Records of Jerusalem 1917–1971

ISBN:  (13) 978-1-84097-005-0     Extent:  9 volumes, c. 6,000 pages, including 1 map box

Editor:  J. Priestland     Published: 2002
Paper: Printed on acid free paper
Binding: Library bindings with gilt finish
See sample pages: not available

These eight volumes present a documentary history of the city of Jerusalem, concentrating on the half-century from 1917 to 1971, with some reference to earlier circumstances. The starting point of this collection accompanies the end of Ottoman rule in the Near East and the establishment of British military control in Jerusalem in the eventful year of 1917. As far as possible an attempt has been made to provide research resources specific to Jerusalem and excluding material relating to Palestine in general. Broader questions including the territorial limits and administration of Palestine and the origins of the state of Israel are covered in other related titles. However, it is impossible to disentangle such material entirely and after 1917 the echoes of the Arab–Jewish struggle form a continuous background to the development of the city.


The opening date for this collection is 1917. During the First World War great changes were wrought within the old world power structures and new opinions and influences came to the fore. The Allied powers in effect carved the Middle East into their potential spheres of influence pending its release from the Ottoman Empire and created Lebanon, Syria, Palestine and TransJordan. In due course the British Government obtained a Mandate to administer the newly-created Palestine and upheld a key proposal, made by Foreign Secretary, Lord Arthur Balfour, on behalf of the British Government, and dated 2 November 1917, approving the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people. Once formulated the impossibility of trying to balance with that principle the rights of the existing communities became apparent. The sentiments of this letter were to encourage Chaim Weizmann and the Zionists and to sanction an increasing rate of Jewish settlement and land purchase in Palestine, and the position of Jerusalem as a centre of contention was intensified through the declared policy of the Zionist movement to take Jerusalem and make of it the capital of the state to be. For its part, the Arab population felt deceived by the British position, and unrest culminated in the Jerusalem riots of 1920.
The documents continue to reflect seething discontent in Jerusalem, until in April 1936 the Arab Higher Committee is formed by the Grand Mufti, Hajj Amin Al-Husseini, and promptly disturbances erupt, developing into the three-year long Arab Rebellion. In 1937 the Peel Committee proposed that the city of Jerusalem should be separately and permanently administered under the British Mandate while Palestine be divided between Arabs and Jews. The proposals were accepted by the Zionists with the proviso of controlling west Jerusalem, but rejected by the Arabs, and, in 1939, abandoned by the British.
The papers for the Second World War and post-war period indicate, on one hand, the continuing, sometimes despairing, efforts of the British to find a twin-state solution; and on the other hand, the continuing and effective campaign of violence by extremist Zionist organisations, and correspondingly a violent insurgency by Arab militia. When the British Mandate ended in May 1948, despite United Nations negotiations for a ceasefire particularly in Jerusalem, swift developments followed to establish a de facto Jewish state. The documentary record in later volumes brings the historical picture within living memory, covering the establishment of the Knesset and Israeli administration from Jerusalem, relations with Egypt and subsequently the consequences for the city of the Six Day War. The significant post-war influence on events of the United States is amply reflected, as is the role, not always effective, of the United Nations.


The documents included in the present work are taken mainly from British government archives at the National Archives, and specifically from the Foreign Office, Colonial Office, War Office and Prime Minister´s records, in the aim of illustrating British foreign policy in Palestine with particular reference to Jerusalem. The papers also include some American State Department material and United Nations documents and telegrams. They are arranged in chronological order, with a few exceptions where communications at different dates are best read together.
The documents relay the correspondence between British embassies and consulates and the Foreign or Colonial Office, and convey a wide range of first-hand descriptions of events in Jerusalem and discussions of the unique status of the Holy City. The papers describe various attempts to ensure the protection of Jerusalem, such as through its "internationalisation" or the creation of a trusteeship. From these despatches the historic picture of life in the city can be reconstructed, with its political and religious tensions, its social problems of poverty, health and water supply.


Fine Aspirations: The Hebrew University: Extract from memorandum reporting Dr C. Weizmann´s speech at an official dinner at the Governorate, Jerusalem, 27 April 1918:
"Dr Weizmann said that he wanted also - and here he referred to what he regarded as the coping-stones of his present work - to make Palestine once more a fountain of knowledge and idealism through the creation of the Hebrew University at Jerusalem - a great intellectual centre open to all mankind..."
Underlying Tensions: Israelis and Western Governments: Extract of conversation with Head of the European Department, Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, from Foreign Office letter dated 2 April 1968:
"Apnar said he wanted to make it clear to me that...whatever his Minister had said in the talk with Mr Stewart, two things were quite definite...Jerusalem...must remain a united city under Israeli rule...[and indeed that] the whole idea of a negotiated settlement was a complete non-starter...He said these were not just his own views but the virtually unanimous views of the Israeli people...I asked what, in that case, was the purpose of talks such as we had just been holding. He answered that these were a ritual that had to be gone through because of pressures on Israel from from Governments such as the British Government and from the world press but the ritual was really quite meaningless."

Difficulty of Administering the Holy Places: the Caenaculum: Extract from a minute dated 10 April 1928:
"...The building comprises a large room, the reputed place of the Last Supper, now used as a Moslem Zaowish or place of prayer, and a small room beyond which is, according to Moslem tradition, the grave of David...the Italian Government´s claim to the Caenaculum rests ...on the one hand that HM the King of Italy is entitled to it by virtue of its cession to the King of Naples by the Sultan of Egypt in the 14th century which cession has never been validly revoked, and on the other hand that is was returned to HM the King of Italy by the Sultan of Turkey in 1919."  
Underlying Tensions: Arabs and Western Governments: Extract from a speech by the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, at Bandung, 23 April 1955
"Imperialism has comitted in Palestine the most awful crime...It has dislocated the Palestinian Arabs from their lands, drove them away from their homes, replaces them by an alien people... and established a foreign state...Unless the Asiatic African people wake up to put an end to imperialistic machinations, imperialism will undoubtedly resort to similar measures in other Asiatic or African regions...Yet we find that the Western Powers and their supporters, call for co-operation between Arabs and the Western powers. How could such a co-operation be possible?"


Map 1. Plan of Jerusalem. F. Catherwood. London, 1835.
Map 2. Map of The Environs of Jerusalem, with a section of the Jordan Valley. C.W.M. Van de Velde, 1852.    
Map 3. Modern Jerusalem illustrating recent discoveries. Reduced from the Palestine Exploration Fund´s plan of Jerusalem by Sir Charles W. Wilson, 1867, and reprinted in the Atlas of the Historical Geography of the Holy Land. Edinburgh, 1915.  
Map 4. Map illustrating Jewish proposals for Jerusalem. London 1938.
Map 5. Urban development: conservation and maintenance of city walls of Jerusalem, 1944.
Map 6. Central portion of the Jerusalem area: Principal Holy Places, 1950, based on the Survey of Palestine, scale 1: 10, 000, 1946.
Map 7. Jerusalem: the Mount of Olives and environs 1946-1948.  
Map 8. Jerusalem: restoration and preservation plan, 1946-1948.
Map 9. The Holy Places of Jerusalem: plan of the Holy Sepulcre and surroundings, 1954.
Map 10. Draft on the status of Jerusalem under a settlement between Israel and the Arab States. Jerusalem : areas of communities. 1967.