The Ins and Outs of Mesopotamia

by Thomas Lyell, Introduction by Paul Rich

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This highly opinionated book, written by a British officer in occupied Iraq, first appeared in 1923. Thomas Lyell was completely convinced of the necessity of the British presence in Iraq, and felt his book would help to enlighten Westerns as to the “true” nature of Iraqi life, complicated as it was by the various religious and political factions that existed within the country. Bigoted and prejudiced, though intensely pragmatic, this book is a truly startling expose of the attitude taken by British officers towards the indigenous peoples of the Gulf region, over whose day-to-day lives they were given charge.

insandoutsAgainst a background of the British invasion of the First World War and the subsequent civil war, Lyell presents a portrait of life as he saw it. He explodes in detail the influence of religion on Arab life, both in its domination of everyday affairs and in the antipathy between orthodox Sunnis and unorthodox Shias, believing an appreciation of this to be crucial to any understanding of the area. Although his experiences as a criminal judge may have coloured his views towards the Arabs (whom he considered lawless and unfit for self-government), he is equally castigating of British, Jewish and Kurdish peoples in the region (bemoaning British folly in placing a Sunni of the throne of largely Shia Iraq, and referring to the Kurds as “untrained savages”).

Commenting, in the final section of the book, on the possible future of Iraq, Lyell has grim warnings. He foresaw the influence of the Red Army in the area, the threat of a Kurdish revolution and, in the event of the British pulling out and leaving the Iraqis to govern themselves, a bleak future for the minority elements in the country: “… no conceivable guarantees in the world ensure their safety … All modern civilization and progress would be wiped out.”

 

A Woman Tenderfoot in Egypt: 1920s Travel Recollections

by Grace Thompson Seton

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The author, Grace Gallatin Seton Thompson (1872-1959) was a remarkable voyager to distant places. Her first work, A Woman Tenderfoot (1900), offered a detailed, illustrated guide for women to traverse, hunt and explore the Rocky Mountain area. She was an outspoken leader in the women’s suffrage movement and other causes advancing women’s rights both in the United States and around the world. She played a major part in directing aid to France during World War I, began the Biblioteca Femina, served as president of the Connecticut Women Suffrage Association and Pen and Brush, among numerous other activities.

This work, A Woman Tenderfoot in Egypt, details her experiences in Egypt. She also explored China, India, Japan, parts of South America and numerous other places throughout her life, but particularly during the 1920s-30s. She wrote accounts of some her travels in works like Chinese Lanterns (1924) and Yes, Lady Saheb (1925).

This new edition is dedicated to Professor Marianne Marchand of the Universidad de las Américas Puebla, another traveler of note and a teacher of distinction.

Two Years in Kurdistan: Experiences of a Political Officer, 1918-1920

by W. R. Hay, Introduction by Paul Rich

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Kurdistan does not exist as a country, yet it certainly does exist as a nation. A people of great number and antiquity, united by a shared heritage, the Kurds are primarily scattered over five countries—Turley, Iran, Iraq, Syria and Russia. For a great many years they have played the unenviable role of pawns in the Middle East’s turbulent power struggles, manipulated by governments using Kurdish troubles as a means of outmaneuvering their opponents.  


William Rupert Hay was a British political officer who was in charge of the largely Kurdish district of Arbil in northern Iraq from 1918 to 1920. He was given the task of establishing and maintaining British rule in the area in the wake of the invasion of the First World War.  
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Two Years in Kurdistan is a detailed personal account of Hay’s time in Arbil. It traces his progress from the initial warm welcome given by the Kurds (who were, in the wake of a war, living in terrible conditions and believed that British rule heralded the dawning of a new and better age) through disillusionment at stiffer taxes, tighter laws, and the failure of the British to significantly improve the quality of life to the eventual rebellion of 1920. Through all these events, Hay paints a vivid portrait of the people and places of northern Iraq and many extraordinary experiences, whether it be hunting the outlaw Nuri Bahil (“a patriot and a hero…a sort of Robin Hood”), conversing with the gregarious tribal chief Hama Agha (who claimed to be 130 and fathered a child when 90) or describing attempts on his own life.  


The most important aspect of the book is that it explains the feelings held towards the region by a man who, many years later, was, as British Political Resident, to play a crucial role in shaping the modern Gulf. As Hay noted in 1921, with remarkable relevance to today, “Poor people, I am afraid they must have been bitterly disappointed of the high hopes for the future which they entertained.”

 

The Land of the Date

by C. M. Cursetjee

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In December 1916 the SS Zaiyanni left Bombay bound for the port of Basra, at the head of the Persian Gulf. On board was C. M. Cursetjee, a 69-year-old Oxford-educated Indian Parsee, on his way to see his nephew who was serving in the Indian forces. The boat, carrying much commercial cargo, stopped at all the major ports on the voyage, and the author kept a diary of this remarkable journey upon which this book was based.  

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The Land of the Date is an exceptional study in that it provides important information in two areas. On the one hand, it furnishes a unique and highly entertaining record of life in the Gulf ports in the heady days of the First World War. Cursetjee brings the feel of the times vividly to life: from the pearl divers of Bahrain to the street traders of the bazaars of Basra, all are discussed and described, often with a dry humor.  


The book also, however, serves to bring an Indian perspective to bear on the situation in the Gulf which, considering the large Indian involvement with the Empire’s ventures in the region, has been greatly overlooked. Cursetjee emerges as a stanch imperialist, referring throughout to the greater potential for the future offering to the inhabitants by British rule and fully believing that the Gulf should be British after the war. He also encouraged Indian entrepreneurship in the region, seeing considerable commercial opportunities.  


The author clearly foresaw strategic importance of Kuwait, due to its geographical relationship to the prime port of Basra, as well as the power that oil would have in the area’s future. Whilst fully supporting the British in their Middle Eastern endeavors he was tellingly critical of their attitude in occupied areas, “if only British rule were impressed…with less of that overweening self-importance, haughty aloofness and mischief-brewing superciliousness with which the Britisher makes himself obnoxious in many lands.”

Hadji in Syria, or, Three Years in Jerusalem

by Sarah Barclay Johnson

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Sarah Barclay Johnson (1837-1885) traveled throughout the Middle East as a missionary in the hadjiCampbellite church. Her father, James Turner Barclay, was a minister in the
same church and wrote narratives about his missionary attempts in the region. Further solidifying her links to the area, Johnson married the US consul to Syria, Augustus Johnson.

Johnson’s work, Hadji in Syria, is different from her father’s writings because she focuses on the present day issues and her differing viewpoints from other travelers, notably J. Ross Browne. Still, the focus is largely Christianity in the area, as she examines the Church of the Holy Sepulcher controversies and battles ideas of Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodox religious traditions. She also critiques the precarious role of women in the region from an American perspective.

This new edition is dedicated to Cheryl Walker, with hopes she travels far with distinction.

 

The Middle East: New Order or Disorder?

Edited by Mohammed A. Aman, Ph.D. and Mary Jo Aman, MLIS

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This book brings together edited papers contributed to this volume by presenters at the most recent Middle East Dialogue (MED Conference held annually in Washington, DC, and sponsored by the Policy Studies Organization (PSO), the Digest of Middle East Studies (DOMES), and supporting universities and organizations such as the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, the American Public University System, the Next Century Foundation, Capital Communications Group, among others. Additional papers were invited from scholars and experts in Middle East and North African studies. Collectively, these contributions aim to enrich the literature and dialogue on issues affecting policy, diplomacy, and socioeconomic studies dealing with this volatile region of the world. Collectively, the authors of the book’s 21 chapters bring to the reader a wealth of expertise and contributions to the broader scholarship on the Middle East, and the much hoped-for understanding and solutions to the region’s conflicts.

Mohammed M. Aman, Ph.D. is Professor and former Dean of the School of Information Studies and Interim Dean of the School of Education at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of the peer-reviewed journal Digest of Middle East Studies (DOMES) and the online journal, Middle East Media & Book Reviews (MEMBR). Professor Aman is the author of more than 200 articles, book chapters and is author or editor of 15 books, among his latest are Post-Arab Spring: Review of the Literature; The Middle East Conflicts & Reforms; New Directions in the Middle East. Professor Aman consults for the USAID, USIS,  UNESCO, UNIDO, and UNDP. Among the national and international honors he received: The P. N. Kaula Gold Medal Award, The American Library Association’s OCLC—James A. Humphrey Award, the Wisconsin Library Association, and the Association of Library & Information Science Education, along with honors by governments and universities in Egypt, Libya, Kenya, Kuwait, among others.

Mary Jo Aman, MLIS is Associate Editor of the Digest of Middle East Studies (DOMES); Middle East Media & Book Reviews (MEMBR); Post-Arab Spring: Review of the Literature; The Middle East Conflicts & Reforms; and New Directions in the Middle East. Ms. Aman has also served on the boards of such organizations as the International Board of Books for Young People (IBBY); the Wisconsin Library Association, and has taught at St. John’s University in New York, Cardinal Stritch
University, and UWM in Milwaukee, WI. She is the recipient of the Wisconsin State Senate Recognition Award; Citation of Merit from the Milwaukee Board of Supervisors; and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Ernest Spaights Award for Outstanding Contributions to UWM.

Post Arab Spring: Middle East Reviews

Edited by Mohammed M. Aman PhD and Mary Jo Aman MLIS

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The book brings together reviews of books published between 2012 and 2015 about the Middle East and North Africa. The subject coverage spans the humanities, arts, and social sciences but excludes books on science and technology. Reviews are written by experts in the respective subject area and offer detailed, informative and critical information designed to assist scholars, as well as librarians. These published reviews are supplemented by regularly published reviews that appear on the Middle East Media & Book Reviews web site, membr.uwm.edu. About the Editors Mohammed M. Aman, PhD is Professor and former Dean of the School of Information Studies and Interim Dean of the School of Education at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, USA. He is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of the Wiley-Blackwell/Policy Studies Organization (PSO) peer reviewed journal Digest of Middle East Studies (DOMES) and the online journal Middle East Media & Book Reviews (MEMBR).His academic experience includes teaching and senior administration at St. John’s University and Long Island University in New York and since 1979 at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Professor Aman is the author of more than 200 articles, book chapters and is author or editor of fourteen books. Mary Jo Aman, MLIS is Associate Editor of the Digest of Middle East Studies (DOMES) and the Middle East Media and Book Reviews (MEMBR) and former Editor of the Newsletter of the International Board of Books for Young People (IBBY). She is the co-editor of Middle East: Conflicts & Reforms; and New Directions in the Middle East. (PSO/Westphalia Press, 2014). Ms. Aman held a number of academic teaching and administrative positions. Ms. Aman has taught at St. John’s University in New York; Cardinal Stritch College and UWM in Milwaukee, WI. She is the recipient of a number of awards among them: Wisconsin State Senate Recognition Award; Citation of Merit from the Milwaukee Board of Supervisors; and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Ernest Spaights Award for Outstanding Contributions to UWM.