interests, joined forces with the Allies in their war against Germany and Turkey (see Volume 2, section 7). In the event, despite the defeat of Turkey, few Iraqis felt inclined to celebrate. Many of them had remained loyal to Turkey and disliked an alliance with non-Muslims. As for the results of the war, Iraq was transformed into an immense battlefield and suffered the upheaval of centuries of tradition and the occupation of the area by British imperial forces. The Acting Civil Commissioner, Sir A.T. Wilson, was a man of outstanding ability and moral probity and he provided Iraq with a highly effective administration. But his regime was also repressive and culturally insensitive. Indeed it became so hated as to render inevitable the insurrection during which, in the summer of 1920, anger and frustration, fomented by nationalist elements in Syria, were violently expressed by many sections of the Iraqi population: Arab nationalists insulted by their exclusion from power: Shi´i divines, resentful of the Sunnis and the infidel ingleez; corrupt tribal shaikhs and land-owners, alarmed by the imposition of strict public security maintenance and efficient tax collection.
Although a civilian administration was established in October 1920, martial law was not ended. At the San Remo Conference six months earlier, Great Britain had been awarded a mandate for Iraq. But this solved few problems and left important questions unanswered. Should the region become a republic, an amirate or a kingdom? Should Basra be included? Or should it, as many Basrawis hoped, remain separate, under direct British administration? And what should be done to protect the interests of non-Arabs or non-Muslims such as the Jews, Assyrians, Chaldeans, Turcomans and Kurds? The future of Kurdistan, in turn, raised the question of relations with Turkey, the status of Mosul and the demarcation of boundaries (see Volume 2, section 16). 
The outstanding event at this time was, of course, the Cairo Conference of March 1921 at which British army officers and officials headed by the Colonial Secretary, Mr Winston Churchill, decided to convert the region into a Hashemite Kingdom of Iraq led by Amir Faisal bin Hussein whom the French had recently evicted from Syria. Faisal´s debt to Britain for an Iraqi throne would, it was assumed, ensure respect for British interests in the area. These could be further promoted by using British bomber aircraft for policing. It would then be possible to withdraw British troops from Iraq and save millions of pounds for the British taxpayer, thus removing the chief criticism of those opposed to British involvement in the area (see Volume 2, section 12).
In the event, the plan was only partly successful. Within weeks of Amir Faisal´s enthronement in August 1921, the High Commissioner, Sir Percy Cox, and his Oriental Counsellor, Gertrude Bell, were becoming impatient; by 1923, almost everyone was exasperated. "Faisal is not playing the game," complained Sir Percy´s successor, Sir Henry Dobbs. "When we put him on the throne we never supposed that we had found an ideal ruler. We set him up as the best way out of our own difficulties and having put him there we must make the best of him so long as we can." ...