Numbering between 25 and 35 million worldwide, the Kurds are among the largest culturally and ethnically distinct people to remain stateless. A People Without a State offers an in-depth survey of an identity that has often been igred in mainstream historiographies of the Middle East and brings to life the historical, social, and political developments in Kurdistani society over the past millennium. Michael Eppel begins with the myths and realities of the origins of the Kurds, describes the effect upon them of medieval Muslim states under Arab, Persian, and Turkish dominance, and recounts the emergence of tribal-feudal dynasties. He explores in detail the subsequent rise of Kurdish emirates, as well as this people's literary and linguistic developments, particularly the flourishing of poetry. The turning tides of the nineteenth century, including Ottoman reforms and fluctuating Russian influence after the Crimean War, set in motion an early Kurdish nationalism that further expressed a distinct cultural identity. Stateless, but rooted in the region, the Kurds never achieved independence because of geopolitical conditions, tribal rivalries, and obstacles on the way to modernization. A People Without a State captures the developments that netheless forged a vast sociopolitical system.
Michael Eppel is professor emeritus at the University of Haifa and Oranim College of Education. He is the author of The Palestine Conflict in the History of Modern Iraq and Iraq from Monarchy to Tyranny.