After World War I, with the acquisition of League of Nations' Mandates, great Britain was territorially at its greatest. This climax in geographical expansion was echoed by an almost immediate decline in its power. The British Empire was waning. Nowhere was this more pronounced than in Iraq where Britain had played an increasingly ambiguous role right from the beginning of the military occupation until the Revolution of 1958. The Kurdish north of the country - Kurdistan - was a perfect microcosm of that ambiguity, with all the complications specific to that region played out against a background of world politics: a fascinating vantage point from which to watch the dwindling of the Empire. Wallace Lyon was Provincial Administrator and Administrative Inspector in that region between 1918 and 1945. His job was to administer what at the time was a fairly wild and remote province, while protecting the Kurds from a predatory and unstable Iraq and safeguarding British imperial interests in the area. The briefing would have been impossible but for an in-depth understanding of and natural respect for the family, tribal and religious ties that defined the area's complex social structures. Nor would it have been possible without Lyon's personal courage and immediate empathy for what he saw as 'his' people. Lyon was not an example of the decline of the British Empire, but rather an exemplar of the qualities that it hoped to breed in its servants.
Kurds, Arabs and Britons
The Memoir of Col.W.A.Lyon in Kurdistan, 1918-1945