The Complications of State-Building: Reevaluating the Role of Britain in the Creation of Iraq

  • Gregory Jackson University of Utah; ΦΑΘ–ΑΡ


When the defunct Ottoman Empire’s Middle-Eastern territory was divided by Britain and France in the early 1920s as League of Nations Mandates, Britain received Iraq. Ostensibly, the French and British were to assist the people living within their respective mandates in nation-building. In reality, these mandates amounted to little more than watered downed colonialism with these European powers determining their governments and borders. Indeed, the myth that Iraq’s western border with Jordan cuts deeply eastward because Winston Churchill sneezed while drawing the map of Iraq at the 1921 Cairo Conference persists to this day. This paper argues that Britain’s role in creating Iraq has been simplified and exaggerated, especially since the beginning of the Iraq War in 2003. Though Britain certainly played a large role in its creation and further sought to benefit from a neocolonial relationship with Iraq, to credit (or to blame) Britain solely for its existence is to ignore external factors that curtailed Britain’s decision making. These external factors range from British dealings with Middle-Eastern elites to the need to appease the interests of other Western powers in the area, such as France, Russia and the United States. This is demonstrated by examining a series of primary sources, including: correspondences between British officials and Middle-Eastern leaders; as well as proposed treaties and actual treaties between Britain and other Western states. 

Author Biography

Gregory Jackson, University of Utah; ΦΑΘ–ΑΡ
Gregory Jackson is a PhD candidate in history and currently the Burton Scholar (2013-14) at the University of Utah. His training include Modern European history, Middle Eastern history and Francophone Studies. His main research interests focus on French colonization and decolonization in North Africa; and relations between the Islamic World and Europe. He is currently working on his dissertation, which is a study of Muslim North African communities in France during the first half of the twentieth century.
How to Cite
JACKSON, Gregory. The Complications of State-Building: Reevaluating the Role of Britain in the Creation of Iraq. Utah Historical Review, [S.l.], v. 4, p. 53–75, july 2014. ISSN 2374-1570. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 26 sep. 2017.