Creating Nations, Establishing States: Ethno-Religious Heterogeneity and the British Creation of Iraq in 1919–23

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This article explores the creation of modern Iraq in the period between the Armistice of Mudros in October 1918, marking the end of the First World War in the Middle East, and the conclusion of a formal peace treaty with Turkey in 1923. It looks at how far the British occupiers considered the ethno-religious character of the population while defining frontiers and political system in the territory, focusing on the three major ethno-religious groups in Iraq: Shia Arabs, Sunni Arabs and Kurds. It shows that British policy, influenced by the state of Anglo-Turkish relations, the relationship between officials in London and officials in Baghdad, and British economic necessities and public sentiments towards imperialism, evolved through three main phases: progressively, ethnic and religious factors receded in significance.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
JournalMiddle Eastern Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2010


  • Iraq, ethnicity, Kurds, Mandate, borders