"Ida Staudt’s memoir presents a fascinating window into Iraqi society in an era of profound change. Her pages abound with captivating vignettes of the human diversity of ‘old Baghdad’ with its Mandean silversmiths and Kurdish porters, a Turkish belly dancer at a Jewish wedding, even a visit with King Faisal’s Circassian grandmother. With a keen and sometimes prescient eye, Staudt also chronicles how the combined forces of technology, the discovery of oil, and the Second World War were beginning to transform the Iraq she knew and loved."—Joel Walker, author of The Legend of Mar Qardagh: Narrative and Christian Heroism in Late Antique Iraq
"Shows how an intelligent, energetic American woman from the early twentieth century interacted open-mindedly and warmheartedly with a very different culture, and it gives us a sense of what Iraq could have become, if history had taken another course."—Judith Caesar, author of Writing Off the Beaten Track: Reflections on the Meaning of Travel and Culture in the Middle East
In 1924, an adventurous young couple accepted a commission to open an American school for boys in Baghdad. Setting foot on Iraqi soil the very day that the Constituent Assembly convened in Baghdad to frame a constitution for the new nation, Ida Staudt and her husband Calvin witnessed the birth of this fledgling country. For the next twenty-three years, they taught hundreds of young boys whose ethnicity, religious background, and economic status were as varied as the region itself. Cultivating strong bonds with their students and their families, the Staudts were welcomed into their lives and homes, ranging from the royal palace to refugee huts and Bedouin tents.
In her enlightening memoir, Staudt skillfully interweaves the political and historical setting with personal anecdotes, recalling the people she encountered and the places she explored. With vivid descriptions, she relates the complexities of the people, the grandeur of the antiquities, and the beauty of the region’s topography. Living in Romantic Baghdad evokes the city, the villages, and the communities of Iraq, capturing a unique chapter in modern Iraqi history, one marked by pluralism and tolerance, and putting a human face on a largely misunderstood country.
About the Author
John Joseph is professor emeritus at Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He graduated from the American School for Boys in Baghdad in 1941 and taught at the school’s intermediate division for four years.
Series: Contemporary Issues in the Middle East
6 x 9, 278 pages, 5 black and white illustrations