This study analyses British and local Iraqi elites' efforts to avoid social revolution through promotion of economic development during the last years of the Iraqi monarchy. Discussing the complex set-up of domestic Iraqi elites and their ambiguous relations with British officials in Iraq, it argues that the structural composition of the Iraqi state itself is an important explanatory factor for the swift overthrow of the old regime in 1958. Using British archival records, this article analyses the politics of avoiding reform and promoting economic development to which Iraqi elites and the British were privy. It shows how economistic ideas of 'modernisation' and economic growth were believed to be the solution to Iraq's endemic problems of social unrest and politicisation of large parts of the population. Arguing that increased wealth through oil-fuelled development programmes would ultimately trickle down to all strata of the population and thus stave off the danger of revolution, the British failed to realise that Iraq's structural setup with its unscrupulous politicians and wealthy landowners at the apex of power, along with an all-permeating patronage system, effectively hampered any dispersal of what little new wealth was generated through these projects.