First published in 1978, Palestinian American historian Hanna Batatu's The Old Social Classes is considered to be the definitive social history of 20th century Iraq. Tom Nieuwenhuis, a scholar specializing in the region, called it "the best, most detailed modern history of any Arab country," while an entire conference was held in 1989 to discuss its implications.
The work is actually three volumes in one, with each volume examining a different aspect of Iraqi society through the use of both unique primary sources and detailed oral histories.
The first discusses the social groups existing in Iraq at the beginning of the 20th century and their evolution. The second tells the story of the emerging communist movement through the 1950s. And the third volume examines the events of the 1958 revolution itself, and the role of different social groups, both before and after.
The text is extraordinarily detailed, making it a vital source for anyone interested in the social history of one of the most important countries in the Middle East.
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