States of Legitimacy: The British Left, Iraqi Nationalism, and the 'Spirit of Internationalism,' 1914-1932
Getman, David Patrick
Doctor of Philosophy
This dissertation is a transnational history of twentieth-century anti-colonial nationalism. It focuses specifically on the connections between the dissenting British left and Iraqi nationalists during the First World War and its aftermath. Based on extensive archival research in English and Arabic of official and unofficial sources in London and Syria, I show how British and Iraqi anti-colonial activists simultaneously sought to democratize British imperial policy-making in the metropole and periphery of the Empire. From its early hours, Liberal and Labour leaders opposed to the First World War campaigned tirelessly for an internationalist settlement without annexations as the only guarantee of lasting peace for the postwar world. Colonial 'national awakenings' in Egypt, India, and Iraq, they argued, both challenged the legitimacy of British 'imperial democracy' and heralded a new era of international democracy deserving British support. Iraq was, for them, a test case for a nobler approach to maintaining international security through nurturing, rather than subjugating, national sovereignty. The British government's unwillingness to relinquish Iraq after the war was taken as evidence of its unfitness to govern free peoples either at home or abroad. Through my research, I am able to show how the so-called 'extreme nationalist' editors of Iraq's daily press followed the development of these arguments globally and adapted them in their attempt to reorient the development of their state around Iraqi national interests. Playing upon the sensitivity of British administrators to domestic and international public opinion, Iraqi nationalists were able to keep the development of their political institutions on a far more democratic course than either the British or Arab elite desired. Thus I show how British and Iraqi figures created a network of dissent that sought to undermine the foundations of iii British imperial rule in Iraq and realize the idea of national sovereignty as the capstone of international law, to the detriment of imperial legitimacy globally. This study, I believe, demonstrates how transnational approaches can provide us with a richer understanding of the role of popular nationalism in the birth of the international world in the early twentieth century.