BRITISH OCCUPATION AND THE IRAQI MONARCHY (1914–1958)
Allied with Germany and Austria-Hungary as the Central Powers during World War I (1914–18), the Ottoman Turks were defeated, and as a result, the empire was overthrown internally. Iraq came under British occupation. The occupation was later modiﬁ ed to a British Mandate, and Britain was tasked by the League of Nations to guide Iraq’s transition to independence.
Iraq attained full independence in 1932 and joined the League of Nations as a sovereign state, even though Britain retained a proprietary interest in Iraq’s development. From 1932 to 1958, the country was ruled by a monarchy originally from the Hashemite family in the Hijaz (western Arabia). In 1958, a bloody coup overthrew the monarchy and installed the ﬁ rst of many republican regimes.
Although most histories of the nascent Iraqi state conﬁ ne themselves to a strictly political narrative, it is worth noting that the era of the Iraqi monarchy also saw the beginnings of cultural and social movements of great originality and depth. All of these movements coexisted in a burgeoning political era when, at least under the monarchy and in the ﬁ rst few years of the republic, explorations in freedom and literary, artistic, and cultural self-expression were anchored in broad social and economic engagements that arose out of the working conditions and economic situations of the majority of Iraqis. This chapter will explore these themes brieﬂy.