To understand Iraq, and the dynamics at work there, it is essential to know the country's history. This is self-evident to the point of being a cliche. But 12,000 years of history can be intimidating. In "Understanding Iraq", one of the world's most respected Middle East historians provides a highly readable yet intelligent digest, taking the reader on a sweeping tour from the first Sumerian settlements on to the Babylonians, the dramatic advent of Islam, the destructive invasion of the Mongols, centuries of Ottoman rule, in to the turbulent twentieth century and today's experiments in Western styles of democracy. Fast-paced and full of vivid detail "Understanding Iraq" helps the reader comprehend this complicated nation, struggling today to reconcile its diversities and contradictions: Arab and Kurd, Shii and Sunni, traditionalist and modern, secular and religious, pragmatic and radical. Polk culminates in a damning indictment of the US for failing to learn the lessons of history in Iraq. He sets out those lessons here in a compelling and fascinating narrative.
William Polk taught Middle Eastern history and politics at Harvard until 1961, when he joined the State Department. In 1965 he left the State Departmet to become Professor of History and Founding Director of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Chicago. He is a founding director of the Middle Eastern Studies Association.