Getting Out of Iraq in 1932
Iraq was the single mandated territory—out of fourteen—to achieve independent statehood while still under the jurisdiction of the League of Nations. But what kind of “independence” was this? By coming to an agreement with nationalist elites in Iraq, Britain was able to retain control of crucial economic concessions and military rights in this key region and to avoid further irritating international scrutiny. Overseeing this process, the League’s expert bodies became ever more skeptical of the panacea of independent statehood. We now live in a world in which virtually all territorial units are “states,” but those states often lack capacity. Through this case, we can see this modern state system in the making.
Susan Pedersen is Professor of History and James P. Shenton Professor of the Core Curriculum at Columbia University. Her books include Family, Dependence and the Origins of the Welfare State (1993) and Eleanor Rathbone and the Politics of Conscience (2004). She is now completing a study of the impact of the League of Nations on the European colonial regimes.
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