Persia in World War I and Its Conquest by Great Britain

Persia in World War I and Its Conquest by Great Britain published in 2003, is a research by Mohammad Gholi Majd, an Iranian scholar. Translated by Mustafa Amiri, it is the fifth work of the author published by the Political Studies and Research Institute (PSRI) in Iran. The Great Famine, Great Britain and Reza Shah: the Plunder of Iran, The great American plunder of Persia's antiquities and, From Qajar to Pahlavi: Iran 1919-1930 were the four works translated and published by PSRI prior to the present book. 

Majd was born on February 1945 in Tehran. He studied at San Andrea (1970), Manchester (1975) and, finished his PhD at Kernel (1978). He taught at a couple of universities in the U.S including the University of Pennsylvania (1998-1993). During these years, Dr. Majd published numerous articles in journals such as The American Journal of Agricultural Economics, The Journal of Peasant Studies, the International Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, the journal of Middle Eastern Studies and, the Middle East journal.     

According to PSRI the reason for translating and publishing Majd's works are, lack of documents of 1913-1941, utilizing the documents published in the U.S to their own benefit and, the refusal of the British ministry of defense to publish documents on occupying Iran in this period. Persia in World War I and Its Conquest by Great Britain paints a picture of the occupation of Iran by British forces, based on unpublished documents of the U.S, in 603 pages. It discloses the massacre of defenseless Iranians for the first time. Majd is the very first Iranian to do research on Pahlavi's period based on the unique documents divulged by the U.S government. Majd believes that the British prefer not to reveal the historical documents of their colonial interference and that there is no law to force them to do so. On the other hand, the government of the U.S is bounded by the law to publish the documents after a certain amount of time. If the government does not do so, then it can be brought over to court and forced to reveal the documents. 

Sanjabi tribe and Soosangerdi nomads Massacre, the repressing of the Jangal movement, the imposed presence of repressive police in the south, Fars nomads massacre, the establishment of the North police, supporting the Christian militia crossing Iran's border which lead to the mass murder of the people of Azerbaijan and, other unjust of the colonial government of Britain are discussed in this book. The author claims that World War I and the great famine in 1917-1919 are the two most dreadful catastrophes in the history of Iran after the Mughal invasion.

According to him, the famine caused by the occupation of Iran, is among the most agonizing famines in the history of Iran. However, he also believes that it would be impossible to understand the history of Iran after World War I, without thoroughly understanding this famine. The author concludes that despite the fact that Iran declared neutrality in World War I, it was undoubtedly the number one victim of the war. He goes on saying that the losses of adversary countries involved in the war are not relatively comparable with that of Iran's.

The book attempts to, lay the ambiguous moments of this period of Iran, on the line. The author offers many reasons for engaging with this issue. He claims that, the books published on this subject in 1940s, 1950s and, the past two decades, lack important political and military information. According to Majd, these books imply that the war did not have any significant effect on Iran. He notes that the last time scholars engaged with the history of Iran during World War was fifty years ago when, a few British historians wrote a few articles rejecting Miroshnikov's ideas. British historians attacked Miroshnikov with a series of articles called the Growing Dominance of the British in Iran, which were published in Russia. In response to their accusations, the Russian historian published a book called Iran in World War I in collaboration with the Russian Academy of Sciences. Observing the unfavorable situation of Iran in World War I, Miroshinkov emphasizes that due to significant incidents such as the constitutional revolution and the impact of the partition of Iran between the Russia of the Tsars and Britain, the first two decades of the 20th century were momentous in the history of Iran. Little research is done so far on the history of Iran between the two World Wars and the impact of World War I on Iran. The author examines Miroshinkov's viewpoints in The German-Turkish Threat to India: Iran's Occupation to Britain and British Intervention in Transcaucasia and Transcaspia. Majd studies Miroshnikov's perspective regarding the British scheme to keep certain aspects of this period unrevealed and, the British occupation of Iran and the Middle East under the guise of defending India. 

In chapter 13, based on the documents of the foreign ministry of America, Majd highlights the fact that during the war around 10 to 13 million Iranians died of starvation and epidemic diseases. He accounts Iran as one of the main victims of the genocide in 20th century. Majd engaged elaborately with this issue in his previous book called the Great Famine which was translated to Farsi in 2008. He scrutinized the way in which nearly 40 percent of Iran's population died out of malnutrition and its consequential diseases. No country has ever had to survive such grand losses. And still, this great famine and the Iranian genocide have stayed unknown over the course of all these years. For Iran, the consequences of World War I were not simply limited to economic crisis. Rather, Iran lost its independence and became a colony of Britain for 30 years after which America took over Iran. The British coup in 1921 led to England's 60 year dominance in Iran and the Iranians endure the reign of dictatorship for more than half a century.

The purpose of this book is to give an account of the military and political events in Iran during World War I. Great Famine and this book together cast light on the history of Iran during this war. The book is mainly based on the documents of the foreign ministry of the U.S which, not being classified anymore, are used for the first time. The second source is the British official history of the war in Mesopotamia, in four volumes, published during 1923-1927. The collection is written by Colonel Fredrick J, Moberly. It is based on British state documents. These four volumes belong to the collection History of the great war, based on official documents which contains ample information about British military operations in south of Iran especially in 1915 and 1916 and Russian military operations in 1916 and 1917. Another source is the memories of British military figures who were in Iran during the First World War and reported their memories and experiences.

Majd attempts to provide elaborate military history and political history of Iran during the First World War based on American, Russian, British, and Iranian documents, and Persian newspapers. Persia in World War I and the British Conquest is undoubtedly an admirable effort to offer an outline of the most significant events of this period.

Mahmoud Fazeli
Translated by: Jairan Gahan

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