Untold lives blog

97 posts categorized "Qatar"

24 June 2020

A fraudulent shipwreck

When Commander John Porter heard of a case of shipwreck in the summer of 1843, there seemed to be nothing remarkable about the case.  Shipwrecks were common, and navigation in the Gulf could be dangerous.  But this shipwreck was different.  Porter went to offer what assistance he could to the stricken ship, the Mary Mallaby (also written Mary Mullaby).  He offered to assist Captain Charles Fisher with attempting to refloat his ship, which he thought would be possible.  Instead, Fisher rejected his offer, and insisted on selling the Mary Mallaby to the Shaikh of Qeshm.

Bandar Abbas from the sea

Bandar ‘Abbas from the sea - image from Philip Howard Colomb, Slave-Catching in the Indian Ocean (London, 1873) BL flickr

The ship’s log records that when the ship ran ashore, a ‘party of Arabs’ arrived in a small boat to offer assistance, but then refused to help by taking the anchor.  A few of them stayed on board overnight, but in the morning, they had vanished – along with two treasure boxes.

Fisher’s version of events differed markedly from that of the Shaikh of Bandar ‘Abbas.  Fisher claimed the Shaikh had refused to help, whereas the Shaikh claimed he had assisted as much as he was able to, given that it was the date harvesting season, and indeed countered that some of his offers of help had been refused.  Fisher even went so far as to object to the Shaikh sending the letter to Porter informing him about the wreck.

Brigantine by Oswald Walters Brierly - National Maritime Museum'A Brigantine' by Oswald Walters Brierly - image courtesy of National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London PAD9215 

Looking into the circumstances of the wreck carefully made Porter more suspicious.  The ship had run aground at a location that had been properly mapped, and yet Fisher had not let go the anchor early enough.  The incident had occurred during the afternoon, in calm, sunny weather.  He had then hoisted his sails, driving his ship further on shore.  Both the crew and the people watching on shore agreed that it looked deliberate.

Following the event, more facts began to emerge.  Fisher was seen in Muscat retrieving a chronometer and a sextant which he had left there before the incident, and which could have been damaged by the sudden impact of the wreck.  A traveller on the same ship to India as Fisher and his wife heard her say that her husband told her to hold tight just before they hit the shore.

Letter from the Chief Secretary at Bombay Castle  20 March 1844 to Captain Samuel Hennell  Resident in the Persian Gulf  giving his suspicions about Fisher

Letter from the Chief Secretary at Bombay Castle, 20 March 1844 to Captain Samuel Hennell, Resident in the Persian Gulf, giving his suspicions about Fisher IOR/R/15/1/102, f. 34r

The final piece of evidence came when two treasure boxes matching Fisher’s description were dredged up from the wreck site while the new owner of the Mary Mallaby, Sultan Thuwaini bin Sa’id, was looking for the anchor that had been lost.  These were carefully carried to be opened in the presence of the shaikhs of Bandar ‘Abbas and Qeshm, and all other local dignitaries, including Captain James Cromer of the Columbia.  Cromer described the opening of the boxes, and the astonishment of the room, when they were found to contain only copper dross ‘such as I have sometimes seen ships have for ballast’.  The opinion of the Bombay Government was clear: this was attempted fraud, and they conveyed as much to Fisher’s insurers.

Anne Courtney
Gulf History Cataloguer -British Library/Qatar Foundation Partnership

Further reading:
The story of the Mary Mallaby is told over multiple files: IOR/R/15/1/100; IOR/R/15/1/102; IOR/R/15/1/103, which are all available on the Qatar Digital Library.

Articles about the insurance fraud case can be found in the British Newspaper Archive - also available from Findmypast.

 

15 June 2020

The mystery of the Roebuck

The records of the Marine Department of the India Office (IOR/L/MAR) include logs and journals from thousands of voyages made by East India Company ships.  It also contains a mystery.  Here is what the records tell us about the Roebuck, a ship that appears to have been in two places at once.

Inscription at the start of the Journal of Henry CrosbyInscription at the start of ‘The Jornall of Henry Crosbye’ (IOR/L/MAR/A/XXIX f 7) Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

IOR/L/MAR/A/XXIX is a journal kept by Henry Crosby during journeys on three ships between 1619 and 1624.  As appears to have been common practice at the time, the ship’s journal went with its writer when he changed vessels rather than remaining with the ship.  Although Crosby departed England on the Charles in March 1619, having reached Achine [Banda Aceh, Indonesia] he wrote in July 1620 ‘We came awaye out to Sea the Charles the Rubye the Dymond and the Rauebucke… me in the Rauebucke’.  A pencil annotation in the margin, probably added by someone within the India Office during the 20th century, comments ‘The Writer Henry Crosby now in the Raebuch’.  The only East India Company ship that appears to match these two alternative spellings is the Roebuck, a ship built in 1619.  Assuming that this the same ship as the ‘Rauebucke’ in the text (and the mentions of ‘Rubye’ and ‘Dymond’ in the same sentence show the inconsistencies of 17th century spelling), Crosby remained on board the Roebuck in the vicinity of Sumatra before disembarking at Jakatraye [Jakarta] in December 1620.

Henry Crosby writes of departing Banda Aceh on the ‘Rauebucke’,Alternate spellings: Henry Crosby writes of departing Banda Aceh on the ‘Rauebucke’, which a later annotation calls the ‘Raebuch’ (IOR/L/MAR/A/XXIX, f 15) Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

IOR/L/MAR/A/XXX is a journal kept by Richard Swan during journeys on two ships between 1620 and 1622.  In July 1620, when Henry Crosby was departing Banda Aceh on the Roebuck, Richard Swan was at least 1500 miles away sailing between the Cape of Good Hope and Surat, India, also on the Roebuck.  When Crosby was disembarking at Jakarta in December, Swan was arriving at Jasques [Bander-e Jask, Iran] over 4000 miles away.  Both of them, apparently, still on board the Roebuck.

Richard Swan describes arriving at Bander-e Jask in December 1620Richard Swan describes arriving at Bander-e Jask in December 1620, 4000 miles away from Henry Crosby in Jakarta (IOR/L/MAR/A/XXX f 22) Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

 
An extra complication is added by some date discrepancies within IOR/L/MAR/A/XXIX.  The dates in the first half of the journal have been altered to a year earlier than originally written.  Since the altered dates fit with the dates in the second half of the journal, they have been presumed to be correct.  But if the dates as originally written are actually the correct ones, then perhaps the Roebuck was in Indonesia in 1621 instead of 1620.  Unfortunately, this explanation does not solve the mystery.  In July 1621 Richard Swan was with the Roebuck on the Island of Mazera [Masirah, Oman], 2800 miles from Banda Aceh.

The solution to this mystery can be found in IOR/E/3/7, a volume of East India Company correspondence from 1619-21.  Two letters within the volume make mention of Crosby’s Roebuck, but refer to it as a pinnace, a type of small sailing vessel that attended larger vessels.  While Swann was on one side of the Indian Ocean on the East India Company’s ship Roebuck, Crosby was on the other side aboard a pinnace that, with little regard for future historians, had been given the same name.

Matt Griffin
Content Specialist, Gulf History, British Library Qatar Foundation partnership

Further reading:
Full copies of the ship journals discussed in this post are available from the Qatar Digital Library:

IOR/L/MAR/A/XXIX    

IOR/L/MAR/A/XXX  

 

24 March 2020

General John Jacob ‒ A Man of Strong Opinions

Somerset-born John Jacob sailed to India in 1828 aged just 16 as a second lieutenant in the Bombay Artillery of the East India Company.  He never again set foot in England and died 30 years later of ‘exhaustion’ brought on from over-work.

Portrait of John Jacob

Portrait of John Jacob, from an engraving by T L Atkinson, (photographed by Walter L Colls, Photographic Society). Reproduced in Alexander Innes Shand, General John Jacob, Commandant of the Sind Irregular Horse and founder of Jacobabad (London: Seeley and Co. Limited, 1900) Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Jacob is primarily known for his ‘pacifying’ achievements as political and military governor in Upper Sindh, which in the 1840s and ‘50s formed the ‘unruly’ north-west frontier of British India.

Map of SindhMap of Sindh from Sir Richard Francis Burton, Sindh, and the Races that inhabit the Valley of the Indus; with notices of the topography and history of the Province. (London,1851) BL flickr Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

 

An expert administrator and inventor, Jacob built roads, irrigation systems and canals, turned arid desert into fertile land and improved the local economy.  His attitude towards the local Baloch inhabitants was unusually progressive, his benevolence causing them to name his headquarters ‘Jekumbad’ which the British converted to ‘Jacobabad’.

John Jacob’s house at JacobabadJohn Jacob’s house at Jacobabad.  Reproduced in Alexander Innes Shand, General John Jacob, Commandant of the Sind Irregular Horse and founder of Jacobabad (London: Seeley and Co. Limited, 1900)Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Jacob’s accomplishments and ‘eccentric’ nature are well documented. His correspondence in the India Office Records, however, provides some less well-known insights into a dogmatic man who would brook no challenge, perceived or otherwise, to his authority.

In March 1857 Jacob arrived in Bushire to assist his old friend Lieutenant-General James Outram, commanding the British forces fighting Persia.  A few days later he was placed in charge of the forces at Bushire after the previous incumbent committed suicide.  When news of an armistice came in April Jacob had to organise the British evacuation.

He soon came into conflict with of Charles Murray, HM British Ambassador to the King of Persia.  Murray was a well-travelled diplomat with a privileged, aristocratic background. He and Jacob clashed repeatedly over who was the superior representative of the British Government in Bushire, and over the timing of troop shipments back to India.  Their quarrels spilled over into other operational matters.

Portrait of Charles Augustus MurrayPortrait of Charles Augustus Murray by Willes Maddox from an engraving by George Zobel (photographed by William H Ward & Co Ltd Sc).  Reproduced in Sir Herbert Maxwell, The Honourable Sir Charles Murray KCB, A Memoir (Blackwood, 1898) Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Jacob dismissed Mirza Agha, a Persian official who acted as secretary to Murray at the British embassy.

Jacob objects to Mirza Agha’s letter of complaintJacob objects to Mirza Agha’s letter of complaint, 26 April 1857 (IOR/H/549, f 604v) Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Murray went to great lengths to defend his secretary, arguing he was neither intentionally insolent nor deserving of the public censure and humiliation to which Jacob subjected him.

In May 1857 Jacob arrested and imprisoned two messengers sent to the British camp by the Persian Commander-in-Chief on charges of spying.

Image 7 - Jacob to Persian Cmdr in Chief  IOR_H_550_f295r

Extract from Jacob’s letter to the Persian Commander-in-ChiefExtracts from Jacob’s letter to the Persian Commander-in-Chief, 13 May 1857 (IOR/H/550, ff295-296) Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

The Persian Commander-in-Chief attempted to placate Jacob:

Extract from a letter from the Persian Commander-in-ChiefExtract from a letter from the Persian Commander-in-Chief, 16 May 1857 (IOR/H/550, f 312) Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

He reminded Jacob that ‘Friendship requires genial intercommunication and not severity that is freezing of relationships’.

Murray, condemning Jacob’s ‘extremely offensive expressions’ refused to forward copies of Jacob’s letters to the Persian Government, fearing they would inflame Anglo-Persian relations.

Extract from a letter from Murray to Lieutenant-General Sir James OutramExtract from a letter from Murray to Lieutenant-General Sir James Outram, 9 June 1857 (IOR/H/550, f 340) Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

In August Jacob poured scorn on Murray’s warnings of a Persian plot to attack departing British troops at Bushire. Believing the smooth-talking diplomat was trying to protract negotiations with the Persian Government, he wrote to Captain Felix Jones, Political Agent in the Persian Gulf: ‘the contemptible soul of the man was laid bare to me in the Meerza Agha affair. Everything I have seen of him since is in accordance with his base nature..’

Whilst Jacob could be irascible, high-handed and given to hyperbole, there is evidence that Charles Murray was regarded with considerable contempt, even in high circles, as this extract shows:

Extract from a letter from Henry Bartle Frére, Governor in Sindh, to Jacob

Extract from a letter from Henry Bartle Frére, Governor in Sindh, to Jacob, 6 June 1857. Quoted in Alexander Innes Shand, General John Jacob, Commandant of the Sind Irregular Horse and founder of Jacobabad (London: Seeley and Co. Limited, 1900), p.274. Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Back at his post in Sindh in December 1857, an official letter arrived for Jacob from Lord Clarendon, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, entreating the two public servants to ‘allow any differences which may have arisen to be buried in oblivion’.  It is probably just as well they never worked together again!

Amanda Engineer
Content Specialist, Archivist
British Library / Qatar Foundation Partnership

 

19 November 2019

Annals of the Middle Eastern Press in the India Office Records (Part II)

The India Office Records (IOR) that are related to the Gulf and the Middle East contain some articles, clippings and extracts from the region’s early press materials.  Here at the BL-Qatar Foundation partnership programme, we created a list of Middle Eastern press materials for copyright purposes.  To put these materials together we needed to trace their history answering the who, when and why.  Even though the extracts available in the IOR come from early 20th century editions, our research established that a number of press materials were in fact 19th century items.  Following on from part I of this blog, this part examines examples of these items.

The press in the first half of the 19th century was a medium that served governments’ interests.  One of the earliest examples available in the IOR is the Ottoman language official gazette Takvım-i Vekayi (Calendar of Affairs, Istanbul, est. 1831).  The paper was initiated by Sultan Mahmud II as part of his reform policy, and was undoubtedly influenced by the Egyptian official gazette al-Waqa’i‘ al-Misriyya (Egyptian Affairs, Cairo, est. 1828) initiated by Muhammad Ali Pasha.  Takvım-i Vekayi became the official medium of publicising new laws and decrees issued by the government.  It also played a crucial role promoting the Ottoman Tanzimat (reforms that were carried out between 1839 and 1876).

Translated extract from Takvım-i Vekayi about railway construction in AnatoliaTranslated extract from Takvım-i Vekayi about railways in Anatolia IOR/L/PS/10/166, f 139r Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

The second half of the century witnessed the publication of many private sector and independent newspapers.   Nationalism, independence and relations with Europe were the most compelling questions of the time.  Some publications adopted a liberal voice against the traditional Ottoman authority, such as the private daily Ottoman language gazette İkdam (Istanbul, est. 1894), founded by Ahmet Cevdet Oran.  Among its lead columnists was Ali Kemal effendi, great grandfather of politician Boris Johnson.  İkdam was known for being critical of the İttihat ve Terakki Cemiyeti (Committee of Union and Progress). 

Extract from the Oriental Advertiser about the Damascus-Mecca RailwayExtract from the Oriental Advertiser about the Damascus-Mecca Railway IOR/L/PS/10/12, f 222r Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Another example is the weekly English language Levant Herald (Istanbul, est. 1859).  This was published by British subjects and circulated in the UK and Europe.  Both publications were severely critical of the Ottoman Government, particularly the policies of Sultan Abdul Hamid II.

Letter concerning an article in the Levant Herald about the Hedjaz Railway FundLetter concerning an article in the Levant Herald about the Hedjaz Railway Fund IOR/L/PS/10/12, f 176r Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Other materials available in the IOR come from 19th century Egypt.  Among the prominent Arabic language publications is the weekly, later daily, al-Ahram (Alexandria and Cairo, est. 1875), founded by the Lebanese brothers Bshara and Salim Taqla.  Among its early writers were the renowned Muslim scholars Muhammad ‘Abdu and al-Afghani.

Report of an article in al-Ahram  concerning Bedouin tribes buying cereals from IraqReport of an article in al-Ahram concerning Bedouin tribes buying cereals from Iraq IOR/R/15/2/178, f 351r Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Another Egyptian example is al-Muqattam (Cairo, est. 1889), founded by Ya‘qub Sarruf, Fares Nimr and Shahin Makariyus.  Al-Muqattam was openly pro-British.  Its rival, al-Mu’ayyad (Cairo, est. 1889), founded by Mustafa Kamel, was a popular pan-Islamic, anti-British newspaper, with lead columnists such as Qasim Amin and Sa‘d Zaghlul.  

A correction of information published in al-Muqattam relating to an alleged dispute between Saudi Arabia and KuwaitA correction of information published in al-Muqattam relating to an alleged dispute between Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, dated 1937, IOR/R/15/5/121, f 11Ar Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Extract from al-Mu’ayyad about the situation in Iraq 1910An extract from al-Mu’ayyad about the situation in Iraq, dated 1910, IOR/R/15/5/26, f 71r Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Among the English language press in Egypt was the weekly, later daily, Egyptian Gazette (Alexandria, later Cairo, est. 1880–).  This Gazette was used to spread British propaganda in Egypt.

For extracts of these and other materials, I encourage readers to visit the Qatar Digital Library.  Part III of this blog post will explore the 20th century Middle Eastern press materials found in the IOR.

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


Further reading:
IOR/L/PS/10/166 ‘File 3047/1909 'Railways: Asiatic Turkey; railway construction in Asia Minor'
IOR/L/PS/10/12 ‘File 3142/1903 'Hedjaz Railway'
IOR/R/15/2/178 'Articles in Press on Gulf Affairs'
IOR/R/15/5/121 ‘I Riyadh (VII) Colonel Dickson’s v[isit] to Riyadh (Includes visits of other Europeans to Riyadh’
IOR/R/15/5/26 'File X/3 Disorders & Raids near Basra & in Koweit [Kuwait] Hinterland'

Anthony Gorman and Didier Monciaud. The Press in the Middle East and North Africa, 1850-1950: Politics, Social History and Culture. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2018.

 

28 August 2019

Annals of the Middle Eastern Press in the India Office Records (part I)

Cataloguing the India Office Records (IOR) that are related to the Gulf and Middle East region brought to my attention a rich corpus of press materials that might otherwise be lost.  These materials are published in various languages, and come from a number of regions within the Middle East and the wider Arab World between 1800 and 1950.  The materials found in the IOR are mostly in the form of newspaper articles, clippings or extracts.  Some of these remain in their original language, and the rest are translated into English.

Extract from newspaper al-Iraq 9 February 1939

IOR/R/15/5/126, f 263r Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Here at the BL-Qatar Foundation partnership project, we created a list of Middle Eastern press materials for copyright purposes.  Putting the materials together produced a wide cross-section of press publications in the Middle East at the time.  So far, the list includes 140 titles of newspapers, journals and periodicals.  The majority of these, 33 titles, come from Iraq, including the Basra Times, Al-Ikha' Al-Watani, Al-Nas and Al-Ba'th Al-Qawmi.  The next largest group comes from Egypt, with 28 titles, including the Egyptian Gazette, La Bourse Egyptienne, Al-Shabab and Al-Shura.  From Iran, the list has 25 titles including Asr-e Azadi, Journal de Téhéran, and Atish.  And the last two large groups come from Syria (14 titles), including Al-Ayyam, Alef Ba’, and Bureau Arabe de Damas; and from Lebanon (13 titles), including Sawt Al-Ahrar and Al-Nahar.  The rest of the titles, including Al-Forkane, Bahrain Diary, Al-Qabas, Berid Barca, Muscat News, Al-Jami'a Al-'Arabiyya, Sawt Al-Hijaz, Yeni Gazette, and Al-Iman, come from Algeria, Bahrain, Kuwait, Libya, Oman, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Yemen respectively.

Translation of article from newspaper Berid Barca 30 November 1937IOR/R/15/6/345, f 97v Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

The majority of the press materials preserved in the IOR appear in English translation.  However, tracing the history of the press in the region we find that Arabic was the dominant language of the press, as in the examples of the Syrian daily newspaper Fata al-'Arab and the Saudi weekly newspaper Um Al-Qura.  On the other hand, Persian was the language used in most of the Iranian press as in the example of the daily newspapers Iran-e Ma, and Rahbar.  Ottoman was the main language used in the Ottoman Empire press, as in the examples of the daily newspapers Takvim-i Vekayi and İkdam.

Translation of extract from newspaper Um al-Qura April 1934IOR/R/15/6/163, f 18r Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Further, English and French were the prominent languages in titles that were either influenced or set up by the British or the French.  Examples of these are the daily newspapers The Iraq Times and L'Orient (today L'Orient-Le Jour).  Besides, there is one record of a Lebanese newspaper named Athra that was published in Arabic, Assyrian, English and French.

Front page of newspaper Athra 15 April 1939IOR/R/15/5/127, f 120r Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Indeed, it is due to British officials’ concern and interest in what role the press played in the region that we encounter this large amount of press materials in the records.  The practice of clipping and attaching press materials to India Office correspondence paved the way for us to explore all these aspects of the Middle Eastern press from the 19th and 20th centuries.

Parts II and III of this blog will focus on the content of the press materials examined here.

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

Further reading:
IOR/R/15/5/126 'File 2/1 I PROPAGANDA (Absorption of Kuwait by Iraq)'
IOR/R/15/5/127 'File 2/1 II IRAQ PROPAGANDA. (Absorption of Kuwait by Iraq). Relations etc.'
IOR/R/15/6/163 'File 6/27 Foreign Interests: Sa'udi-Yemen Dispute'
IOR/R/15/6/345 'File 11/2 Diaries and Report: Arabia Series'
Anthony Gorman and Didier Monciaud. The Press in the Middle East and North Africa, 1850-1950: Politics, Social History and Culture. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2018.

 

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.

Letter from the Times Press Limited about order for Arabic invitation cards IOR/R/15/2/1663, f 30 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Arabic document connected to order for invitation cards IOR/R/15/2/1663, f 32 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

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

Personal invitation to member of the Bahrain Government IOR/R/15/2/1663, f 37 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

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.

Order to Messrs Jashanmal for refreshments IOR/R/15/2/1663, f 43  Public Domain Creative Commons Licence
 

Order to Messrs Ashraf Brothers for coffee, rose water, nuts and plates.IOR/R/15/2/1663, f 44 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

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.

List of names of people delivering speechesIOR/R/15/2/1663, f 60 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

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.

List of names circulated among the inviteesIOR/R/15/2/1663, f 48 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Letter of apology from Mr ‘Abdul ‘Aziz al-QusaibiIOR/R/15/2/1663, f 45 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

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.

Letter of congratulation IOR/R/15/2/1663, f 54 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Letter of congratulationIOR/R/15/2/1663, f 55 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

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.
 

Letter of congratulation IOR/R/15/2/1663, f 58 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Letter of congratulationIOR/R/15/2/1663, f 59 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

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.

Letter of congratulationIOR/R/15/2/1663, f 56 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Letter of congratulationIOR/R/15/2/1663, f 57 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

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

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.

John Ogilby presenting a book of subscriptions for a survey to Charles II and his queenJohn Ogilby presenting a book of subscriptions for a survey to Charles II and his queen. Maps.Crace.Port.2.58 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence
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. 

Portrait of 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.

Plan of Newgate Prison Plan of Newgate Prison Maps.Crace.8.84 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence 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.

 

07 May 2019

King Charles & Mr Perkins - Part One

Many former British diplomats have written memoirs but few have become writers of fiction, and fewer still have written works of science fiction.

Albert Charles Wratislaw (1862-1938), son of clergyman and Slavonic scholar Albert Henry Wratislaw, was born in Bury St Edmunds and entered the British Levant Consular Service in 1883.  He served in Europe and in the Middle East, including diplomatic posts in Crete, Basra, Tabriz, and Beirut.  Towards the end of his career he was a commissioner with the Turco-Persian Boundary Commission.  He retired in 1920 and published his memoir, A Consul in the East, in 1924.

Photograph of 'Ashshār creek, Basra,India Office Private Papers Mss Eur F111/33, f 730: photograph of 'Ashshār creek, Basra, by A C Wratislaw, c 1898 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

For his second book Wratislaw seems to have taken inspiration from H G Wells.  Published in 1931, King Charles & Mr Perkins is a science fiction/historical novel, which begins in Wratislaw’s home county of Suffolk shortly after the First World War.  Its narrator is Robert Perkins of Eastern Manor, who learns in the opening chapter that, in addition to inheriting the family estate, he has become the owner of a time machine that was invented in secret by his late father.  With his father having died before beginning to test the machine, it falls to Robert and his cousin George to see whether the invention actually works.  The two cousins settle on the year 1666, and proceed to try out the machine with their Aunt Jane’s pug, Macheath.  After the dog returns home a couple of weeks later – in one piece but noticeably more stuck-up, with a new collar inscribed ‘Ye Kinge his Dogge’ – Robert makes the journey to London, October 1666 (the date is chosen to avoid the aftermath of the Great Fire), taking Macheath with him.

King Charles and Mr Perkins title pageKing Charles & Mr Perkins by A C Wratislaw, published in 1931 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence


Immediately after his arrival, Robert meets and befriends the young John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, who later introduces him to Charles II, so that the King can be reunited with Macheath, or Fidelio as he calls him.  Later in the novel, Macheath is mauled to death by the King’s jealous spaniels, which Robert regards as a very bad omen for his own prospects.  Robert soon becomes a regular at the royal court, gaining a reputation as a fiercely competitive tennis player, and becoming a favourite of the King.

Portrait of Charles II by DucarelPortrait of Charles II by Ducarel 1767 Images Online Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

However, Robert sows the seeds of his own downfall when he feuds with George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham, and makes himself an enemy of London’s merchants by proposing to the King that he impose a tax on the City of London as a means to raise urgently required funds.  It is Buckingham who emerges as the chief architect of Robert’s fall from grace when he tricks Robert into accepting the challenge of a game of tennis with the King.  Robert is placed in an impossible position, forced to choose between beating the King at tennis and paying Buckingham a thousand pounds…

To be continued!  King Charles & Mr Perkins - Part Two

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

Further reading:
A C Wratislaw, A Consul in the East (Edinburgh and London: William Blackwood & Sons Ltd, 1924)
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.

 

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