Enemy on the Euphrates

Enemy on the Euphrates

The Battle for Iraq, 1914–1921

9780863561702 June 2015 Paperback 512pp 7 maps 15 b & w photographs

About the Book

In 1920 an Arab revolt came perilously close to inflicting a shattering defeat upon the British Empire’s forces occupying Iraq after the Great War. A huge peasant army besieged British garrisons and bombarded them with captured artillery. British columns and armoured trains were ambushed and destroyed, and gunboats were captured or sunk. Britain’s quest for oil was one of the principal reasons for its continuing occupation of Iraq. However, with around 131,000 Arabs in arms at the height of the conflict, the British were very nearly driven out. Only a massive infusion of Indian troops prevented a humiliating rout.

Enemy on the Euphrates is the definitive account of the most serious armed uprising against British rule in the twentieth century. Bringing central players such as Winston Churchill, T. E. Lawrence and Gertrude Bell vividly to life, Ian Rutledge’s masterful account is a powerful reminder of how Britain’s imperial objectives sowed the seeds of Iraq’s tragic history.

About the Author

Ian Rutledge is an economist, historian and Arabist. He obtained his undergraduate degree and PhD in Economic History from the University of Cambridge. Previously an Honorary Senior Research Fellow at Sheffield University’s Management School, he has taught at the Universities of London and Sheffield, and for the Workers’ Educational Association. Rutledge has contributed numerous papers to academic journals, including the Cambridge Journal of Economics, and has published articles in national newspapers such as the Financial Times and The Guardian. His other works include the critically acclaimed Enemy on the Euphrates: The Battle for Iraq, 1914–1921 (by Saqi Books) and Addicted to Oil: America’s Relentless Drive for Energy Security.


‘Ian Rutledge’s brilliant book reveals the folly and delusion of invading Iraq. Read it and shudder.’
Nicholas Rankin

‘Ian Rutledge has researched Britain’s concern about Shia power in southern Iraq, where Basra’s oil lies – material with acute relevance to the crisis now tearing Iraq to pieces.’
Robert Fisk, Independent

‘[A] well-crafted and lively account … While offering abundant detail on military operations, lines of communications and warfare tactics, Enemy on the Euphrates also makes for a very lively and human-centred read of imperial history. Populated by a remarkable crowd of spies, diplomats, soldiers, clerics and tribal leaders, Rutledge’s account displays almost a novelist’s taste for intrigue, espionage, gunboat diplomacy, personal hardship and murder.’
BBC History Magazine

‘An excellently produced book that admirably succeeds in illuminating an important episode in British imperial history’
History Today

‘Fascinating, lively and very readable'
Charles Tripp

‘The description of the military campaign is masterful, and the narrative of the campaign maintains a high level of suspense.’
Peter Sluglett

‘[A] rare treasure that combines a fascinating account of important historical events with penetrating geopolitical analysis. Anyone seeking an understanding of the role of oil in shaping modern Middle Eastern history will want to read this book.’
Michael Klare

'A sobering, thoughtful, brilliantly-written book ... Excellent.'
The Long, Long Trail

‘Much of Enemy on the Euphrates reads like a great adventure story, proving how fascinating history can be ... A rare combination of in-depth information, fairness of analysis and readability, reinforced by excellent maps.’
Jordan Times

‘A timely reminder of how we got here … An important book’
The National

‘A very useful contribution to the understanding of modern Iraq.’
Middle East Media and Book Reviews Online

‘Highly readable, lively and dramatic. [Rutledge] presents fascinating accounts of the main British and Iraqi personalities involved in the narrative and the conflicts that sometimes erupted between them’

‘A fast-moving account of the uprising which continues to reverberate across Iraqi politics a century later … Rutledge guides the reader through the twists and turns of British policies towards Iraq with clarity and aplomb … Enemy on the Euphrates should become required reading for officials in London – and Washington DC – as they contemplate yet another military foray into Iraq.’
Kristian Coates Ulrichsen, International Affairs