top of page
< Back

Book Notes: Britain and Palestine 1914-1918: Archival Sources for the History of the British Mandate, Philip Jones (compiler); A Guide to the Manuscripts and Documents in the British Isles Relating to the Middle East and North Africa, Noel Matthews and M. Doreen Wainwright (compilers)

V. D. Lipman

<plain_text><page sequence="1">The British Mandate in Palestine Britain and Palestine 1914-191&amp;: Archival Sources for the History of the British Mandate. Compiled by Philip Jones. Published for the British Academy by Oxford University Press. 1979. ?15 A Guide to Manuscripts and Documents in the British Isles Relating to the Middle East and North Africa. Compiled by Noel Matthews and M. Doreen Wainwright. Edited by J. D. Pearson. Oxford University Press. ?50. Those seeking unpublished archival material in Britain on Palestine, particu? larly of British-Palestine relations, will find that these volumes complement each other. The first of them surveys in depth the papers and records of individuals and organizations based in Britain and involved in Palestine, but only for the first half of the twentieth century: a limited period, however important. The second covers a far wider range both chronologically and</page><page sequence="2">i84 Book Notes geographically (of which Palestine forms a part) and the treatment is therefore bound to be much less detailed, but it provides material on the nineteenth and earlier centuries. Britain and Palestine was supervised by a British Academy committee under the chairmanship of Sir Isaiah Berlin, and including two other former Presidents of the Society, Dr Aubrey Newman and Professor Kedourie. Its information about archives is arranged in three main groups: personal papers, with short biographies of the persons concerned (itself a useful biographical index); organizations and societies, with historical descriptions (some of these, e.g. on the Federation of Jewish Relief Organizations, valuable sources of reference); and public records, with lists of the PRO record groups containing, or likely to contain, relevant material. A list of libraries and record offices in Great Britain, with their main holdings, enables the reader to see which of the personal or organizational papers described earlier in the book are in the same repository; and notes on archives in Israel, Arab countries and the USA, while necessarily brief, are an additional aid. Matthews and Wainwright, following the pattern of their earlier volumes on archival material in Britain relating to other regions of the world, arrange their entries geographically by repository (including organizations holding their own archives): they also include, where relevant, brief notes on the organization or individual. The entries, like many of those in Britain and Palestine, are bound to vary in amount of detail according to the availability of a catalogue or detailed handlist (copies of all such sources being in the National Register of Archives). Thus, for instance, the Board of Deputies and the Palestine Exploration Fund (in Britain and Palestine and Matthews and Wainwright respectively) have very detailed entries, because of the existence of detailed catalogues. On the other hand, while Britain and Palestine can devote forty pages to listing Public Record Office files by number, Matthews and Wainright, with their much greater span in time and space, are reduced sometimes to statements like 'Foreign Office . . . General Correspondence. F.O. 78 Turkey 1780-1905, 5,490 volumes'. Since this series includes all the despatches between the Foreign Office and the Constantinople embassy and Palestine consulates, as well as correspondence with writers in Britain concerned with Palestine in this period, the student must use the class lists in the Public Record Office itself, aided by the invaluable guide to The Records of the Foreign Office 1782-1939. Volumes of the kind under review are the result of years of devoted work and are inevitably out of date as regards details even before they appear. Apart from the annual release of material from the Public Records under the thirty-year rule, and the discovery or opening of new archives, classification</page><page sequence="3">Book Notes 185 may be improved (e.g. the PRO has improved its classification of the Colonial Office series CO 733/1-129 - papers up to 1926); and archives may be moved to new locations. Thus the archives of the Jerusalem and the East Mission are now at St Antony's Middle East Centre, Oxford, and the Church Missionary Society archives (which contain much 19-century material on Palestine) have been transferred to the Heslop Room at Birmingham University Library. The compilers of these two works have given the researcher maps with which to chart his or her archival research. They should, however, be supplemented by consulting the National Register of Archives, and the records of papers kept up to date at the St Antony's Middle East Centre. Now that unpublished material has been so well charted, can we look forward to comparable bibliographic aids on published material, such as on Britain and the Holy Land in the 19th century, an appropriate field of effort for the Jewish Historical Society of England? V. D. Lipman</page></plain_text>

bottom of page