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HAY, [Sir Rupert].

Two Years in Kurdistan.

Experiences of a Political Officer 1918-1920.

Published: London: Sidgwick & Jackson, Ltd., 1921

Stock code: 110918

Price: £125

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First edition, first impression. Hay (1893-1962) spent the Great War in Mesopotamia as an officer first with the 1/4th Dorsets and then the 24th Punjabis. After armistice with the Turks in October 1918 he took a post as Assistant Political Officer at Mandali, followed by several further postings across the region. As with many officers stationed on the frontiers of empire at this time, “Hay saw his mission as much an anthropological as a military undertaking. Hence, the first six chapters of Two Years in Kurdistan discuss everything from flora and fauna, to the structure of village life, the roles of women in society, tribes, agriculture, and trade. The next eight chapters are both diary and travelogue, as Hay travels to Altun Kepri, Erbil, Ranya, and Rawanduz, as well as smaller towns and districts” (Michael Rubin’s review of the 2011 reprint in The Middle East Quarterly, Winter 2011). Hay was to establish a civil administration as the British replaced the Ottoman authorities who “remained in control, if only on the local level, until Hay and his column relieved or co-opted them. Hay revitalized government, working to increase the influence of allies and decrease those of adversaries in society. He pensioned families of Turkish soldiers who had perished in the war, subsidized mullahs, appointed district governors, and played tribal politics. What took dozens of U.S. officials to carry out in 2003 and 2004, Hay did largely by himself eighty-five years before, meeting with tribal sheikhs and urban notables, entertaining, negotiating, and when necessary, commanding … Not only historians should value Hay’s memoirs of his time in Kurdistan: The many Western policymakers and journalists who pass through Iraqi Kurdistan today see the region’s progress but fail to understand its turbulent, pre-Saddam history” (idem). Hay left Kurdistan in October 1920 having been appointed probationer in the political department of the Government of India. Postings in Kabul, Waziristan and Baluchistan followed, and his last position before retiring in 1953 was as Resident of the Persian Gulf.

Octavo. Original orange cloth, spine lettered in black, triple frame to front board in blind, Photographic frontispiece, 15 similar plates, sketch map to the text, folding map to rear. Front board irregularly dust-darkened, spine lightly rubbed and marked, faint indentation to rear board, remains a very good copy.

Bibliography: Riddick, Who Was Who in British India, p. 167.

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