By James Hoyle.
During this time of turmoil in Iraq, it is interesting to look back at that country and its history prior to Saddam Hussein coming to power. In the British Pathé archive, there are some fascinating stories and images from that beautiful, if troubled, state. This selection of 10 films includes footage of King Feisal, the construction of Iraqi oil fields, and vintage looks at Iraqi culture.
For those wanting more recent footage from Iraq’s history, these short overviews by John Humphrys document Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1991, Operation Desert Storm, the fall of Iraq during the 2003 invasion, and the capture of Saddam Hussein by US troops.
1. BAGHDAD AND BEYOND (c.1932)
The British mandate in Iraq came to an end in 1932 after twelve years. This film presents an intriguing picture of life in Iraq at around that time, including footage of the Iraqi army.
2. A ROYAL WELCOME (1933)
Full title reads: “Dover & London. A Royal Welcome. The King and Queen, the Prince of Wales, the Duke of York, the Duke of Gloucester, Prime Minister and Officers of State, greet King Feisal of Irak on State visit for first time.”
There is an interesting outdated spelling of Iraq used in the title card.
3. IRAQ (1942)
This short little film provides a glimpse of life in Baghdad during the 1940s.
4. BOY KING OF IRAQ (1943)
Six-year-old King Feisal II tours a British military camp in Baghdad, Iraq with his uncle and regent Emir Abdul Illah. From the Second World War.
5. NEW OIL WEALTH FOR IRAQ (1952)
This newsreel concerns the opening of a new desert oil field near Basra by the Iraq Petroleum Company. The Iraqi Prime Minister, Nuri Pasha al-Said, can be seen in the film.
6. AGELESS IRAQ – PARTS ONE AND TWO (1954)
This longer film, split across two reels, was made for the Iraq Petroleum Co. in the 1950s and documents life in Iraq – its political history, traditions, industry, and its religious life.
7. KING FEISAL ENTHRONED (1953)
The Duke of Gloucester attends the enthronement of Iraq’s young King Feisal in Baghdad, 1953.
8. IRAQ BOMBSHELL (1958)
A revolution in Iraq sweeps away King Feisal and his Prime Minister. This newsreel takes a quick look at the life of the monarch, including his state visit to England and the inaugurating of an oil well at Kirkuk.
9. BRITISH TROOPS DEFEND KUWAIT (1961)
Threatened by neighbouring Iraq, Abdullah III Al-Salim Al-Sabah of Kuwait seeks protection from British forces. News story with an American commentary.
10. FIRST PICTURES – REVOLT IN IRAQ (1963)
Prime Minister Kassem of Iraq is killed during a brief revolution in 1963. American commentary.
There are simply too many interesting films to list here. Additional films can be found by searching our YouTube channel or our website. But we’ve selected this “bonus” film. It features Ernest Bevin and the Iraqi Prime Minister Sayyid Salih Jabr in Portsmouth, England at the signing of a new treaty between Iraq and the United Kingdom in 1948.