This thesis examines Britain's use of technology in developing Mesopotamia. British imaginations of Mesopotamia as Eden or El Dorado, reified by a multiplicity of travel literature,archaeological digs, and geographic societies, formed the first half of a violent dialectic that granted divine right and responsibility to the British. Instead, colonialists claimed that Mesopotamia's inhabitants squandered its primordial potential through neglect and mismanagement. These justifications fueled British attempts to develop Mesopotamia, irrigation engineers designing floodgates for the Tigris and Euphrates while agriculturalists created new strains of wheat that would flourish in its climate. But technology was more than development. It formed the foundation of a polemic leading to prolonged aerial bombardment and discipline; if modernism could resurrect the Garden, airplanes would tend and cultivate it. Therefore, the value of aircraft was not restricted to its ability for disciplining a population. Planes were physical manifestations of the British colonial project, flying articulations of the modern that sanctioned violence against the "primitive". They were the latest mechanisms to embody the narrative of English supremacy and the latest conversation topics in British high society.


Middle East Studies Center

Degree Name

MA in Middle East Studies

Graduation Date


Submission Date

December 2019

First Advisor

Kazziha, Walid

Committee Member 1

Kazziha, Walid

Committee Member 2

Sherene, Seikaly


104 p.

Document Type

Master's Thesis


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Institutional Review Board (IRB) Approval

Not necessary for this item


Research grant from the Middle East Studies Center to travel to the British National Archives in Kew Gardens.