In 1917, after centuries Ottoman rule, the British marched into Baghdad and conquered the city.
The British victory over the Ottomans led to Iraq being ruled as a British mandate from the end of the war until the country gained its independence in 1932. The mandatory period was marked by a country-wide insurgency that the British used exceedingly harsh measures to suppress, including the use of aerial bombardments against alleged insurgent villages.
The British presence in the country still left behind a wealth of archaeological discoveries, as well as photographic material showing what life was like in the the heart of the Middle East nearly 100 years ago.
Baghdad was a much different city back then. One-third of Baghdad’s population was Jewish before World War I and by mid-century the city had a population of barely more than a half-million people. Today, Shi’ite Muslims dominate the city’s demographics, and Baghdad had a population of over 5.5 million.
Baghdad has also turned into perhaps the most violent of the world’s mega-cities thanks to a recent history that includes Saddam Hussein’s rule, the US invasion of the country, and the more recent war against ISIS.
But when this footage was taken, that was all decades away.
Below are stills from a British film showing what Baghdad looked like between 1917 and 1920.
After conquering Baghdad, a number of British military officers stayed in the city to oversee operations. Below is Lieutenant-General Sir William R. Marshall.
British troops were heavily augmented in Iraq by the presence of Indian soldiers.
Daily continued as normal in Baghdad even with the presence of the British. Here, ships sail along the Tigris River.
At the time, bridges connecting the two sides of Baghdad on the Tigris were significantly smaller than the current multi-lane highways that criss-cross the river.
Iraqi men continued to gather in tea houses on the banks of the Tigris to drink tea and socialize.
Iraqi men visited street barbers for hair cuts and shaves.
The full historic video is below.
H/t Joel Wing
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