The Svoboda Diaries Project at the University of Washington

The Svoboda Diaries Project ( is working to bring an important collection of primary source documents from 19th century Iraq into the 21st century. The Project is an arm of the Newbook Digital Texts project ( at the University of Washington, one of TAARII’s institutional members.

The Project team is currently working to transcribe the diaries of Joseph Mathia Svoboda. Joseph was a clerk aboard a Lynch Brothers Steamship, and kept an extensive diary from 1860 until his death in 1908. The Project’s undergraduate interns are at work transcribing 46 volumes of Joseph’s diaries for prompt and inexpensive publication. In conjunction with the transcription and eventual publication of the diaries, Project staff are also working to assemble a wiki-style biographical encyclopedia of the Svoboda family and the many people with whom they interacted, which they have titled the “Svobodapedia.” Recent graduate student research utilizing these diaries has focused on Ottoman public health institutions as well as kinship networks and political power on the Ottoman-Qajar frontier. The Project staff welcomes the support and contributions of other scholars and anyone else interested in Iraq or in life in 19th-century Baghdad, and are open to any comments, corrections, or additional information.

The Svoboda Diaries Project is also pleased to announce that their first print publication is now available. The book is entitled From Bagdad to Paris: 1897  Journal of a Journey to Europe by Land Road via Damascus and Beirut. It is a first-person account of a journey undertaken in 1897 by a 19-year-old resident of Baghdad named Alexander Richard Svoboda, Joseph Mathia Svoboda’s son. The son of a wealthy and influential family of European merchants and artists, Alexander describes the day-to-day details of his lengthy voyage in the local Christian Arabic dialect. The text of the book is bilingual, with a transcription of the original Arabic text and an English translation by Nowf Allawi. Walter G. Andrews of the University of Washington edited the text and contributed the introduction.

Alexander Richard Svoboda

For more information, please contact Kearby Chess at or Walter Andrews at

Fellow Update: Jill Goldenziel (2010 US TAARII Fellow)

I am immensely grateful to have received a TAARII grant, which enabled me to complete research for my forthcoming book on refugees and U.S. foreign policy. A related article, “Regulating Human Rights: International Organizations, Flexible Standards, and International Refugee Law,” was recently published in the Chicago Journal of International Law. The article explains how international organizations can improve human rights outcomes under conditions where treaty regimes have failed. By using their authority to create more flexible standards than those contained in international human rights law, facilitating linkage of human rights practices to economic incentives, and providing valuable legal cover for state actions, international organizations may succeed in getting even rogue states to improve their human rights practices. I develop this argument in the context of the U.N. Refugee Agency’s management of the post-2003 Iraqi refugee crisis in Jordan and Syria. I also present examples of how international organizations might serve as regulators of human rights in other contexts.

Read the entire article here:

You can learn more about Dr. Goldenziel here:

Fellow Update: Brandon Wolfe-Hunnicutt (2011 US TAARII Fellow)

I am very grateful for the research opportunities that the TAARII fellowship provided. My Ph.D. dissertation, “The End of the Concessionary Regime: Oil and American Power in Iraq, 1958–1972” (Stanford University, 2011), would not have been possible without the generous funding provided by TAARII. The TAARII fellowship allowed me to travel to the British Petroleum archive at Warwick University in Coventry England, and then on to the American University in Beirut where I conducted research on manuscripts and memoirs of Iraqi exiles who settled in Beirut in the 1970s.

These resources were invaluable to my dissertation research as they offered insight into the processes institution building in Iraq that allowed for the complete nationalization of the Iraq Petroleum Company (IPC) at a relatively early date (1972–75).

Since completing my dissertation, I’ve begun teaching U.S. and Middle East History at the University of California, Merced. Teaching offers its own rewards and challenges, and I’ve particularly enjoyed having the opportunity to teach the history of Iraq. Undergraduate students tend to come into the class with a great many preconceived notions about history of Iraq, many of which are problematic, and I’m honored to have the opportunity to offer a deeper and more realistic understanding of modern Iraqi history.

I’ve also been working on publishing my research. My article, “Embracing Regime Change: US Foreign Policy and the 1963 Coup in Iraq” was recently accepted for publication by the editors of Diplomatic History and will be forthcoming in 2014. The article expands on research that I began while working on my dissertation, but includes many additional sources that I came across while a TAARII fellow. My article contributes to a growing body of scholarship on the 1963 coup and the question of U.S. involvement. Those interested in this subject might want to also consult several pieces of recent scholarship including: Weldon Matthews, “The Kennedy Administration, Counterinsurgency, and Iraq’s First Ba‘thist Regime,” International Journal of Middle East Studies 43, no. 4 (2011): 635–53; Johan Franzén, Red Star over Iraq: Iraqi Communism Before Saddam (New York: Columbia University Press, 2011); Eric Jacobsen, “A Coincidence of Interests: Kennedy, U.S. Assistance, and the 1963 Iraqi Ba’th Regime,” Diplomatic History 37:5 (May 2013): 1029–59. I am also currently revising my dissertation for publication by incorporating new sources, reorganizing the chapter presentation, and situating the analysis of U.S.-Iraqi relations in the 1958–1972 period within a broader historical context.

I would be very happy to talk with interested scholars about my research, the TARRII fellowship, or recent developments in the field. I can be reached at

Images of Iraq: Shanadar Park in Erbil

View of the historic Citadel of Erbil (Photo credit: Beth Kangas, 2013)

View of the historic Citadel of Erbil (Photo credit: Beth Kangas, 2013)

Shanadar Park in Erbil (Photo credit: Beth Kangas, 2013)

Shanadar Park in Erbil (Photo credit: Beth Kangas, 2013)

A "cave" in Shanadar Park that houses an art gallery (Photo credit: Beth Kangas, 2013)

A “cave” in Shanadar Park that houses an art gallery (Photo credit: Beth Kangas, 2013)

A cable car above Shanadar Park in Erbil (Photo credit: Beth Kangas, 2013)

A cable car above Shanadar Park in Erbil (Photo credit: Beth Kangas, 2013)




Newsletter Update!

Are you a TAARII member? If so, you have probably been expecting your fall newsletter, issue 08-02. However, to better reflect TAARII’s activities and sponsored events, the newsletter schedule has changed. Instead of the fall issue hitting mailboxes in the same fall, the issue will reflect the activities from the fall. Therefore, the fall 2013 newsletter will be in mailboxes in early spring 2014 and will report on all of the conferences, activities, and other events of fall 2013. The spring newsletter will similarly shift; it will be in members’ mailboxes by early fall and will reflect activities of the spring. As always, our newsletters will also contain contributions from current/former fellows and others working to further the field of Iraqi/Mesopotamian studies.

If you would like to contribute to the TAARII newsletter (and we hope you will), please take note of the new submission deadlines:

The deadline for submission to the spring newsletters is APRIL 1 of each year.

The deadline for submission to the fall newsletters is NOVEMBER 1 of each year.

To submit an article to the newsletter (or to the blog!), please email To get more information about becoming a TAARII member in order to receive hard copies of the newsletter, email

To view PDFs of previous newsletters, visit our website.

Our Institutional Members: University of Washington

The University of Washington has offered Middle East language and area courses for more than 100 years. With over sixty faculty members conducting research and teaching on the Middle East, the institution has broad and deep coverage of Middle East languages and area studies. In addition to the modern languages of the Middle East, the University offers courses in ancient Middle East languages including Akkadian and Aramaic. Middle East coursework ranges across the departments of Anthropology, Art History, Communications, Comparative Religion, Economics, English, Ethnomusicology, Geography, Global Health, History, Information, International Studies, Jewish Studies, Law, Linguistics, Music, Near East Languages and Civilization, Oceanography, Political Science, Sociology, Social Work, and Women Studies. The University of Washington offers area-specific Middle East degree programs as follows: (1) BA and MA degrees in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilization; (2) undergraduate minor and MA degree in the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies; (3) Ph.D. degree in the Interdisciplinary Near and Middle East Program; and (4) Middle East-focused BA, MA, and Ph.D. degrees in disciplinary departments.

Prominent among University of Washington faculty who work on Iraq are:

  • Walter G. Andrews, Research Professor, Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilization, and Director of the Svoboda Diaries Project
  • Arbella Bet-Shlimon, Assistant Professor, Department of History, a specialist in the history of twentieth-century Iraq. She currently has a book in progress on city of Kirkuk since World War I.
  • Terri De Young, Associate Professor of Modern Arabic Literature, Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilization, a specialist in the modern poetry of Iraq and author of Placing the Poet: Badr Shakir Al-Sayyab and Postcolonial Iraq
  • Joel Walker, Associate Professor, Department of History, a specialist in the late antique Middle East and author of The Legend of Mar Qardagh: Narrative and Christian Heroism in Late Antique Iraq

Recent graduate student research on Iraq has included work on such diverse topics as: state responses to Iraqi refugees; Muqtada al Sadr and the competition for power in Iraq; Turkish foreign policy and the Iraq war; social networks in nineteenth-century Iraq; and disease and medicine in Iraq.

Fellow Update: Dina Khoury (2007 & 2008 US TAARII Fellow)

TAARII funded two research trips to Jordan (2007) and Syria (2009) to conduct interviews with Iraqi veterans of the Iran-Iraq and the First Gulf wars. These interviews formed part of the research for my book, Iraq in Wartime, Soldiering, Martyrdom and Remembrance (Cambridge University Press, 2013). In Amman, TAARII’s Senior Research Fellow, Lucine Taminian, was very helpful in providing contacts and facilitating my research. TAARII runs the Iraqi Oral History Project, which aims at collecting the testimonies of Iraqis who have lived through the momentous events of the twentieth century. Lucine plays an important part in that project and she was ready with advice as to what to expect. The interviews I conducted were crucial for the argument I made in the book and in giving me an understanding of the centrality of the Iraq-Iran War in shaping the sensibility of a whole generation in Iraq. It also allowed me to understand the impact of violence on the lives of Iraqis in a manner that would have been difficult to comprehend had I not had a chance to conduct these interviews. Please check this link for more on the book and a sample interview:

Fellow Update: Amy Gansell (2012 US TAARII Fellow)

On March 6, 2013, Amy Gansell gave a lecture entitled, “Concepts of Feminine Beauty and Adornment in Ancient Mesopotamia Illuminated through Near Eastern Cultural Practices of the Twentieth-century to the Present,” for the Department of Social Science & Cultural Studies at the Pratt Institute. Professor Gansell was a Visiting Assistant Professor in Pratt’s History of Art and Design department. Her talk showed images of her project on queenly adornment. A video of her lecture is available here.

Our Institutional Members: University of Toronto

The University of Toronto has become a new institutional member of TAARII due to its active Mesopotamian and modern Middle East studies programs and commitment to the American Overseas Research Centers.

The University of Toronto has a strong core of faculty, undergraduate and graduate students, courses, and programs in ancient and Middle Eastern Islamic Studies. It is especially strong in ancient, medieval, and modern Iraq. The library holdings on Iraq are comprehensive, and the University has a history of active fieldwork in Iraq.

Its relevant faculty include: Clemens Reichel (Mesopotamian Archaeology), Amir Harrak (Aramaic and Syriac), Paul-Alain Beaulieu (Assyriology), James Reilly (Modern Middle East), Ed Keall (Islamic Archaeology), Doug Frayne (Sumerology), Victor Ostapchuk (Ottoman History).