The land between the Euphrates and Tigris rivers was once known as Mesopotamia, much of which is now modern-day Iraq. There, in the 4th millennium BC, the Sumerians developed what was probably the earliest urban civilization.
Mesopotamia formed part of Turkey's Ottoman Empire for three centuries until World War I. British forces invaded in 1914, and Iraq was created in 1921 as a kingdom under British Mandate. Iraq was given independence in 1932, but Britain intervened during World War II to overthrow a pro-Nazi nationalist leader who had taken power. A republic was established in 1958, and this has been governed by a succession of military regimes.
Iraq has a population of around 24 million. About 20 per cent are Kurds, who see themselves as a separate nation. Other smaller groups include Persians, Turkmens, Assyrians, Sabaeans, and the "Marsh Arabs".
- March 2003
Above: Abdul Aziz Ibn Sa'ud, Sir Percy Cox, and Gertrude Bell, Basrah, 1916.
- Joseph Bonomi (1796-1878): sculptor and Egyptologist; author of Nineveh and its palaces (1852)
- Gertrude Bell (1868-1926): traveller, photographer, archaeologist and diplomat; served with British Intelligence in the Middle East during the First World War; established the Baghdad Museum in the 1920s
- TE Lawrence (1888-1935): British liaison officer, famous as "Lawrence of Arabia" for his role in the Arab Revolt (1916-1918)
- Major Sir Hubert Young (1885-1950): Assistant Political Officer, Mesopotamia, 1915-1917; Deputy Director Local Resources, 1917-1918 [supplied camels to the Arab forces of Prince Faisal - later King Faisal I]; Counsellor to High Commissioner for Iraq, 1929-1932; Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary, Baghdad, 1932
- Alexander Bishop (1897-1984): served with the Dorset Regiment in Iraq and Palestine, 1915-1918
- Lt Col Sir Cyril Hancock (1896-1990): served with the Indian Army, 114 Marathas in Mesopotamia, 1916-1918
- Peter Kennedy (born 1899): 2nd Lieutenant, Machine Gun Corps (Armoured Car Unit), served with the "Dunsterforce" in Mesopotamia, Persia and Russia, 1917-1919
- AA Cullen: Lieutenant, Royal Flying Corps, taken prisoner of war in Mesopotamia, 1918
- Sir Henry Bourdillon (1883-1948): served with the British Army in Iraq 1918-1919; colonial administrator in Iraq 1921-1929
- HG Pertwee (born 1893): served as Royal Navy Captain in Mesopotamia and with the Caspian Naval Force
- Baron Lugard of Abinger (1871-1969): member of the Permanent Mandates Commission of the League of Nations, 1922-1936
- Burmah Oil: the Burmah Oil Co. Ltd. [later BP] discovered oil in Iraq in 1923
- British Petroleum: the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, with the British government a major shareholder, discovered oil in Iraq in 1923
- Iraq Petroleum Company: major shareholders were the Anglo-Persian Oil Company Limited, Shell, Compagnie Française des Petroles, and C. S. Gulbenkian; struck oil in 1927
- Sir Robert Brooke-Popham (1878-1953): Air Officer Commanding, British Forces in Iraq, 1928-1930; High Commissioner and Commander in Chief of Iraq, 1929
- Colonel William McCutcheon (1911-1983): Deputy Assistant Director of Hygiene, Iraq, 1941-1942 & 1944
- Scott Inquiry: a British company supplied Iraq with "dual use" technology during the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988)
- Mary Brennan (born 1937): health authority medical planner; member of CND national council; in 1990 she was co-chair of the Committee to Stop War in the Gulf.
- Marjorie Thompson (born 1957): member of Medical Campaign Against Nuclear Weapons, and CND official; in 1990-1991, chair of the Committee to Stop War in the Gulf
- Gertrude Bell Project: the University of Newcastle has digitised Bell's diaries, letters, and photographs
- BP Archive
- The Mesopotamia campaign: The National Archives "Pathways to the Past: The First World War"
- Oriental Museum at the University of Durham
- Liddle Collection at the University of Leeds
- Imperial War Museum
- This page: detail of GB 0186 GB Photograph Album W (Iraq 1916-1917), photo W 054 [Abdul Aziz Ibn Sa'ud, Sir Percy Cox and Gertrude Bell during Ibn Sa'ud's visit to Basrah].
- Next page: detail of GB 0186 GB Photograph Album X (Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq 1913-1914), photo X 087 [Tribesmen and child at encampment of Fahd Beg - Ibn Hadhdhal - ruler of part of the Northern 'Anazeh].
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