York professor publishes a timely book on Iraq

York Professor Thabit Abdullah has a special appreciation of the current conflict in Iraq. He was putting the finishing touches on the final chapter of his book,  A Short History of Iraq, just as US and British forces entered his native country in March. Professor Abdullah’s book was released in New York this month by Longmans. It presents a readable survey of the country’s history from the seventh century to the present.

Although he deliberately avoids polemics and historians’ jargon, Abdullah admits his goal in writing the book was to present Iraq as more than what Western observers often see: a country whose arbitrary boundaries enclose disparate peoples with no common national identity.

“I argue between the lines that Iraq is not an artificial state created by the European powers,” Abdullah says. “With its two rivers (the Tigres and the Euphrates) and its people’s shared fate along their banks, Iraq’s history has real depth.”

Abdullah said he wanted to write this portrait of his homeland now so readers could understand its economic and social development and be better informed during the international debate over its future following the fall of Saddam Hussein. “I’m no politician, I’m a historian,” says Abdullah, whose family was opposed to the Baath Party regime. “To understand the political, you have to understand the social and economic aspects of Iraq’s development.”

Abdullah received his doctorate at Georgetown University and now teaches Middle Eastern and Islamic history in York’s Faculty of Arts.

From the publishers of A Short History of Iraq:

“The twentieth century witnessed the transformation of the area known currently as Iraq from a backward region of the Ottoman Empire, to one of the most important and dynamic states in the Middle East. This book focuses on the interaction between the old and the new or between continuity and change as it is manifested in the nature of social development, nation building, the state and the political opposition. The author examines the rise of modern Iraq and its roots in the second half of the nineteenth century when Ottoman reforms led to gradual state modernization and increasing integration in the World Economy.”