Iraq: A History
Iraq is a complicated place, culturally, demographically, ethically, historically. All the more reason(s) to welcome this broad study that gently leads the reader—like a museum guide—through the long, fabled halls of the country’s rich, often-turbulent history. The story begins with Neolithic settlements in the land “between the rivers” (Tigris and Euphrates) which ultimately inspired its ancient name (Mesopotamia) and earliest civilizations, starting with Sumer, circa 6000 BCE. The author provides overviews of the various kingdoms that rose and fell there, with significant sections dedicated to Biblical Iraq (Babylon, Assyria), enduring struggles with neighboring Persia, and Iraq as the glorious “center of Islamic civilization” under the Abbasids (roughly 8th through the 10th centuries). After a bit of fast-forwarding through Turkish and Mongol invasions of the 11th through the 13th centuries, and the subsequent rise and rule of the Ottomans through the late 19th century, the last third of the book is devoted to the fitful emergence of Iraq as a modern state, blessed with oil and cursed with unstable and/or authoritarian governments. This is an informative and enjoyable primer on a nation that, after centuries, still commands global attention.