Michael Brill

4th-year Ph.D. student
Email Address: 
Office Location: 
Jones Hall

I obtained a B.A. in History and Political Science from Westfield State University in Massachusetts. There I was able to begin my study of Arabic, which I continued with the help of two summer Critical Language Scholarships (CLS) in Muscat, Oman, and Amman, Jordan. After completing my undergraduate studies, I received a full-year fellowship in the Center for Arabic Study Abroad (CASA) program in Amman, Jordan. I subsequently obtained a M.A. in the Arab Studies program in the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University.

At Princeton, my research focuses on modern Iraqi history, particularly during the Baʿthist period of 1968-2003. Topics of interest to me include militias under Saddam Hussein’s regime, the Iraqi Muslim Brotherhood, and the few hundred members of Iraq’s Jewish community who remained in the country after the early 1970s. Although my work is based primarily on the archives of Saddam’s regime, in the course of my research, I have also become very interested in the history of the various collections of documents in relation to the 1991 and 2003 wars. My dissertation research is based on the membership files of the Baʿth Party, sources that will eventually permit a collective profile of the regime’s second-tier elite. In addition to their utility for writing the social history of modern Iraq, the membership files offer an in-depth look at the human foundations of support that enabled the Baʿth Party and Saddam to remain in power longer than any of their predecessors from the time Iraq achieved independence in 1932.

Publications List: 


“The North Iraq Dataset (NIDS) files: Northern Iraq under Baʿthist Rule, 1968-1991,” International Journal of Contemporary Iraq & the Arab World, Volume 14, Numbers 1 & 2, pp. 105-126 (with Joseph Sassoon)

“The Ghosts of Past Wars Live on in a Critical Archive,” War on the Rocks (online), September 11, 2019 (with Bruce P. Montgomery),  https://warontherocks.com/2019/09/the-ghosts-of-past-wars-live-on-in-a-critical-archive/

“Saddam Did Not Create ISIS: Getting the Terrorist Group’s Origin Story Right,” Foreign Affairs (online), April 20, 2016 (with Samuel Helfont), https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/iraq/2016-04-20/saddam-did-not-create-isis

“Saddam’s ISIS?: The Terrorist Group’s Real Origin Story,” Foreign Affairs (online), January 12, 2016 (with Samuel Helfont),  https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/iraq/2016-01-12/saddams-isis