A Modern History of the Kurds

A Modern History of the Kurds

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The division of Kurdistan between three modern nation states - Iraq, Turkey and Iran - and the struggle of the Kurdish people for national rights have been constant themes of recent Middle East history. They are also issues which, particularly in Iraq and Turkey, have never been so pressing as they are today. Kurdistan has been contested territory for many centuries: a perilous mountain tract through which trade caravans and armies have had to march, a bulwark against hostile powers and a source of defiance against state authority. From the 16th to the 19th century the Ottoman Empire and Persia vied to control the Kurds whose tribal leaders would compete in turn for state recognition. During the 20th century, however, rapid political and economic transition and conflicting attempts by the Iranian, Iraqi and Turkish governments on the one hand and by Turkish nationalists on the other hand have radically changed the conditions under which the struggle for Kurdistan takes place.
In this detailed history of the Kurds from the 19th century to the present day, McDowall examines the interplay of old and new aspects of the struggle, the importance of local rivalries within Kurdish society, the enduring authority of certain forms of leadership and the failure of modern states to respond to the challenge of Kurdish nationalism. Drawing extensively on primary sources McDowall's book is useful for all who want a better understanding of the underlying dynamics of the Kurdish question.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 400 pages
  • 156 x 234 x 41.4mm | 911.72g
  • London, England, United Kingdom
  • English
  • maps, index
  • 1850436533
  • 9781850436539

Back cover copy

In this narrative, the first comprehensive account of recent Kurdish history, David McDowall traces the roots of Kurdish nationalism from the collapse of the Kurdish emirates in the nineteenth century and the consequent crisis in tribal politics, through the post-1918 peace settlement for which the Kurds were wholly unprepared, to the slow emergence of an educated non-tribal class during the middle years of this century. This new class faced two enemies. Externally, it had to resist the recently established regimes in Iran, Turkey and Iraq, all of which equated modernization with state nationalism, ethnic subordination and centralization. Internally, it had to transform a society based primarily on the socio-economic ethic of tribal patronage to one based on ethnic identity. McDowall shows how in each of these countries the struggle has taken on its own characteristics, problems and prospects; why pan-Kurdish unity still proves so elusive; and how governments have used the internal fault lines of Kurdish society to impede national progress. He also explains why the Kurdish question is unlikely to disappear and examines the likely prospects for the future.
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Table of contents

1. Introduction: Kurdish identity and social formation. Book I The Kurds in the age of tribe and empire: 2. Kurdistan before the 19th century; 3. Ottoman Kurdistan, 1800-1850; 4. Ottoman Kurdistan, 1850-1914; 5. The Qajars and the Kurdis; 6. Revolution, nationalism and war, 1908-1918. Book II Incorporating the Kurds: 7. Redrawing the map: the partition of Ottoman Kurdistan; 8. The Kurds, Britain and Iraq; 9. Incorporating Turkey's Kurds; 10. The Kurds under Reza Shah. Book III Ethno-nationalism in Iran: 11. Tribe or Ethnicity? The Mahabad Republic; 12. Iran: Creating a National movement; 13. Subjects of the Shi'i republic. Book IV Ethno-nationalism in Iraq: 14. The birth of a nationalist movement under Hashimite Rule; 15. The Kurds in revolutionary Iraq; 16. The Kurds under the Baath, 1968-1975; 17. The road to genocide, 1975-1988; 18. Uprising and self-rule. Book V Ethno-nationalism in Turkey: 19. The Kurdish national revival in Turkey, 1946-1979; 20. The PKK and the mass movement. Afterword: Retrospect and prospect. Appendix: The treaty of Sevres.
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Review quote

'McDowall skillfully combines [interviews and primary sources] with a profound analysis of Kurdish politics and history, guided by professional sincerity, without failing to engage himself and the reader in the fate of the Kurds, their level of human suffering... McDowall manages with a great success to anlayze both external and internal forces and decisions that have influenced and shaped the conditions... This is an irreplaceable book for those who are interested in Kurdish studies... this is the best available book on contemporary Kurdish political history.' -Khalid Salih, Digest of Middle East Studies '...excellent overview of Kurdish history... the first comprehensive study in English; as such, it's an impressive and important achievement.' -Stephen Howe, New Statesman '...the first significant book in the English language to concentrate on the modern history of the Kurds... when I wish to refresh my memory on a certain period or check an aspect of Kurdish history, this will be the first work I take from the shelf.' Christine Allison, Asian Affairs
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About David McDowall

David McDowall is an acknowledged expert on the Kurds and author of Palestine and Israel: The Uprising and Beyond (IBT 1989).
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Rating details

136 ratings
4.06 out of 5 stars
5 35% (48)
4 42% (57)
3 18% (25)
2 3% (4)
1 1% (2)
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