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16 May 2019

Celebrating King Edward VIII’s Birthday at the Bahrain Political Agency

On 23 June 1936 the Bahrain Political Agency held an official ceremony in celebration of King Edward VIII’s birthday. Announcing it as an official holiday, the Agency made a series of arrangements to mark the occasion. It is clear that the Agency was keen to make the occasion as inclusive and organised as it could be. Arabic invitation cards were ordered from the Times Press Limited at Baghdad and Basra.

Bahrain - Edward VIII birthday 1IOR/R/15/2/1663, f 30

Bahrain - Edward VIII birthday 2IOR/R/15/2/1663, f 32

The Agency sent personal invitations to members of the Bahrain Government including Shaikhs ‘Abdullah bin ‘Isa and Salman bin Hamad Al-Khalifa.

Bahrain - Edward VIII birthday 3IOR/R/15/2/1663, f 37

Messrs Jashanmal (now Jashanmal Department Stores, Bahrain) supplied the Agency with refreshments including Nice biscuits, sherbet, chocolate, crystallised cherries, and Mackintosh toffees. Whereas Messrs Ashraf Brothers (now Ashrafs W.L.L.) supplied coffee, rose water, nuts and plates.

Bahrain - Edward VIII birthday 4IOR/R/15/2/1663, f 43 
 

Bahrain - Edward VIII birthday 5IOR/R/15/2/1663, f 44

To ensure everyone’s loyalty to the British Crown, the Agency invited representatives of various ethnic and religious communities living in Bahrain including Arabs, Persians, Hindu and Jewish. Indeed this could also display a British attempt to show an inclusive policy towards everyone in Bahrain.

Bahrain - Edward VIII birthday 6IOR/R/15/2/1663, f 60

A list of names was circulated among the invitees. In turn, each invitee left a note near his name either to confirm or apologise. In some cases, certain individuals sent letters of apology, like the one sent by Mr ‘Abdul ‘Aziz al-Qusaibi.

Bahrain - Edward VIII birthday 7IOR/R/15/2/1663, f 48

Bahrain - Edward VIII birthday 8IOR/R/15/2/1663, f 45

On the day, the Agency received its special guests by placing a guard of honour to wait for them at the door. After serving coffee and other refreshments, a number of invitees read out their letters of congratulation. The assistants of the heads of the Manama and Muharraq Municipalities read out the letters on behalf of their municipalities.

Bahrain - Edward VIII birthday 9IOR/R/15/2/1663, f 54

Bahrain - Edward VIII birthday 10IOR/R/15/2/1663, f 55

Others read out their letters on behalf of their companies or communities. These include Mullah Hasan bin al-Shaikh al-Majed, representing the Arab Bahrainis; Ghanshamdas Dhamanmal Isardas, representing the Hindu; and Mir Daoud Rouben, representing the Jewish community in Bahrain.
 

Bahrain - Edward VIII birthday 11IOR/R/15/2/1663, f 58

Bahrain - Edward VIII birthday 12IOR/R/15/2/1663, f 59

Further, both Haji Abdun Nabi Bushehri, representing the Iranian Shi‘a community; and Haji Muhammad Tayeb Khunji, representing the Iranian Sunni community read out their tabriknameh [congratulation letters] in Persian.

Bahrain - Edward VIII birthday 13IOR/R/15/2/1663, f 56

Bahrain - Edward VIII birthday 14IOR/R/15/2/1663, f 57

The language used in these letters reflected the purpose of the invitation in the first place. The letters were in praise of the British Empire, and all wishing King Edward VIII to live long and be prosperous. The similarity of their wordings display nothing but loyalty to the British Crown. Ironically, only six months after the occasion, Edward VIII abdicated on 11 December 1936 and soon his loyalty to the British Crown became a matter of dispute among many.

Ula Zeir
Content Specialist/ Arabic Language
British Library/Qatar Foundation Partnership Programme

Further reading
IOR/R/15/2/1663 'File 20/1- Vol: III Ceremonial and Celebrations: New Year's and King's Birthday's Celebrations.'
Edward VIII

14 May 2019

Henry Stubbe: Islam and religious toleration in Restoration England

Stephen Noble examines the life of Henry Stubbe (1632-1676), physician and writer, and his manuscripts concerning Islam in the Harley Collection.

Henry Stubbe was financially assisted through his education by Henry Vane the Younger, Puritan and Parliamentarian, and after taking his M.A. from Christ Church, Oxford in 1656, Stubbe wrote many texts in support of Vane’s ideas. However, come the Restoration, Vane was arrested and eventually beheaded for his role in the execution of Charles I, and Stubbe left Oxford for Stratford-upon-Avon, establishing himself as a physician.

Henry Stubbe Image 1
'The Rise and Progress of Mahometanism', by Henry Stubbe, Harley MS 6189, f. 1.

This did not deter Stubbe from his writing. He had a wide range of interests and after 1660 he started to write on more diverse topics, including a discourse concerning chocolate published in 1662. His abilities were highly regarded in his time. He was described by the antiquary Anthony Wood in Athenae Oxonienses as ‘the most noted Latinist and Grecian’, and ‘thoroughly read in all political matters’.

Henry Stubbe Image 2
Henry Stubbe, The Indian Nectar, or a Discourse Concerning Chocolata (London, 1662), 1651/1620.

Perhaps Stubbe’s most radical piece of work is a text on the Life of Muhammad and a defence of Islam, usually known as Account of the rise and progress of Mahometanism. Four complete manuscript versions of this text are known to exist today, two of which are found within the collections of Robert and Edward Harley, and have recently been added to our online catalogue (Harley MS 1876 and Harley MS 6189).

English intellectual engagement with Islam grew in the 17th century as trade with the Ottoman Empire increased and more manuscript sources became available. Stubbe’s text, written around 1671, is one of the earliest English works to portray Islam sympathetically. Stubbe researched his topic extensively, as shown by the number of references found in the margins of the manuscripts, and presents a history of Islam and the life of Muhammad which is surprisingly free of bias.

Henry Stubbe Image 3
'An account of the Life of Mahomet', by Henry Stubbe, Harley MS 1876, f. 13

In the text, Stubbe highlights the tolerance shown towards Christians living in Muslim domains, and uses this to comment on English attitudes to other religions. Toleration was a contentious issue in England at this time. The probability of a Catholic King (James Stuart, brother of Charles II), growing numbers of Protestant dissenters, including Unitarians, and the resettlement of Jews in England by Oliver Cromwell, had led to discussions on the possibility of accepting other religions worshiping openly. Thinkers like John Locke and Thomas Hobbes, both contemporaries of Stubbe, wrote on the subject, as had Stubbe himself in An Essay in Defence of the good old Cause (1659), where he urges ‘an Universal Toleration’.

Henry Stubbe Image 4
Letter from Henry Stubbe to Thomas Hobbes, 25 October 1656, Add MS 32553, f. 9

Stubbe argues that Muhammad was a wise leader, and draws parallels between Islam and Early Christianity. Stubbe believed that the Christian church had drifted too far from the Early Christian teachings found in the Gospels, thanks to the introduction of doctrines such as Trinitarianism. Stubbe rejected these doctrines and, in Islam, he found a model for a radical civil religion, tolerant of dissenters.

Stubbe does not appear to have tried to publish this work in his lifetime and it remained unpublished until 1911, around 240 years after it was written.

Stephen Noble
Modern Archives and Manuscripts

Follow us on Twitter @BL_ModernMSS

Further Reading:

Henry Stubbe, An account of the rise and progress of Mahometanism, ed. by Hafiz Mahmud Khan Shairani (London: Luzac & Co., 1911)

Henry Stubbe, Henry Stubbe and the Beginnings of Islam: The Originall & Progress of Mahometanism, ed. by Nabil Matar (New York: Columbia University Press, 2014)

P. M. Holt, A Seventeenth-Century Defender of Islam: Henry Stubbe (1632-76) and his Book (London: Dr. Williams’s Trust, 1972)

James R. Jacob, Henry Stubbe, radical Protestantism and the early Enlightenment (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983)

09 May 2019

King Charles & Mr Perkins - Part Two

We continue our story about King Charles & Mr Perkins, a science fiction/historical novel written by retired British diplomat Albert Charles Wratislaw.  Robert Perkins, a former army officer of the First World War, inherits his father’s time machine and travels back in time to October 1666.

King Charles Crace c13441-09John Ogilby presenting a book of subscriptions for a survey to Charles II and his queen. Maps.Crace.Port.2.58 Noc
Images Online 

During his year in Restoration England, Robert becomes a favourite at the royal court.  He politely declines the advances of Barbara Palmer, Countess of Castlemaine, warns Charles about the Dutch navy’s unexpected raid on the Medway and, in an interesting subplot, pays several visits to John Milton, helping him to get his recently completed Paradise Lost past the Church’s censors.

Robert finds himself in trouble when George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham, tricks him into accepting the challenge of a game of tennis with the King.  Determined not to lose a thousand pounds to Buckingham, Robert tries to narrowly beat Charles, in the hope of sparing the latter’s embarrassment and retaining his own position at court.  Late in the final set, in a fit of rage following some grossly unfair decisions by the biased umpire, Robert unleashes an aggressive serve which hits Charles square in the solar plexus. Robert is immediately banished to the Tower. 

George-Villiers-2nd-Duke-of-BuckinghamGeorge Villiers, 2nd Duke of Buckingham by Sir Peter Lely, circa 1675 NPG 279 © National Portrait Gallery, London

During his imprisonment in the Tower, Robert receives a visit from his doppelgänger: his ancestor George Perkins, owner of Eastern Manor, Suffolk, and Member of Parliament for the borough of St Edmundsbury, who had chanced to witness the fateful tennis match during a visit to Whitehall.  Robert accepts an invitation to stay with George for a month at the family estate following his release from the Tower.  After a pleasant stay in his ancestral home, Robert returns to London and, upon checking his funds, discovers that he is virtually penniless.  When he attempts to trade in a Perkins family heirloom (a Commonwealth pendant that he had taken back in time with him in case of emergency), his jeweller, an Alderman of the City of London, has him arrested, claiming that the pendant was made on his premises ten years earlier for George Perkins.  Robert is taken to Newgate Prison before facing trial several days later at the Old Bailey, where he is sentenced to death for stealing the diamond pendant from the house of his ancestor.  In a final twist, Robert is saved from certain death when he is transported back to the present day a few seconds before being hanged at Tyburn.

Newgate 081807Plan of Newgate Prison Maps.Crace.8.84  Noc Images Online 

As is to be expected, the language of the novel is rather dated, as are its attitudes towards women.  It is not a great work of literature by any means, but it appears to be well-researched, and it is significant for being the first and (to this writer’s knowledge) only science fiction novel to have been written by a former British consul.

David Fitzpatrick
Content Specialist, Archivist, British Library/Qatar Foundation Partnership

Further reading:
King Charles & Mr Perkins - Part One
A C Wratislaw, King Charles & Mr Perkins (Edinburgh and London: William Blackwood & Sons Ltd, 1931)
Details of A C Wratislaw’s career, including photographs, can be found here and here, on the Levantine Heritage Foundation’s website.