Political Diaries of the Arab World: Saudi Arabia 1919–1965

ISBN:  (13) 978-1-85207-730-3   Extent:  6 volumes, 2,800 pages
Editor: R. Jarman, [FRGS] former Advisor to the Bahrain National Museum
Published:  1998
Paper: Printed on acid free paper
Binding: Library bindings with gilt finish
See sample pages: not available


These volumes comprise the complete 45-year sequence, from when reports began for Saudi Arabia in 1919 up to the latest available releases for 1965, of periodical political reports and intelligence summaries prepared by British political officers in Saudi Arabia and sent back to London.

The Diaries provide an on-the-spot account of local events in the detailed and disciplined format demanded by the British Foreign Office, and cover political events in Saudi Arabia, diplomatic analysis and interpretation, foreign relations, home affairs, civil administration and development, tribal affairs, economic affairs and local personalities. The value of the Diaries lies also in their frequency and their detail, creating a cumulative, consistent and reliable historical record.

This publication creates, for the benefit of scholars, an orderly series of political reports for Saudi Arabia in a single 6-volume set, where previously the various reports lay scattered and unknown in numerous official files and no integrated collection was available.

Note: this work absorbs and adds to a title previously published by Archive Editions The Jedda Diaries 1919-1940. The two new volumes (5 and 6) bring the Diaries up to date by including previously unreleased documents and those which have recently become available under the 30-year rule.


Volumes 1-4: 1919-1940
The sequence of Diaries began as brief political reports on the Hijaz which were quickly perceived to be valuable by the British authorities. In 1919 the British Agent in Jeddah was instructed to prepare a report every 10 days for despatch to Cairo - a frequency dictated by the mail steamer timetable from Jeddah.
The Jeddah Diaries provide a detailed series of reports on early Saudi internal affairs and relations with neighbour states and foreign powers. The Diaries also include a great detail of valuable contemporary description and local colour.
The conflict between the former Hashemite regime and the forces of Ibn Saud is well documented and there are reports on the Saudi attack on Taif, the abdication of Hussein, the departure of his successor Ali, the surrender of Jeddah and the establishment of the new Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
The Diaries cover every week with the exception of a short period during September and October 1924 when the fall of Taif occurred, and this was described in lengthy despatches from the British Agent which probably replaced the usual intelligence reports during this period. There are additional despatches describing the negotiations which preceded the surrender of Jeddah. The Jeddah surrender despatches have been included in this collection alongside the Diaries for their interest and to balance the earlier despatches describing the fall of Taif.
After the establishment of the Kingdom of Hejaz-Nejd - which later became Saudi Arabia - the Diaries cover every aspect of external relations with the British and other foreign governments and with neighbouring countries - Iraq and Transjordan, Kuwait, Bahrain and the other Gulf Shaikhdoms, Oman and the Yemen. Internal affairs of the Kingdom are chronicled in a way that builds up a picture of daily life and the Diaries are supplemented by extracts from local newspapers.
Volume 5: 1930-1940
It was increasingly felt, towards the end of the 1920s, that a yearly summary would also be useful to the British Foreign Office. Accordingly, indexes to the Jeddah Diaries for each year were produced at the end of 1927, 1928 and 1929. Although useful, these indexes were not considered sufficient, and it was decided that from 1930 onwards a proper ´Annual Report´ for Hejaz-Nejd (later Saudi Arabia) should be produced.
This volume of periodic political reports from Saudi Arabia comprises the Annual Reports for Saudi Arabia from 1930 to 1938 and the new shorter Annual Political Review for 1939 and 1940.
The main irritant to cordial Anglo-Saudi relations during this period was the problem of fixing the south-eastern borders of Saudi Arabia - affecting, as they did, the territories where the British had an interest (Qatar, the present United Arab Emirates, and Oman). In June 1940 the British Foreign Office drew up three memoranda reviewing the history of the dispute and of the negotiations to resolve it. Those memoranda are also reproduced here.
With this volume of annual reports and reviews from 1930 to 1940, and the previous four volumes of Jeddah Diaries from 1919 to 1940, the collection of periodic reports up to 1940 is complete.
Volume 6: 1941-1965
The collection of periodic reports from Saudi Arabia in this volume can be divided naturally into three periods - from 1941 to 1956 when there were British diplomats in Jeddah, from 1956 to 1962/3 when there were no British diplomats there, and from 1963 onwards when diplomatic relations were re-established.


Political Diaries of the Arab World: Understanding the series
This is the eagerly awaited fourth in our series of collected political reports for the Middle East. Already published are those for Saudi Arabia, the Persian Gulf and Iraq. The series provides scholars, researchers and historians with a tremendously detailed archive of material on each of the areas covered. Over the years many different series of reports have been undertaken by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in response to the events on the ground. These series wax and wane with the tide of history but they are also subject to the force of personality of the compiler and the voracious demands of the British Foreign Office for information. Certain government officials will be seen to be prolific and others merely content to cover the main points clearly. However, whether the reports are being demanded by Her Majesty´s Government or showered upon it by officials in residence the effect is to leave a national treasure for following generations in the form of regular, structured, detailed reports of the current events, main players and political direction of the day. At one end of the scale alongside the public security and political events, the weekly reports log the minutiae of administration, with details of sowing and harvesting as well as trade, health and education. At the other end of the scale is the annual report sweeping grandly through the events of a year, giving a thorough background in the main political movements and permitting itself only the small luxury of a short chronology to furnish a little detail.
The Political Diaries series ends with the year 1965. Material for later years will be published when available.