Military Handbooks of Arabia 1913–1917

ISBN:  (13) 978-1-85207-080-9   Extent:  10 volumes, 5,140 pages, including 1 map box & many photos
Author: N/A   Published: 1988
Paper: Printed on acid free paper
Binding: Library bindings with gilt finish
See sample pages: not available

Intelligence handbooks were compiled for the use of British officers for military purposes. The handbooks were compiled partly on the basis of existing authorities such as Lorimer´s Gazetteer, earlier travel records and recent military intelligence, and partly from what was called "native information". They provide detailed descriptions of the regions, settlements, routes and inhabitants of the Arabian Peninsula and Gulf. Originally all these documents were classified secret. They are now made available to historians and researchers as richly detailed surveys of a land and a culture.


These handbooks are the documents of a lost continent - the Arabia of the old tribal way of life, scattered settlements, remote regions and uncertain tracks across the desert. The route books still quote for their directions the authority of the great l9th century travellers - Burckhardt, Palgrave, Burton. After the First World War the emergence of the Saud dynasty, the unification of the Saudi Kingdom and the exploitation of oil in the desert and in the Gulf were to change the face of the land and the people dwelling upon it.
The Handbooks of Arabia were compiled for the use of British officers for military purposes, all save the 1913 Strategical Study being issued during the First World War campaign against Ottoman dominance in Arabia.


The Handbooks were compiled partly on the basis of existing authorities, such as Lorimer´s Gazetteer, earlier travel records and recent British military intelligence, and partly from what was called "native information." Naturally all these documents at the time were classified secret.
Now they are made available to historians and researchers as richly detailed surveys of a land and a culture. The Handbooks are compiled with meticulous attention and encyclopaedic range, and are variously accompanied by maps, charts and photographs.


Strategical Study Of Persia And The Persian Gulf, 1913
Prepared by the General Staff, Army Headquarters, India. 140pp + 2 maps
"This study has been undertaken with a view to foreseeing the probable developments of military and commercial activity in Persia and the neighbourhood of the Persian Gulf; determining the probable objects and ambitions of the various powers interested in these developments...".
Military Report On The Aden Protectorate, 1915
Prepared by the General Staff, India. 310pp+map

Handbook Of Hejaz, 1917
The Arab Bureau was established in Cairo in 1916 under the auspices of the British Foreign Office to co-ordinate intelligence, propaganda and political activity in the Middle East during the Great War. The first edition of the Handbook of Hejaz was compiled by D.G. Hogarth, editor of the Arab Bulletin. The second edition was prepared as new information was received - "based, in considerably greater measure on the evidence of persons who have actually visited the locality, and been in contact with its society."

Handbook Of Asir, 1916

From the Prefaratory Note: ´This Handbook has been compiled by Captain K. Cornwallis almost entirely from native information obtained recently in Cairo, but gathered originally in Asir itself not later than the outbreak of the present war. This has been checked as far as possible by the comparison of one informant with another, but by little else, there being almost no European literature on Asir of any value, and no European having visited the interior of the country and furnished a report since the French surgeons and others who accompanied the Egyptian forces in the thirties of the last century. . .´.

Handbook Of Yemen, 1917

The Handbook draws to some extent on the Handbook of Arabia (see opposite), recast and supplemented by native information. Details particularly about tribes and personalities were gathered in Cairo. The outline map takes account of a "manuscript staff map, captured from a Turkish officer. . .From its appearance and such tests as we have been able to apply, we conclude that it is a more reliable map than the Turkish staff maps of Yemen previously known."

Prepared by the General Staff, Army Headquarters, India. 842pp + map
Over 200 routes in all regions of the Arabian peninsula are described in systematic fashion. Each description follows a similar sequence, headed by a summary as follows:
Route no. - Starting point and destination- No of miles and stages in route-Authorities for the route (e.g. Captain W.H.I. Shakespear, March 1911; Persian Gulf Gazetteer, 1908)-Details of availability along route of: water, fuel, fodder, supplies.

Prepared on behalf of the Admiralty and the War Office by the Admiralty War Staff, Intelligence Division, London

Volume I: General. 730pp Including Index And 15pp Plates
The sources for this work include native information obtained for this purpose since the outbreak of war, particularly concerning the strength and distribution of the Bedouin tribes and their political relationships. The Handbook devotes separate chapters to each of the great regions of Arabia. Extensive information is provided on the tribes: their habitats, characteristics, loyalties - the tribal patterns now lost in some measure to the effects of war, wealth and westernisation.

Volume II Routes. 530pp including index and 9pp plates
This volume is headed by general chapters on methods of transport and lines of communication, including the facts with regard to the supply of camels among the Bedouin tribes (from native sources).. Some 75 routes are described, including many different routes from Routes in Arabia and in more detail, while following a similar structure. Chapters are also included on Meteorology - Hygiene and Disease - Vocabularies. Arabic, Turkish and Persian phrases are given in English transliteration. At the end of each volume photographic plates are chosen to indicate the varieties and characteristics of the Arabian terrain.
Prepared by the General Staff, India.

Volume I 974pp (In this edition volume I is split over two volumes);

Volume II 626pp;

Volume III 416pp.

Accompanied by a great map of Arabia and the Persian Gulf, printed in colour.
An alphabetical gazetteer of geographical entries covering the regions, towns and tribes of Arabia.

The last volume of the set is a map box bound in the same style as the other volumes and containing the separate folded maps accompanying them.


(Vol. I) Accompanying the Strategical Study of Persia and the Persian Gulf 1913
Map of Persia (A) showing fertile areas, mineral resources and population
Map of Persia (B) showing British & Russian trade (Appendix Table B)
Map of Persia (C) showing tribes (Appendix Table E)
(Vol. I) Accompanying the Military Report on the Aden Protectorate, 1915
Hunter´s Map of Arabia 1908 (4 sheets)
(Vol. II) Accompanying the Arab Bureau Handbooks 1917
Outline map of Hejaz
Outline map of Asir
Outline map of Yemen 

(Vol. III) Index map to accompany Routes in Arabia 1915
(Vols. IV-V) Accompanying a Handbook of Arabia 1916
1 Arabia: Districts and Towns
2 Orographical Features of Arabia
3 Land Surface Features of Arabia
4 Tribal Map of Arabia
5 Key Map of Routes
(Vols. VI-IX) Accompanying the Gazetteer of Arabia 1917

Map of Arabia and the Persian Gulf 1916