Rya T’eze and the Kurds in Armenia

As much of the Kurdish material we hold in the library and archives relates to Kurdistan – the area that covers territories within Iraq (Southern Kurdistan), Iran (Eastern Kurdistan), Syria (Western Kurdistan) and Turkey (Northern Kurdistan) – it is sometimes forgotten that there is a large Kurdish diaspora that lives outwith this region, with historically established communities. In this blogpost I am going to look at the newspaper Rya T’eze, which was the first Kurdish newspaper to be published in Latin script.

The Kurds in Armenia

Most of the Kurds in Armenia originally came from Turkey, beginning to settle in numbers around 1828 to escape from fighting during the Russo-Turkish wars, with migration increasing during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Many of them belonged to the Yezidi community, who follow a religion that fuses elements from Islam and the ancient Persian faith of Zoroastrianism.

Over half of the Kurds in Armenia live in the capital city, Erivan, previously known as Yerevan, or ‘Rewan’ in Kurdish. This city, as will be discussed below, has played a significant role in the development of Kurdish culture.

In 1921 Kurds here began to use a Kurdish alphabet that was derived from Armenian characters; this lasted for about eight years before it was replaced by a Latin alphabet, which was created by a Yezidi Kurd named Arab Shamilov (in Kurdish, Erebê Şemo/Ә’рәб Шамилов or Ereb Shemo), working closely with an Assrian named Isaac Marogulov. Born in 1897 in Kars in eastern Anatolia (NE Turkey), Shemo had fled to Armenia with his family after the First World War. His book Xwe bi Xwe Hînbûna Kurmancî [Teach Yourself Kurmanji], was published in 1928 and was the first Kurdish book to be printed using the new Latin alphabet.

Between 1930 and 1937 there was a flowering of Kurdish education and culture in Armenia, with almost thirty Kurdish schools established, children taught to read and write in Kurdish, and a regular stream of Kurdish-language books published each year. Shemo’s novel Sivane Kurd [The Kurdish Shepherd] came out in 1935, followed by his anthology Folklora Kurmanca. It was against this background that Rya T’eze appeared.

Rya T’eze 1930-1937

Image of the front cover of the first issue

The first issue of Rya T’eze

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Рйа  Т’әзә or Rya T’eze (sometimes spelled Riya Teze) means ‘New Path’, and the first issue was published on 25 March 1930, printed in Kurmanji Kurdish but using the Latinised alphabet of Shemo-Marogulov. It had four pages and came out twice a week, with a circulation of some 600 copies. Celadet Alî Bedirxan’s magazine Hawar [The Cry] was not published until 1932, making Rya T’eze the first Kurdish language newspaper in the world. This was acknowledged in an article in Hawar (No.8, 1932), written by Herekol Azizan:

Produced under the auspices of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Armenia, the Supreme Council and the Council of Ministers of the Armenian SSR, Rya T’eze was bound to reflect Soviet ideology, and even though it was written in Kurdish, there is perhaps a disappointingly sparse amount of material on Kurdish culture. At first the newspaper was run by three exiled Armenians who knew Kurdish – Kevork Paris, Hraçya Koçar and literary critic Harûtyûn Mkirtçyan – before Kurdish linguist and author Cerdoy Gênco took over as editor in 1934. That was also the year that the first ever pan-Soviet Congress of Kurdology was held – in Yerevan, naturally – which called for the creation of a Kurdish dictionary and historical grammar. An education academy had already opened in Yerevan with the aim of training Kurdish language teachers. 

However, under Stalin’s increasingly tight grip on the Soviet Union there was little place for dissent or devolution, and the resources and freedom open to Kurds in Armenia began to decline. Kurdish-language teaching and publishing were discouraged, and the Cyrillic alphabet was imposed on Kurds to encourage them to learn Russian, Armenian or Georgian (and therefore abandon their own language.) Between 1937 and 1944, Caucasian Kurds were deported to settlements within places such as Uzbekhistan and Kazakhstan in Central Asia, where they faced severe restrictions on freedom of expression and movement. Ereb Shemo was himself among these, and he would not return until 1956. Publication of Rya T’eze was shut down in 1937, and would not resume for almost twenty years.

Rya T’eze 1955-2003

Image of front page of newspaper in Cyrillic, dated 1 February 1955

Front page of the revived Rya T’eze, 1 February 1955 – the first issue in our holdings.

Following Stalin’s death in 1953 and the more moderate governance introduced by his successor, Nikita Khruschev, publication of Rya T’eze recommenced in 1955, still in Kurdish but this time printed in a Cyrillic alphabet that had been devised by Heciyê Cindî, another Yezidi Kurd who had worked on Radio Yerevan, and also spent time in exile during the 1940s. Nonetheless, Cindî had managed to complete a doctorate in Kurdish folklore while in exile, and was also the author of a Kurmanji reader and other Kurdish books. The new editor was Mîroyê Esed (1919-2008), who would continue to run the paper until 1989.

 

This again was another period in which Kurdish culture was able to flourish in Armenia, and the local radio station also began broadcasting in Kurdish in January 1955. Gayané Ghazaryan has written a fascinating blogpost about Kurds in Armenia and the work of Casimê Celîl (who wrote Kurdish poetry for Rya T’eze) and his family for Radio Yerevan that can be read here.

Other Kurdish authors who contributed to Rya T’eze after its relaunch in 1955 included Qaçaxê Mirad, Şekroyê Xudo, Xelîlê Çaçan, Babayê Keleş, Têmûrê Xelîl, Tîtal Mûradov, Egîtê Xudo, Eliyê Ebdilrehman, Hesenê Qeşeng, Pirîskê Mihoyî, Rizganê Cango, Porsora Sebrî, Tîtalê Efo, Karlênê Çaçanî, Şerefê Eşir, Egîtê Abasî, Paşayê Erfût, Letîfê Emer and Gayanê Hovhannîsyan. As before, much of the paper’s content reflected the dominant focus of the Armenian SSR on Soviet politics and history, agricultural and factory production, and so on, but there continued to be articles, poems and other material of Kurdish interest, such as this article from 9 October 1955 p.1 on the Armenian poet Хачатур Абовйан (Khachatur Abovyan, 1809-48), who was a pioneer in the study of Kurdish language and folklore, writing extensively about the Kurds and recording many of their local legends and folk tales. Abovyan laid the foundations for the development of Kurdish studies in Russia. 

The article reproduces the famous painting of ‘Abovian Among the Kurds’ by Mkrtich Sedrakyan.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

During the 1970s, circulation figures rose from around 2,800 to 5,000 copies, although by the mid-1980s this had dropped back to about 4,000, with occasional changes in the frequency of publication. The death of Erebê Şemo in May 1978 was not overlooked, with a substantial article published on 5 June:

The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989 placed serious financial pressures on the newspaper, which had been funded by the Armenian SSR and relied heavily on the support of the state. Tîtalê Efo took over as editor from Esed that year, only to be succeeded in 1991 by Emerîkê Serdar, who ran the paper until he was forced to resign due to illness. During this time, the alphabet reverted to Latin in 2001, and the newspaper became a monthly publication with a print run of 500 copies in an effort to reduce production costs.

One positive outcome from the collapse of the Soviet Union was that Rya T’eze began to focus more on matters of general Kurdish interest, rather than adhering closely to the programme of the Armenian SSR. This was probably due in part to the growing reliance of the newspaper on the wider Kurdish diaspora for financial support, but these years saw regular coverage of events in Iraqi Kurdistan. 

An article on Kurdish leader Mustafa Barzani from 2001, showing the newspaper’s return to Latin characters and improved coverage on matters of Kurdish interest outside Armenia

However, despite the efforts of the editor and Kurdish donors to keep the newspaper afloat – including an injection of money, the assistance of Kurdish volunteers and support from organisations such as the Lalish Foundation – it was clear that production was no longer financially viable. Publication wound down at the end of 2003, and after a few sporadic issues over the next two years, the press finally closed with No. 4818 in October 2006, which included a review of Dr. Khanna Omarkhali’s book on the Yezidis, Йезидизм (2005) and a tribute to Kurdish writer Emînê Evdal (1906-64), another Yezidi contributor to Rya T’eze during the 1930s and a pioneer in Kurdish language instruction.

Rya T’eze remains a remarkable record of the Kurdish community in Armenia, and is also of particular interest to scholars researching the history of the Yezidis and their culture. Our holdings of the newspaper are probably the most extensive outside the former Soviet Union, and this is a fantastic resource for postgraduate study, either from our own Centre for Kurdish Studies or further afield. Enquiries about access to the newspaper should be directed to Special Collections. 

Newly catalogued: the Maureen Baker-Munton collection of papers relating to Daphne du Maurier (EUL MS 462)

We are delighted to announce that recently-acquired archive material of the novelist Daphne du Maurier has been catalogued and is now available to access for research. The collection comprises literary, personal and family papers that were created or compiled by Daphne du Maurier, and which for many years had been looked after by her close friend, Maureen Baker-Munton. At an auction held at Rowley’s Auction House in Ely on 27 April 2019, items from the collection were sold, and the University of Exeter was successful in purchasing several auction lots. The acquired material complements and expands the already existing collections relating to Daphne du Maurier held at the University of Exeter Special Collections.

Archivist Annie with items from the collection

What makes this material different to some of our other Daphne du Maurier collections are the curatorial elements added by Maureen Baker-Munton. Many of the papers are annotated by Maureen with names, memories or explanations, which not only add extra contextual information about the items, but also provide insight into the close friendship between Daphne and Maureen.

Maureen Luschwitz was born in India in 1922. Following the outbreak of the Second World War, she joined the armed forces in India, through which she met Frederick Browning (more commonly referred to as ‘Boy’ or ‘Tommy’), the husband of Daphne du Maurier. He employed her as his personal assistant and she continued working for him when they returned to England In July 1946. Maureen also became a part-time secretary to Daphne du Maurier, and from this initially work-based relationship, a close and lifelong friendship grew. In 1955, Maureen married Monty Baker-Munton (also referred to as ‘Bim’) with whom she had one child. In the 1970s, Daphne du Maurier asked Monty to be her literary executor and Maureen to be her power of attorney. They supported and cared for Daphne du Maurier until her death in 1989. Maureen Baker-Munton died on 03 January 2013, aged 90. (Source: ‘Maureen Baker-Munton (1922-2013) – a short essay inspired by the sale of her archive of Daphne du Maurier related material’ by Ann Willmore (2019), available at https://www.dumaurier.org/menu_page.php?id=147)

Over the past few months, the collection has been catalogued, with each file or item receiving a unique reference number and a contents description on our online catalogue. This will enable the material to be much more easily searched and accessed for research now and in the future. Although any original arrangement of the material was lost through its sale at auction, our collection of items seemed to naturally fall into the three distinct sections: literary papers, personal papers and family papers. You can find the hierarchy of the collection on our online archives catalogue.

The section of literary papers includes drafts of some of Daphne du Maurier’s novels, short stories and scripts. A particularly interesting item is a manuscript notebook containing plot notes for the novels ‘Le Remplaçant’ [‘The Scapegoat’], ‘The House on the Strand’ and ‘The Flight of the Falcon’. Also included in the section of literary papers is a fascinating assortment of draft poems, which include some written by Daphne du Maurier when she was in her early twenties, as well as others that she wrote in the final decade of her life. Drafts of forewords, articles and essays by Daphne du Maurier are also present, as well as a typescript draft speech written by Daphne du Maurier for Queen Elizabeth II’s Christmas Broadcast in 1957. Intriguingly, some elements of this draft appear to have been incorporated into the Queen’s Christmas message that was broadcast via television. This section also includes papers relating to the lawsuit brought against Daphne du Maurier in the 1940s due to claimed parallels between ‘Rebecca’ and a short story and novel by Edwina Lewin MacDonald. These papers complement an item from another of our collections of material by Daphne du Maurier: the ‘Rebecca Notebook’ (EUL MS 144/1/1/4), which is stamped as having been presented as an exhibit in court in 1947.

The section of personal papers mainly comprises correspondence and items of ephemera. These include a folder of 40 letters written and sent by Daphne du Maurier to Maureen and Monty Baker-Munton between 1947 and 1965. The correspondence in this file covers the period from when Maureen Luschwitz began working as personal assistant to Frederick Browning and as part-time secretary to Daphne du Maurier in the 1940s, through to 1965, by which time the relationship between the du Maurier- Browning family and the Baker-Munton family had developed into a close friendship. The letters from Daphne du Maurier concern a range of personal matters, including daily life, family, friends, travel and health.

The third and final section comprises family papers concerning or created by various ancestors and relatives of Daphne du Maurier. These include original letters from her paternal grandfather, the artist and writer George du Maurier, to his mother, Ellen du Maurier; to his future wife, Emma Wightwick; and to his friend and fellow artist, Thomas Armstrong. Also included within the section are a small number of papers of Muriel du Maurier, née Beaumont, a stage actress and mother of Daphne du Maurier. Daphne du Maurier’s maternal relatives featured very little in our du Maurier collections prior to this accession, so we are particularly pleased that this collection includes papers and photographs of Muriel du Maurier, Muriel’s mother, Emily Beaumont, and her sister, Sybil ‘Billie’ Beaumont. The family papers also include one box of photographs of Daphne du Maurier and her relatives, dating from c 1880s to 1960s.

It has been a great pleasure and a privilege for me to catalogue this collection, and especially to get to know Daphne du Maurier and her friends and family through the form of time travel that only archives enable! The Special Collections team warmly invite anyone interested in working on this collection to get in touch. We look forward to seeing how the collection will be used and the avenues of research it might open up.

Descriptions of all the material in this collection can be browsed via our online catalogue and accessed in our reading room by advance appointment (at least 48 hours’ notice). You can find more information about visiting us and how to book an appointment here. Please note that due to copyright restrictions, photography or copying of the material is not possible without prior permission from the copyright holder.

By Annie Price, Archivist

Transcribing the Letters of John Jarmain: reflections on a remote internship project

Earlier this year, Special Collections launched its first remote internship for University of Exeter students. Unable to run our usual in-person work experience programme, and knowing that another lockdown at the start of 2021 was highly likely, we were pleased to offer an opportunity for students to gain valuable archive experience whilst working from home.

The collection we chose for this remote internship was the Letters of John Jarmain (EUL MS 413). William John Fletcher Jarmain (1911-1944) was a novelist and poet. He served throughout the Second World War as a gunnery officer with the 51st Highland Division during their campaigns in North Africa and Sicily. He took part in the D-Day landing and was killed in action on 26 June 1944. The collection comprises 120 manuscript letters that he sent home to his wife Beryl between June 1942 and November 1943. 

EUL MS 413/1/66 – Aerogram dated 10 March 1943

Digitised images of all of the letters are available to view online through our Digital Collections website, making them ideal for our interns to access and transcribe from home. Once proofread, the transcripts produced by the interns on this project will be uploaded to the website to sit alongside the digitised letters, enabling letters of interest to be more easily identified, accessed and understood.

We would like to take this moment to thank our interns, Beth Howell and Ruby, for their hard work, diligence and enthusiasm for this project. Through a combined effort, they recently completed the transcription of all 120 letters – an amazing achievement! Below you can read their reflections on the project.

Reflections by Beth Howell

Transcribing the letters of a person is always a very involved experience, and working on John Jarmain’s war-time correspondence has proven to be no exception. However, perhaps because Jarmain was so engaged with the process of writing, (often demonstrating himself to be an almost obsessive editor of his own poetry), he always seems to write with a real sense of how his words might be read and interpreted in the future, making his letters a real privilege to read. Though most of his correspondence is addressed to his wife, Beryl, he often appears to imagine a reader beyond her, documenting the world around him with a real sense of capturing the present moment. His letters are therefore not only interesting because of what they reveal about his poetic practice, but also the landscapes he found himself in, the relationships he fostered, and his hopes and anxieties for a future after the war.

My favourite element of Jarmain’s writing, though, was probably the way in which he balanced larger concerns with little details. His ability to find joy in the spaces around him, even though the vision of those landscapes necessarily meant his separation from home (and, of course, were imbued with the ever-present anxieties of potential battles), is really heartening and beautiful to read. He loved birds, and many of his letters are preoccupied with identifying species from a little bird book he bought and carried around with him. (Though I have to say that deciphering rare specimens from his sometimes quite hastily-scribbled writing presented a few challenges- I had certainly never heard of a rufous warbler before!)

EUL MS 413/1/85 – Letter dated 30 April 1943, in which Jarmain writes about birds, including the rufous warbler (highlighted)

I also admired his confidence in informing his wife that he had fallen in (platonic) love with various women during his time in service- including Yone May, the subject of one of his poems. Jarmain presents a tangible picture of contemporary technologies (or quite the opposite), which affect his writing in a very material way- he finds himself scribbling in pencil, writing by candlelight in the wee hours, hastily penning an aerogram when he knows the post is leaving soon. He laments his ability to construct suitable diagrams of views and barracks, continues to marvel at unexpectedly quick postal deliveries, and to agonise when the opposite proves to be the case. His letters are a fascinating and absorbing insight into his life away- checked only by the knowledge that his observations would be tragically cut short. Jarmain died, killed by a fragment of mortar shell, on Saturday 26th June, 1944.

EUL MS 413/1/19 Letter dated 11 October 1942, next to transcript by Beth Howell

Reflections by Ruby

It hardly seems right to call this internship “work”. Work refers to something laborious, something that has to be done, but I found transcribing John Jarmain’s letters delightful. It saddens me that the World War II poets don’t receive the same attention as the World War I poets. Jarmain, though brilliant and sensitive, is far from a household name and does not even have a poetry collection currently in print. This is what makes me so genuinely honoured to have been involved in this project, typing up his letters, so that we can start to make Jarmain’s literature more accessible for more people. I hope that, going forward, people will read these letters and be touched in the same way that I was. 

This internship has shown me that there is a big difference between reading for pleasure and reading to transcribe. Transcribing Jarmain’s letters has forced me to read them carefully, sensitively and attentively. I have had to pay attention to punctuation, names and form which I might not otherwise have paid much attention to. When I’ve read letters from authors in the past, I don’t tend to focus on people who are off-handedly mentioned (cousins, distant friends, colleagues etc.), and only really focus on those they are closest to. However, when writing up these letters I had to pay attention to every name — zooming in to make sure that I got every surname right — and, in doing so, I noticed certain people who popped up time and time again (his friend, Harry, for example). Jarmain’s handwriting also means that it’s easy to mistake a semicolon for an exclamation point. At first glance, his semicolons can look like exclamation points, but when you look more closely, they’re usually not. If I were reading these letters at a glance, I would think that he was just heavy-handed with exclamation points, but this project showed me that he is not, and that he actually uses exclamation points quite sparingly. Over the course of the internship, I became more familiar with Jarmain’s writing style and more attentive to quirks in his handwriting. For example, when writing “a”, he tends to attach it to the word in front (i.e. if he says “a ship”, he will write “aship”). This led to some tenuous guessing at the start of the project; however, I was familiar with this by the end, and found transcribing his letters much easier. 

EUL MS 413/1/14 – Aerogram dated 28 September 1942, mentioning his friend Harry (highlighted)

The internship showed me how important it is to read letters attentively and slowly — to savour them and their images and their kindnesses. This is what Jarmain’s wife, Beryl, would have done, and so we perhaps get closer to the experience of these letters when we read in this way. Having to read Jarmain slowly was probably my favourite part about and, as a consequence of having done this, I feel like I know him better than I otherwise would have done. 

One particularly striking part of Jarmain’s letters is just how little he refers to the actual events of war. He hardly talks about what his troops are doing, and any danger they might be in. Rather, he documents domestic experiences — for example, how he spent his time on leave, or how he goes swimming in the morning before starting work, or a joke told by one of the men. Jarmain separates himself from his identity as the “soldier” and presents himself as a real man, the same husband to whom Beryl waved goodbye. Though this is humbling to see, it also points to the separation between war and home which he documents in his poem ‘El Alemein’. The separation between Jarmain as husband and soldier in these letters makes the dramatic irony of his death all the more upsetting. Reading the letters, I knew that he would never come home and safely settle back into domestic life. In one of his last aerograms (EUL MS 413/1/153), he writes of the Christmas presents he plans to give them, clinging to the possibility that the war will end soon and he will be home with Beryl and Janet-Susan. When the letters abruptly stop, there is no warning and, since he was so secretive about his life as a soldier when writing to Beryl, it seems strangely incongruous that he could have been killed in war. 

EUL MS 413/1/33 – Aerogram dated 8 December 1942: draft of poems ‘For Alamein’

Possibly my favourite parts to transcribe were his descriptions of nature — and, in particular, his descriptions of Italy in his final aerogram (EUL MS 413/1/154): “Away to the right, tier upon tier lit in streaks of sun and shade and clotted with white clustering towns, were the hills of Italy across the strait. In England you cannot imagine such beauty, such a scene”. You can feel the wonder in his voice here and the sheer extent of the view he relays. These nature descriptions are occasionally shown in his poems, but only fleetingly, and I enjoyed reading this different writing style from him. It is also so illuminating to see the poems embedded within these letters because the poems will often refer to images he’s already described for Beryl. For example, in letter one (EUL MS 413/1/1), he writes that he “was struck suddenly by willows, English willows, how they stand in rows like thick-handled powder-puffs, grey-green in the evening”. Then, in a poem in letter two (EUL MS 413/1/2), he writes that the train “Passed willows greyly bunching to the moon”. In this, we can see his poems as snapshots of real, personal experience. Indeed, the fact that they are embedded within letters shows just how intimate and personal they are, which can and should encourage us to read them contextually in new ways. 

Ruby has very kindly recorded herself reading John Jarmain’s first letter (EUL MS 413/1/1). Click on the play button below to listen to the recording. 

Travellers Tales: the papers of Robin Bidwell (EUL MS 377)

Any scholar in the UK involved in Middle East research during the second half of the 20th century would almost certainly have come across Robin Bidwell’s name. From 1968 until his retirement in 1990 he was Secretary and Librarian of the Middle East Centre at the University of Cambridge, and from 1974 he was editor of the journal Arabian Studies, which transformed into New Arabian Studies in the early 1990s. Although active as an author, researcher, correspondent, editor and PhD supervisor, he never held a formal academic post during his career and much of his work was written for a general audience rather than for specialist scholars. His papers have recently been catalogued and are now available for consultation in Special Collections, so this would be a good time to look back on Bidwell’s life and highlight areas of his work that are represented in our archives.

Portrait of Robin Bidwell

Robin Bidwell was born on 27 August 1927 and educated at Downside Abbey school and Pembroke College, Cambridge, where he graduated with a first in History. While a student, he took part in some elaborate pranks, such as composing ‘Letters to Anglican Divines’ that purported to be from an imaginary monk of Downside, as well as collaborating with Humphrey Berkeley in the writing of a series of fictitious letters from a headmaster named ‘H. Rochester Sneath’ that were sent out to the heads of various private schools in 1948 and – despite the absurdity of some of their contents – were taken seriously and elicited replies.

After leaving university, Bidwell was posted to Egypt as a sergeant in the Intelligence Corps serving in the Suez Canal Zone. From 1955 to 1959 he was a political officer in the Western Aden Protectorate, which began his lifelong interest in Aden, Yemen and the region of Southern Arabia. The archive contains eight letters written by Bidwell to his younger sister Dafne (who later worked for MI6) that contain some vivid descriptions of his activities in the region, including dealings with local Bedouin and tribal leaders, his appointment as adviser to the Audhali Sultan, armed skirmishes with militia, meetings with Sharif Hussein bin Ahmad Al-Habieli, the Sultan of Beihan, placements in Ahwar and Zara, visits from the Governor of Aden and from Duncan Sandys, then UK Minister for Defence, and journalist Randolph Churchill, as well as celebrations for Eid. (EUL MS 377/1/2).

Travelling Editor for the Oxford University Press, 1962-64

After leaving the political service, Bidwell began working for Oxford University Press and was subsequently appointed travelling editor for the Middle East market. Much of his work involved pent visiting educational institutions and reporting back on text books required for teaching, looking into issues with distribution, and exploring potential for new books and authors. During the course of his work for OUP, he travelled extensively around the Middle East and by the time he returned to the UK he claimed that he had visited every single country in the region without exception. The archive has three folders of letters – mainly to his boss, David Neale – written from hotels in places such as Accra, Aden, Amman, Baghdad, Beirut, Cairo, Damascus, Gondar, Istanbul, Jeddah, Khartoum, Rabat, Thessaloniki and Tunis, as well as a transcript of radio broadcasts in Baghdad during the coup on 18 November 1963, at which Bidwell was present, given to him by the British Embassy there (EUL MS 377/1/3). Among the many topics discussed is a possible blackmail attempt against lexicographer A.S. Hornby, whose Advanced Learner’s Dictionary of Current English (ALDCE) was one of the books Bidwell was distributing widely in the Middle East.

Letters and map

Cambridge University

Bidwell returned to Cambridge in 1965, where he began studying for a PhD on the French administration in Morocco under Professor Bob Serjeant, who became a mentor, lifelong friend and collaborator. He completed his PhD in 1968, and that same year was appointed Secretary and Librarian of the Middle East Centre, which had been established in 1960 by the famous orientalist Professor Arthur John Arberry. He was a key player in the development of Middle Eastern studies at Cambridge, building up the Centre’s library collections, teaching a popular undergraduate course on modern Arab history and organising a successful programme of seminars.

There are many letters and documents relating to his work at Cambridge, including correspondence with a wide range of scholars and researchers such as Albert Hourani, Henry St John Basil Armitage (1924-2004), Lebanese scholar on Persia and Islam, Victor El-Kik (1936-2017), Gerald de Gaury (1897-1984), Tim Mackintosh-Smith and Professor G. Rex Smith, Jordanian historian Suleiman Mousa (1919-2008), Sir Ronald Wingate (1889-1978), as well as diplomats and political officials including the British ambassadors to North and South Yemen, the Kuwaiti Ambassador to the UK, Salem al-Sabah, and Qatari minister Ali Al-Ansari. There are also administrative documents, letters and reports on PhD matters, folders of teaching and lecture notes, as well as an amusing compilation of jokes, comic verse, newspaper misprints and other examples of ‘college humour’.

In the early part of his research career Bidwell became frustrated at the amount of work needed to calculate the past values of currencies, and decided to draw up his own conversion tables and publish them for the benefit of other scholars. His first published book was therefore, unusually for a Middle East scholar, Currency conversion tables: a hundred years of change (London: Rex Collings, 1970). In a similar way, his recognition of the difficulties faced in obtaining information about minor government officials resulted in the publication of his four-volume work, A Guide to Government Ministers, published in four volumes between 1973 and 1978, and covering the UK, western governments, the Arab World and Africa. If you needed to know who the Minister for the Interior in Egypt was in 1920, or the succession of Defence Ministers in Burma in the 1950s, Bidwell’s Guide probably had the answer. The internet may now provide some of this information, but Bidwell’s labours remain a valuable resource.

Although Bidwell learned some Arabic while working in the Western Aden Protectorate, he never progressed beyond a fairly basic knowledge of the language, which meant that most of his research focussed upon either English language or translated sources.

Book cover for Travellers in Arabia (1976)

For this reason, he was particularly interested in the history of European engagement with the Middle East, which was the subject of his book Travellers in Arabia (1976). Covering the period from the 16th to the mid-20th centuries, Bidwell provided portraits of the explorers, soldiers, archaeologists and writers who had travelled around the Arabian peninsula, such as Carsten Niebuhr, Richard Burton, Charles Montagu Doughty, Wilfred Thesiger and Freya Stark. Written with a light, irreverent touch, Travellers in Arabia was nonetheless underpinned by Bidwell’s solid knowledge of the region’s history and topography. During the course of his career, Bidwell read widely and prolifically on the Middle East, recording each book with a sheet or two of typed notes on which he picked out the salient points or summarised arguments with a short quote or two. We have hundreds of these sheets of typed notes, which include 19th century biographies in English and French, academic studies and meticulously annotated archival sources from the Public Record Office and other archival institutions in the UK and France. A large proportion of the books relate to the subject of European travel and were clearly the raw research for Travellers in Arabia. Although the organisation of these typed notes is not very user-friendly, they could be useful for students or researchers seeking an introduction to the historical literature on some of these topics.

Morocco and North Africa

Bidwell had not forgotten about Morocco, the subject of his Ph.D, which was published by Cass as a monograph as Morocco under colonial rule: French administration of tribal areas 1912-1956 (London: Cass, 1973) and began working on a history of Morocco that drew extensively upon the accounts of European travellers, rather like his book on Arabia. Its working title was Morocco through Western Eyes, but during the 1980s – partly in response to correspondence with publishers and editors (which is also preserved in the archive) – he reshaped the material into a more thematic structure, and the book was eventually published in 1992 as Morocco: The Traveller’s Companion. There are two boxes of notes, drafts, research material and other papers relating to this project, including typed summaries of travel accounts and extensive notes from Foreign Office records.

Other material on Morocco and the neighbouring countries in North Africa include documentation relating to the 1970 Constitutional Referendum, five folders of press-cuttings (1988-92) that cover events such as the Polisario Front conflict with Morocco, the violent protests in Algeria’s ‘Black October’, reforms and protests in Tunisia, and Libya’s international relations. These are interleaved with Bidwell’s typed notes, summarising and commenting on political events, and there are also a series of typescripts by Bidwell that provide a chronological account of events in Algeria between 1989 and 1992, covering such topics as the impact of the Gulf War, the resignation of President Chadli and the assassination of Mohammed Boudiaf. There is also an envelope containing 69 commercial postcards of Algeria and Morocco, dating from the 1920s through to the 1990s and showing street scenes and views of Algiers and Fez, Meknes, Moulay-Idriss and Tetuan, Marrakesh and Casablanca, the Botanical Gardens in Algiers,  traditional costumes and crafts such as basket-making, musicians, markets, festivities and rituals.

Yemen and Aden

Book Cover for the Two Yemens

There is even more material on the history of Yemen and Aden, much of it relating to Bidwell’s research for his book The Two Yemens (1981), which was a detailed history of both North and South Yemen from the 19th century down to the present.

Like many of Bidwell’s books it was written for a general reader, for which reason he deliberately omitted source references and kept the bibliography to a minimum. At times the book perhaps veers into an overly romanticised and orientalist depiction of the region, and it is at its strongest in its analysis of postwar political developments, and the complex relations between the various factions in North and South Yemen during this period. This was of course something of which he had direct experience, as the area of the Aden Protectorate had largely fallen under the auspices of The Federation of South Arabia, which merged with the Protectorate of South Arabia to form the People’s Republic of Southern Yemen in 1967, despite tensions and rivalry between the National Liberation Front (NLF) and FLOSY (Front for the Liberation of Occupied South Yemen). In the North, the old Kingdom of Yemen became the Yemen Arab Republic in 1962, and the ‘two Yemens’ retained an occasionally troubled relationship until their unification in 1990. Bidwell’s account of their history is enlivened by his views on British diplomatic, political and military personalities, many of whom he knew.

In addition to numerous folder of notes and typescripts, there are annorated presscuttings documenting events in the two Yemens throughout the 1980s, a folder of PDRY publications, annotated copies of the Western Aden Protectorate Handbook from the 1950s, as well as a mass of secondary material, articles, essays, offprints, official records and reports. There is also a set of three large black bound folders containing photocopies articles and documents on the Hadhramaut region of South Arabia (now in eastern Yemen) with some other travel narratives concerning Aden and Yemen, including writings by J.T. Bent, Majid Khadduri, St John Philby, W.H. Ingrams (six articles, comprising the whole of Folder 2), Freya Stark, Elizabeth Monroe and D. van der Meulen.

Archival and Editing Work: the Arab Bureau and the Ottoman Empire

Much of Bidwell’s research was carried out in archives in the UK, France and further afield, and he made particularly extensive use of Foreign Office Confidential Print (FOCP) sources. These were printed copies of telegrams, despatches and other documents that were reproduced and circulated to officials in the Foreign Office from the 1820s through to 1914. He carried out important work editing publications for the Foreign Office, such as the The affairs of Arabia, 1905-1906  (2 vols, 1971) and The affairs of Kuwait, 1896-1905 (1971), and he also edited 28 volumes of British documents on foreign affairs: reports and papers from the Foreign Office confidential print. Part 2, From the First to the Second World War. Series B, Turkey, Iran, and the Middle East, 1918-1939 (Frederick, Md.: University Publications of America, 1985-97.)

He amassed a large collection of documents for this work, many of which were not selected for inclusion in the published volumes, and which now offer researchers a wealth of information on British foreign policy during the closing years of the Ottoman Empire.

Selection of archival documents relating to the Ottoman Empire

 

 

 

For many years Bidwell was particularly interested in the Arab Bureau, which was founded in 1916 on the initiative of Mark Sykes with the aim of collecting intelligence information and disseminating propaganda. Headed by Brigadier-General Gilbert Clayton, David Hogarth, and Kinahan Cornwallis, staff of the Bureau included Gertrude Bell, T.E. Lawrence, Aubrey Herbert,  George Ambrose Lloyd and William Ormsby-Gore. Moving away from the traditionally harmonious relations between Britain and Turkey (as exemplified by papers in the Whittall archive, EUL MS 259), the Bureau began demonising the Ottoman Turks and pushing a narrative of an Arab nationalist revival that would supporting the Arab Revolt against their Ottoman rulers. As subsequent events would show, however, British assurances to the Arab leaders turned out to be worthless, and the post-war era would see much of the former Ottoman Empire come under the control of the British Empire.

Bidwell acquired a large collection of documents relating to the history of the Bureau and also corresponded with surviving members or their descendants – these letters are among the large box of research papers on the topic (EUL MS 377/2/1/.) Although he went on to edit The Arab bulletin: bulletin of the Arab Bureau in Cairo, 1916-1919 (4 vols, 1986), for which he provided an introduction and notes, it appears that he intended to write a larger monograph on the Arab Bureau – something that has since been done by Bruce Westrate, author of The Arab Bureau: British Policy in the Middle East, 1916-1920 (2010). There is still a great deal of intriguing and unused material in Bidwell’s papers however.

Later career, marriage and the Dictionary of the Modern Arab World

Robin Bidwell was over fifty when he married educational psychologist Margaret Luft. They lived in the Suffolk village of Coney Weston where they were soon joined by a daughter, Leila. He retired from his role as Secretary of the Middle East Centre in 1990 and was therefore able to devote more time to the project that had been his main focus attention for several years, the creation of a Dictionary of the Modern Arab World. He was seated at his desk at home working on this when he died of a heart attack on 10 June 1994.

The Dictionary is a monumental achievement that contains over 2000 entries, selected and written in Bidwell’s own idiosyncratic style, with pithy statements and lively opinions on personalities (many of whom were still alive) as well as lengthier, perceptive essays on a range of topics and historical events, informed by Bidwell’s firsthand knowledge. It is not a conventional encyclopedia by any means, and in its unfinished state created some challenges for the publishers, who finally got it into print in 1998. We have fifteen boxes containing Bidwell’s typed entries for the Dictionary, many of which were not used in the published version.

Cover of New Arabian Studies Vol.1

His other great work was the journal Arabian Studies, eight volumes of which he co-edited with Bob Serjeant: Vol. I (1974), Vol. II (1975), Vol. III (1976), Vol. IV (1978), Vol. V (1979), Vol. VI (1982), Vol. VII (1985) and Vol. VIII (1990.) Problems arose regarding funding for the publication, which led to the editors deciding to break away from its association with the Middle East Centre at Cambridge and start a new journal, New Arabian Studies, the first volume of which was published by Exeter University Press in February 1994, shortly before his death. Sadly, Bob Serjeant never lived to see this, having died in 1993. The dispute over control of the journal is recorded in detail in the correspondence files, as is Bidwell’s editorial work and communications with authors.

Catalogue entries for the Bidwell papers can be found here.

 

                                                                                     Publications by Robin Bidwell

Currency conversion tables: a hundred years of change.
London : Rex Collings, 1970

The affairs of Arabia, 1905-1906 / edited with extensive new material and a new introduction by Robin Bidwell.
London: Frank Cass, 1971

The affairs of Kuwait, 1896-1905 / edited with extensive new material and a new introduction by Robin Bidwell.
London: Frank Cass, 1971

Morocco under colonial rule: French administration of tribal areas 1912-1956
London: Frank Cass, 1973.

Bidwell’s Guide to Government Ministers (London: Frank Cass, 1973-74. 3 vols.)

Volume 1: The major Powers and Western Europe 1900-1971 (1973)

Volume 2: The Arab world 1900-1972 (1973)

Volume 3: The British Empire and Successor States, 1900-1972 (1974)

Volume 4: Guide to African ministers
London: Rex Collings, 1978.

Travellers in Arabia 
London: Hamlyn, 1976

The two Yemens
Harlow: Longman, 1983

Arabian and Islamic studies: articles presented to R.B. Serjeant on the occasion of his retirement from the Sir Thomas Adams’s Chair of Arabic at the University of Cambridge.  Edited by R.L. Bidwell and G. Rex Smith.
London: Longman, 1983

British documents on foreign affairs: reports and papers from the Foreign Office confidential print. Part 2, From the First to the Second World War. Series B, Turkey, Iran, and the Middle East, 1918-1939 / editor: Robin Bidwell [and Bülent Gökay].       (Bidwell edited Part II, Series B, Vols.1-28)
Frederick, Md.: University Publications of America, 1985-97.

The Arab bulletin: bulletin of the Arab Bureau in Cairo, 1916-1919 / with a new introduction and explanatory notes by Dr.Robin Bidwell.
Gerrards Cross: Archive Editions, 1986 [4 v.]

Arabian personalities of the early twentieth century 
Cambridge: Oleander, 1986.

Morocco: the traveller’s companion.  (Co-written with Margaret Bidwell).
London: I.B. Tauris, 1992

The diary kept by T. E. Lawrence while travelling in Arabia during 1911 / [introduction by Robin Bidwell].
Reading: Garnet, 1993

Dictionary of modern Arab history: an A to Z of over 2000 entries from 1798 to the present day /          London: Kegan Paul, 1998

Articles

‘Middle Eastern Studies in British Universities’

Bulletin (British Society for Middle Eastern Studies)
Vol. 1, No. 2 (1975), pp. 84-93

‘A French Family in the Yemen, by Louise Fevrier’ ‘Queries for Biographers of T.E. Lawrence’ Arabian Studies Vol.III (1976)

‘Bibliographical Notes on European Accounts of Muscat 1500-1900’
Arabian Studies Vol.IV (1978)

‘The Political Residents of Aden: Biographical Notes’ Arabian Studies Vol.V (1979)

‘T.E. Lawrence in French Military Archives ‘ and ‘The Turkish Attack on Aden 1915-1918’      Arabian Studies Vol.VI (1983)

Robin Bidwell, “The Brémond Mission to the Hijaz, 1916–17: A Study in Inter-Allied Co-operation,” in Arabian and Islamic Studies: Articles Presented to R. B. Serjeant on the Occasion of His Retirement from the Sir Thomas Adam’s Chair of Arabic at the University of Cambridge,
(London: Longman, 1983)

‘A Collection of Texts dealing with the Sultanate of Muscat and Oman and its International Relations, 1790-1970’ Journal of Oman Studies, Vol.6:1 (1983)

‘The Old Moroccan Army’, Mars and Minerva (SAS Regiment Journal) Vol.6:1 (Summer 1983) pp.26-8

‘The Reformed Moroccan Army 1860-1912’, Mars and Minerva (SAS Regiment Journal) Vol.7:1 (Autumn 1985) pp.28-30

‘Visitors to San’a’ Arabian Studies Vol.VIII (1990)

Book reviews

Brian Doe, Socrata (in British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies Vol.19:2, 1992) p.219-220
James Simmons, Passionate Pilgrims (in the Middle East Journal, Vol.42:2, Spring 1988) p.332-333  J.G. Lorimer, Gazetteer of the Persian Gulf, (Geographical Journal, Vol. 138:2, June 1972) pp.233-5
Michael Meeker, Literature and Violence in Northern Arabia (Journal of Arabic Literature, XII, 1981) pp.160-161

 

Arrival of the Nursing Ethics Heritage Collection

We are delighted to have recently welcomed the Nursing Ethics Heritage Collection into our Special Collections at the University of Exeter.

The heart of the collection is the personal research library of Professor Marsha Fowler. In 1977, Professor Fowler began collecting books to support her research into the development of nursing ethics and the American Nurses Association code of Ethics for Nurses. Many of these key texts were not available to consult in academic libraries. Professor Fowler later gifted the collection to the International Care Ethics (ICE) Observatory at the University of Surrey and, in 2016, the collection was accepted by the University of Surrey for inclusion within its Archives and Special Collections. The Archives and Special Collections team collaborated with Professor Fowler and Professor Ann Gallagher to develop the collection by acquiring further publications and materials concerning nursing, the history of nursing, bioethics, women, religion and health, with titles leading up to the present day. You can find out more about the collection and its development in this blog post by the University of Surrey’s Archives and Special Collections.

Books in the Nursing Ethics Heritage Collection

The decision was made to transfer the collection from the University of Surrey to the University of Exeter due to Exeter’s more wide-ranging courses and specialist research interests in relation to nursing and ethics. In Exeter, the collection will also enhance educational provision and research opportunities in the Academy of Nursing under the leadership of Professor Ann Gallagher (Head of Nursing and Editor-in-Chief Nursing Ethics). In addition, it will complement existing books on nursing and the history of nursing in the Hypatia Collection. You can find out more about the transfer of the collection in this blog post by the University of Surrey’s Archives and Special Collections. We would like to take this opportunity to thank the Archives and Special Collections team at the University of Surrey for their care and development of the collection, and for the safe transfer of the collection to its new home.

A full catalogue of the collection had already been compiled by the Archivist at the University of Surrey. With both organisations using the same cataloguing software (CALM) it has proven to be a fairly simple process to transfer over the existing records into Exeter’s online catalogue. This was a great time saver, meaning that the collection was searchable online just a day or two after its transfer and minimising the time that it was inaccessible to researchers. The online catalogue for the collection can be found here under collection reference EUL MS 472/NEHC. The six main sections of the collection comprise:

EUL MS 472/NEHC/1 – Texts from the nursing ethics heritage period, 1860s-1965

EUL MS 472/NEHC/2 – Texts relating to Bioethics

EUL MS 472/NEHC/3 – Texts and audio visual material relating to nursing bioethics

EUL MS 472/NEHC/4 – Biographical records relating to nurse ethicists

EUL MS 472/NEHC/5 – Histories of nursing ethics

EUL MS 472/NEHC/6 – Contextual publications for medical practice, nursing and ethics

EUL MS 472/NEHC/7 – Codes of ethics for nurses

The collection comprises almost 500 books, periodicals and articles, including works dating from 1888 to editions of ‘Nursing Ethics: An International Journal for Health Care Professionals’ published as recently as 2017. Many of the books contain the names of former owners inscribed within, as well as annotations and underlined words in the text, highlighting their importance in shaping the study and work of nurses. Though predominantly consisting of English-language works, it is wonderful to also find texts in Italian, Dutch, Hungarian, Russian and Japanese within the collection. Some images of items in the collection can be viewed on the slideshow below.

 

Items from the Nursing Ethics Heritage Collection are now available to consult in our reading room by advance appointment. We hope this wonderfully rich collection will support and inspire research into the study of nursing ethics, both here at the University of Exeter and by visiting researchers.

Enquiries about this collection can be made by email to: libspc@exeter.ac.uk.

Cataloguing the Cecil Harmsworth Archive

Following on from cataloguing two very large archives – the Syon Abbey archive and the Common Ground archive – my new challenge in January 2021 was to catalogue a much smaller but no less compelling archive: the archive of Liberal MP, Cecil Bishopp Harmsworth (EUL MS 435).

Archivist Annie Price with diaries in the Cecil Harmsworth archive

Cecil Harmsworth was a politician, businessman and the first Baron Harmsworth of Egham. Born in 1869, his political career was launched when he became the Liberal MP for Droitwich in 1906, a position that he held until 1910. He then went on to become MP for Luton between 1911 and 1922. Between 1915 and 1922, he also held several junior ministerial positions within the British government. In 1939, Harmsworth was elevated to the House of Lords and gained the title of 1st Baron Harmsworth of Egham, Surrey. He was also involved in his family’s media empire, and published several of his own literary works, including ‘A Little Fishing Book’ (1942). In 1911, Cecil Harmsworth bought Dr Samuel Johnson’s house in Gough Square, London, which he restored and presented to the nation in 1929. Cecil Harmsworth married Emilie Maffet, with whom he had three children. He died aged 78 in 1948.

EUL MS 435/2/5 – An election favour in the Liberal and Conservative Coalition colours, made for the General Election in 1918

Cecil Harmsworth had no direct links to South West England (though he visited Exeter and Devon several times during his life, as recorded in his diaries), but when his archive came up for sale at auction in 2008, the University of Exeter’s History department purchased Harmsworth’s extensive diaries, and then subsequently acquired further documents that had remained unpurchased at the original sale. Professor Andrew Thorpe and Professor Richard Toye edited Cecil Harmsworth’s early diaries, which were published in Parliament and Politics in the Age of Asquith and Lloyd George: the Diaries of Cecil Harmsworth, MP, 1909–1922 in 2016. The diaries and accompanying archive material were then kindly deposited with the University of Exeter Special Collections. Though incomplete, the archive includes a fascinating range of papers that provide valuable insight into Cecil Harmsworth’s personal and professional life.

The archive comprises 27 boxes of material created during Cecil Harmsworth’s lifetime, as a well as some papers added by subsequent family members following his death in 1948. It has been catalogued into the following sections: diaries; correspondence and papers; speeches and literary papers; financial papers; legal and property papers; family papers; photographs; printed material; and papers relating to the Cecil Harmsworth archive. You can explore the archive by clicking on the image below.

The highlight of the archive are without a doubt the collection of diaries kept by Cecil Harmsworth between 1900 and 1948. Harmsworth was a keen angler and his diary began as a record of his fishing trips. Following his election as an MP in the House of Commons in 1906, his diaries became increasingly political. Harmsworth’s diaries are full of observations and notes on domestic and foreign policy, parliamentary colleagues, and his political duties as an MP. In addition, Harmsworth lived through several key historical events, including the Easter Rising in Ireland and the First and Second World War. Other notable features of his diaries are descriptions of family life, travel around the world, involvement in the Garden Cities movement, and the restoration of Dr Samuel Johnson’s House in London.

EUL MS 435/1/1/1 – Cecil Harmsworth’s diary for 1900 is the first in the series

The archive also includes five boxes of political, business-related and personal correspondence and papers. These include papers relating to his career as a Liberal MP in the House of Commons, as Parliamentary Under-Secretary for the Home Department under H.H. Asquith (1915), as a member of the Prime Minister’s Secretariat under David Lloyd George (1917-1919), and as Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs in the Liberal-Conservative Coalition government (1918-1922). This section of the archive also includes a scrapbook which, though only partially complete and containing mostly loose items, provides a fascinating glimpse into life as an MP in the House of Commons in the early 20th century. It includes letters from the Chief Whips, dinner menus, press clippings, and items of ephemera, such as tickets to the opening of the Parliament.

EUL MS 435/2/14 – Scrapbook of items relating to the House of Commons, 1906-1922

Though the archive predominantly comprises material created or compiled by Cecil Harmsworth, it also includes some material relating to other members of his family, including his wife, Emilie. Her name appears regularly in Cecil Harmsworth’s diaries, but I was particularly pleased that the archive also includes some of Emilie’s own papers. These include several files of correspondence, as well as papers relating to her training and qualification as a nurse during the First World War.

EUL MS 435/6/3 – Emilie Harmsworth’s papers relating to nursing

The Cecil Harmsworth archive is now fully catalogued and available to browse on our online catalogue and to access in our reading room.

By Annie Price, Project Archivist

Brothers in Arms: the papers of Nabih and Adil Al-Azmah (EUL MS 215)

The Al-Azmah papers are unusual amongst our collections in that they document the political careers of two brothers, both of whom – in related and overlapping spheres of activity – played a major role in the development of Arab nationalism in the Middle East. Although much of their lives were spent in their native Syria, the Al-Azmah brothers were active across Palestine, Transjordan and Egypt, were involved in training the ikhwahn troops of King Ibn Saud, and also held important political positions in the Syrian government during the eras of the French mandate as well as postwar independence.

Nabih and Adil were was born in Damascus to Abdel Aziz Al-Azmah, and belonged to a distinguished Damascene family who traced their origins back several centuries to Hasan Bey al-Azma, a Turkmen military leader who had settled in Syria. Many family members attained prominent positions in Syria as merchants, landowners, administrators, military and political leaders, as well as in the arts and sciences. These include Nabih and Adil’s uncles, Zaki, Taher and Yusuf Al-Azma, who were all respected army officers, Bashir al-Azma (1910–1992), who was briefly Prime Minister of Syria in 1962, Malak al-Azma, a successful banker whose son Professor Aziz al-Azma, donated the papers of his grandfather and great-uncle Adil and Nabih to the University of Exeter.

 

نبية العظمة   Nabih Al-Azmeh (1886-1972)

Nabih was educated at the Al-Rashdiya Military School in the Yalbugha Mosque in the Al-Bahsa neighborhood of Damascus before travelling to Yemen at the age of twelve where his father had been appointed as an administrator in the Hodeidah district. After returning from Yemen, he joined the Istanbul Military Academy in 1905, graduating two years later with the rank of lieutenant. During the First World War he fought with the Ottoman forces, taking part in the attack on the Suez Canal in 1915 as well as the campaign in Palestine.

Following the defeat of the Ottoman forces at the end of the war, the British took control of Palestine, Iraq and Transjordan, while France took over Syria in 1920. King Faisal was appointed head of the Arab Kingdom of Syria in March 1920 and during his short reign Nabih Al-Azmah served as director of police in Aleppo, while his uncle Yusuf Al-Azmah was Minister for War. However, in April 1920 the League of Nations gave France a mandate over Syria. A few Syrians were prepared to accept French rule, but the majority were strongly opposed to the idea and Yusuf Al-Azmah was one of the foremost advocates of armed resistance. When the French invaded with a force comprising several thousand troops, supported by tanks, artillery and aircraft, Yusuf died a heroic death in the Battle of Maysalun in July 1920. The Arab government in Syria was dissolved and King Faisal was expelled from Syria, although the following year the British had him installed as King of Iraq, an office he fulfilled until his death in 1933.

Following the death of his uncle and the French take-over of Syria, Nabih Al-Azmah left Syria and remained in exile for the next two decades. He moved first to the Druze city of as-Suwaydā’ in southwestern Syria, close to the border with Jordan, and then took up a role as advisor to King Faisal’s brother, Prince Ali bin Al Hussein, the Emir of Jordan. He later moved to Egypt where he worked with King Abdul Aziz in establishing and training the Ikhwan forces in the Saudi army. During the 1930s he was active in Palestine, beginning with the Islamic Conference in Jerusalem December 1931, which had been organised by the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Hajj Amin al-Husayni (1895–1974) and Indian Pan-Islamist Shawkat ‘Ali (1873–1938) and reflected the growing interest of Muslims in Palestine and the threat of Zionism – a topic explored in depth in the archive of Abd al-Fattah Al-Awaisi (EUL MS 216). Nabih Al-Azmah became close to the Grand Mufti (who was also a friend of Ernest Tatham Richmond) and there are photographs of them together during this period.

Cover of a pamphlet published by the Hizb al-Istiqlal al-Arabi (Arab Independence party) in 1932 EUL MS 215/7/6

In 1932 he helped establish Palestine’s first political party, Hizb al-Istiqlal, modelled in part on the Syrian nationalist party Hizb al-Istiqlal al-‘Arabi to which he belonged. The following year he was appointed director of the first Arab Exhibition, held in Jerusalem, and he continued in this role for the second Exhibition in 1934.

Al-Azmah also participated in the Great Revolt of 1936-39, a nationalist uprising by Palestinian Arabs against the British administration of the Palestine Mandate. He became head of the ‘Committee for the Defense of Palestine’, providing support and assistance between the mujahideen in Syria and those in Palestine. As head of the Syrian Palestine Defence Committee he attended the General Arab Congress at Bludan in 1937, which strove to strengthen Pan-Arab feeling in the region in support of Palestine.

Letter from Fawzi al-Qawuqji , Commander of the Society for the Defense of Palestine. EUL MS 215/10/1

Like al-Husayni, Al-Azmah’s opposition to the British and the French led him to consider supporting the Nazis during the Second World War, on the basis of ‘my enemy’s enemy must be my friend’, but unlike some other Arab nationalists he remained very wary of such an alliance; after some initial contact with Axis forces, he withdrew all ties. When the Allied forces arrived in Syria in 1941 he was forced once more to go into exile. He refused to go to Berlin, however, unlike his brother Adil who took refuge in the German capital with the Iraqi Prime Minister Rashid Ali al-Gaylani. After the war Nabih returned to Syria where he was appointed Minister for Defence in the new independent government of Saadallah Al-Jabri. This only lasted for a brief period, after which he held the position of Chairman of the National Party until his retirement in the early 1950s. He died in 1972.

Conference pamphlet published by the League of Nationalist Action. EUL MS 215/7/6

  عادل العظمة   Adil Al-Azmeh (1888-1952)

Portrait of Adil Al-zmah, from a newspaper report on his death EUL MS 215/6/2

Adil did not share his older brother’s military background, but he was equally active in his work for Arab nationalism. He graduated from the Royal Academy in Istanbul and practised for some time as a lawyer in the early 1920s before joining Nabih in Transjordan, where he campaigned against Jewish immigration into Palestine. Following the failure of the Great Revolt he was one of many Arab nationalists, led by the Grand Mufti, who took refuge in Iraq and supported the pro-German coup d’etat in March 1941. He lived in Iraq in the early 1940s and participated in similar political activities to his brother, including a spell spent in Iraq in the early 1940s. After independence, he occupied various posts of government, including Governor of Latakia (1944-46?) – during which time he played a role in the arrest and execution of Sulayman al-Murshid – Governor of Aleppo (1946-49) and Minister of the Interior. The archive contains copies of his diaries for the years between 1946 and 1948 (EUL MS 115/1/11-14), providing a fascinating glimpse into his political and administrative duties. He died in Beirut in 1952.

EUL MS 215/5/4

Cover of a booklet published by the Governorate of Aleppo in 1947, with an image showing the city’s famous Bab al-Faraj Clock Tower and – in the distance – the 13th century citadel. EUL MS 215/5/4

Although these papers are all photocopies – the original documents are held in Damascus, with the Saudi papers now housed at the Darat al-Malik Ábd al-Áziz in Riyadh – they provide a wealth of information on topics such early Arab nationalism, political networks in the Levant, the activities of Islamic movements in Palestine, and the history of Syria during the transition from the French Mandate to independence. The documents include political correspondence with Arab leaders and key figures such as Fawzi Al-Qawuqji, Hashim al-Atassi, Husni al-Za’im, Fakhri el-Nashashibi, Rashid Rida, Mohamed Ali Ettaher, Asad Daghir, Wajih Al-Haffar, Dr Abd al-Rahman al-Kayyali, Muhammad ‘Izzat Darwazeh and others, state papers, political manifestoes and conference booklets for various political parties, as well as campaign material directed against the French administration in Syria and the British administration in Palestine. There are four indexes to the papers (EUL MS 215/6/4, 215/8/8, 215/11/3 and 215/12/13, which should probably be the starting point for researchers seeking to work with the collection.

The catalogue entries for the Al-Azmah papers can be consulted here

 

 

Cataloguing the Common Ground Archive: Project Completed!

I’m very pleased to announce that after two years and four months (extended due to the coronavirus pandemic), the project to catalogue the Common Ground archive has now been completed. The new catalogue descriptions will allow this extensive archive (measuring approximately 125 linear metres!) to be more easily searched, accessed and used. The archive has been arranged into sections, series and files, and descriptions are available for all to browse via our online catalogue. You can explore the new archive catalogue here.

 

Common Ground is an arts and environmental charity, which was established in the early 1980s (founded in 1982 and charitable status gained in 1983) with a mission to link nature with culture and use celebration of the everyday as a starting point for local action. The charity has raised awareness of a variety of environmental issues through its innovative projects, which have involved public participation; the commissioning of new artistic works; the organisation of exhibitions, events and conferences; the launching of new calendar customs; and the publication of books, pamphlets, newsletters, leaflets and postcards. Many of the projects – in particular, ‘Parish Maps’, the ‘Campaign for Local Distinctiveness’ and ‘Apple Day’ – have proven to be highly sustainable, continuing long after Common Ground’s active involvement in them ceased.

The Common Ground archive comprises a wide range of material created and collected by the charity in the course of its activities between 1982 and 2013, including project planning papers, correspondence, reports, financial papers, research material, press clippings, photographs, promotional material, and publications. The largest section of the archive concerns Common Ground’s work on its various projects. These files are organised into sub-sections according to project, reflecting the archive’s original order and the use of the material by Common Ground. However, as many of the projects overlapped chronologically and thematically, some sub-sections relate to more than one project. It is therefore worth browsing the archive both via the hierarchical tree, as well as through an advanced search of the entire archive (enter EUL MS 416 followed by a * in the ‘Ref No’ field and enter a keyword e.g. Parish Maps in the ‘Any Text’ field.

 

For me personally, the aspects of Common Ground’s work that really shine through the archive are project conception, public participation, and engagement through the arts. For each project there are project proposals and project planning notes, which reveal the thought processes and creative ideas behind Common Ground’s projects. The excitedly scribbled questions and ideas on pages of lined paper are particularly wonderful! All of Common Ground’s projects involved public participation to a certain degree, but my favourites are those that invited members of the public to share their own knowledge and experiences. Thousands of letters from people around the UK (and, in some instances, around the world) relating to projects such as the Flora Britannica, Orchard Observances and Parish Maps provide fascinating insight into the relationship between people and the environment. And finally, the archive contains correspondence, photographs and publications relating to Common Ground’s collaboration with artists, sculptors, craftspeople, photographers, writers, poets, playwrights and composers. The directors of Common Ground understood that the arts are an effective means to engage and excite people about their local environment, and made a special effort to work with a wide variety of practitioners, including Peter Randall-Page, David Nash, James Ravilious, David Wood, James Crowden, and Karen Wimhurst.

The Common Ground archive has the potential to be used for research in a wide range of areas, including environmental studies, geography, literature, visual arts, cultural studies, sociology, and business studies. The archive may also be of general interest to anyone keen to know more about environmental issues, arts, culture, or their local area (the archive includes material relating to thousands of towns, cities and villages across the UK). We hope that this cataloguing project will enable the archive to be more easily and effectively accessed and used for research, teaching and pleasure.

To find out more about the different Common Ground projects and the archive material relating to them, you can browse the past project blog posts, or visit our online guide to the Common Ground archive. The online guide has been designed to help you to navigate the archive catalogue, provide guidance on access and copyright, and answer some of your questions. You are also welcome to contact Special Collections by email at libspc@exeter.ac.uk for more information about the archive.

So that just leaves me to say goodbye for now! However, I am delighted to be continuing in my role as project archivist at the University of Exeter Special Collections, where I have already embarked on my next cataloguing project…

By Annie Price, Project Archivist

Exploring the Omar Sheikhmous Archive, Part 4: A Guide to Kurdish Political Parties

In the concluding entry to our series of blogposts exploring the Omar Sheikhmous archive, it seemed a good idea to provide a guide to the various Kurdish political parties, groups and movements for which he hold material in our collections. The complex and convoluted history of Kurdish resistance can be hard to follow, with multiple splits and reunions, confusing acronyms and variant forms of names.

The party emblems and logos are all taken from documents in the Sheikhmous archive.

Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (KDPI) – EUL MS 403/3/3

 

Kurdish Democratic Party of Iran

Hîzbî Dêmukratî Kurdistanî Êran‎

Persian: حزب دموکرات کردستان ایران

 

 

The Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (KDPI) was founded by Qazi Muhammed in Mahabad in 1945, and we also hold a file on the short-lived Republic of Mahabad that includes copies of periodicals published there prior to Muhammed’s execution in March 1947 (EUL MS 403/7/1/1).

The subsequent repression of the party forced it to operate underground for the next few years, surfacing occasionally for short-lived collaborations in the 1950s and 1960s. When the new Islamic regime rejected calls for Kurdish autonomy, the KDPI joined other Kurdish groups to fight the Iranian government from 1979 to 1981, a conflict that continued intermittently ever since. The KDPI remains prescribed in Iran, with many of its members taking refuge over the border in Iraq.

Most of the material held dates from the 1980s, although there are documents dated between 1978 and 1996 in the file. These include information sheets, leaflets written by KDPI activists, bulletins, press releases, open letters from the KDPI leadership, issues of periodicals and newspapers such as Kurdistan: Organî Kumîtey Nawendîye Hîzbî Dêmukratî Kurdistanî Êran, ‘Talash dar rah-I tafahum: majmu’ah-‘i  asnad and Kurdistan Today, along with personal correspondence such as invitations to meetings sent to Omar Sheikhmous.

One of the most significant figures in the history of the KDPI is Abdul-Rahman Ghassemlou, who led the party from from 1973 until his assassination in Vienna in 1989. There are several official KDPI communications from Ghassemlou in the file, along with a separate correspondence file (EUL MS 403/2/1/4) and cuttings on Ghassemlou’s life and death (EUL MS 403/7/5). There is also an open letter written byGhassemlou’s successor as KDPI Secretary General, Abdullah Hassanzadeh, on the subject of Iranian state terrorism with a four page list of victims and a statement about Iranian cleric and intelligence minister Ali Fallahian in relation to the ‘Mykonos’ murder of Kurds in Berlin (1996)

Komala – EUL MS 403/3/4

Society of Revolutionary Toilers of Iranian Kurdistan

Komełey Şorişgêrî Zehmetkêşanî Kurdistanî Êran

Revolutionary Workers’ Society of Iranian Kurdistan / ‘Society of Revolutionary Toilers of Iranian Kurdistan’

كۆمه‌ڵه‌ی شۆڕشگێڕی زه‌حمه‌تكێشانی كوردستانی ئێران كۆمه‌ڵه‌ی شۆڕشگێڕی

[NB Not to be confused with the Kurdistan Toilers’ Party, (KTP) Hizbi Zahmatkêshani Kurdistan, or Hizb al-Kadihin al-Kurdistani, which was founded in 1985 and publishes newspapers and periodicals including Alay Azadi (Banner of Freedom), Pesh Kawtin and Nojan.]

Komala means ‘group’ or ‘society’ in Kurdish, and the recurring use of the word in the names of several different political groups can be confusing.

Emerging from a student organisation in the late 1960s, the Komala party took formal shape in the late 1970s as Komełey Şorişgêrî Zehmetkêşanî Kurdistanî Êran [in Kurdish] or ‘Society of Revolutionary Toilers of Iranian Kurdistan’ until 1984 when it became the Komala Kurdistan’s Organization of the Communist Party of Iran. It remained part of the Communist Party of Iran until 2000 when one of its leaders, Abdullah Muhtadi, led a breakaway faction named the Komala Party of Iranian Kurdistan (Komala-PIK). Two further schisms occurred in 2007 and 2008, resulting in the creation of other Komala splinter groups led by Omar Ilkhanizade and Abdulla Konaposhi respectively.

The material we hold – which includes leaflets, press-releases, posters and booklets – spans the period between 1965 and 2009 and includes publications issued by Komala, the Communist Party of Iran and various international branches such as the Organisation of Komala Supporters Abroad.

Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) – EUL MS 403/3/5

Partiya Karkerên Kurdistanê

The PKK was founded in November 1978 in the village of Fis (near Lice), by a group of Kurdish students led by Abdullah Öcalan. During the 1980s and 1990s it was engaged in violent conflict with the Turkish state and military authorities, but in 1999 Öcalan was captured and imprisoned, and since then he has been held in solitary confinement as the only prisoner on İmralı island in the Sea of Marmara.

We don’t hold many PKK documents but there is a large amount of secondary material on Öcalan and PKK activities in the box on the Kurds in Turkey (EUL MS 403/7/6/4), a biographical file on Öcalan (EUL MS 403/7/5) and numerous news reports in Boxes EUL MS 403/10, including statements about the PKK issued by Jalal Talabani.

 

Komkar  EUL MS 403/3/7

 

The Association of Kurdish Workers for Kurdistan

Federasyona Komelên Karkerên Kurdistan [Komelên Karkerên = Kom Kar]

 

 

Among the Kurdish diaspora, it was students who were the first to start forming political organisations, beginning with the Kurdish Students Society in Europe (KSSE). In 1979 groups of Kurdish workers in Turkey came together to form ‘Komkar’, and this federation of Kurdish worker’s associations soon become widely established across Europe.

We hold papers from various European Komkar branches including statements on Kurdish and Turkish affairs, information on the 5th Komkar congress in 1983, correspondence, posters and publications.

 

Kurdistan Socialist Party – Iraq and related Socialist parties

EUL MS 403/3/8 and EUL MS 403/3/20

Kurdistan Socialist Party – Iraq (KSP-I)

الحزب الاشتراكي الكردستاني العراق

al-Ḥizb al-Ishtirākī al-Kurdistānī – al-`Irāq

 

Partiya Sosyalist a Kurdistan (PSK or PASOK)

al-Hizb al-Ishtiraki al-Kurdi

 

The complicated history of the different Socialist parties involved in the Kurdish struggle requires some careful unpicking. The United Socialist Party of Kurdistan was formed in 1979 when a former KDP splinter group led by Mahmud Osman united with another group led by Socialist politician Rasul Mamand (1944–94). It was renamed the Socialist Party of Kurdistan-Iraq  (KSP-I) in 1981. The party was dissolved in  December 1992 when Mamand joined the PUK’s Political Bureau.

In 1993 the KSP-I was revived by a former member Mohammed Haji Mahmoud after he left the KDP, and at its second party congress the following year it changed its name to the Kurdistan Social Democratic Party (Parti Sosialiri Dimuqrati Kurdistan, Al-Hizb al-Ishtiraki al-Dimuqrati al-Kurdistani) – which is not to be confused with the Kurdish Socialist Democratic Movement which was founded in May 1976 by Salih Al-Yousify (1918-81) from which we have a copy of a document issued in 1977.

Meanwhile in Turkey the Socialist Party of Turkish Kurdistan (SPTK) had been founded in 1974 by Kemal Burkay. The activities of the party were disrupted by the coup in 1980, with Burkay and most of its leaders forced into exile, and at the congress in 1992 it changed its name to the Socialist Party of Kurdistan.

We have a small file on the SPTK (EUL MS 403/3/20) but the folder at EUL MS 403/3/8 contains material relating to both the KSP-I and the PSK, as well as the KSDP, including party newsletters and periodicals such as Peyamî Birayetî, Rebazi-Lawan, Regay Azadi (KSP-I), Surîn and Yekgirtin (PSK), draft documents, memoriam posters, military bulletins, correspondence including an invitation from Kemal Burkay and a handwritten letter to Omar Sheikhmous from the Kurdish Socialist Party in Syria, plus various documents from the Socialist International congresses in which Jalal Talabani and other Kurds participated.

Iraqi Communist Party – EUL MS 403/3/9

Title page of the ICP newspaper Ṭarīq al-shaʻb

 

Arabic: الحزب الشيوعي العراقي

[al-Hizb al Shuyu’i al-Iraqi]

 

 

 

The Iraqi Communist Party was founded in 1934, emerging out of organised boycott of the British-owned Baghdad Electric Light Company. After various vicissitudes during the 1940s, it was strengthened in the early 1950s by growing support from Kurds, who gradually took over leadership roles and influenced the ICP’s approval of the principle of Kurdistan’s autonomy in their 1953 charter. Following the 1963 Baathist take-over, however, the ICP faced severe oppression from the government, and in 1967 a breakaway group (led by Aziz al-Hajj, who died earlier this year) split from the ICP and established the Iraqi Communist Party – Central Command. Weakened by the division, the ICP activities gradually focussed more on Kurdish areas and less on Baghdad. The close associaton between the Kurds and the ICP is reflected in the fact that a Kurd, Aziz Muhammad (1924-2017) was Secretary General of the ICP from 1964 until 1993.

Most of the material in this file comes from the late 1970s and the 1980s and includes several issues of ICP periodicals and newspapers such as Ṭarīq al-shaʻb and Rêyazi Pêshmerge, numerous documents on relationships with other parties, including the KDP and the PUK, the Tudeh Party in Iran, as well as other branches of the Communist Party, articles on a range of topics written by ICP members, letters, party reports and press releases.

There is also a smaller file containing seven documents relating to the Workers Communist Party of Iraq (WCPI), [in Arabic: الحزب الشيوعي العمالي العراقي or al-Hizb al-Shuyu’i al-Ummali al-Iraqi, and in Kurdish: Hizbi Communisti Krekari Iraq] which was founded in 1993.

 

 

Political Alliances and Coalitions

The history of the Kurdish resistance movement has, tragically, been characterised by a great deal of in-fighting and self-destructive rivalry, by there have also been several successful attempts to bring together political groups under umbrella organisations that could consolidate opposition and strengthen cross-party collaboration. Although these alliances may not always have lasted long, they were significant steps in the development of the Kurdistan Regional Government.

 

Democratic National Patriotic Front in Iraq – EUL MS 403/3/12

This was an umbrella opposition group founded in November 1980 and consisting of the Iraqi Communist Party, the National Union of Kurdistan and other parties. The file contains four documents, including letters to Omar Sheikhmous from the DNPF leadership (1982-83) and an information sheet (1987)

 

 

Iraqi Kurdistan Front  EUL MS 403/3/13

The Iraqi Kurdistan Front (IKF) was formed in 1987-88 from the PUK, KDP and six smaller parties – including the KPDP, the KSP-I and PASOK –  with the aim of uniting Kurdish factions and strengtheing opposition to the regime in Baghdad. The IKF played a major role during the ‘National Uprising’ of 1991 following the Gulf War ceasefire, as well as preparations for the general elections on 19 May 1992.

Documents include letters and proposals for the formation of the IKF, the first issue of their newspaper Berey Kurdistanî  (September 1989) and joint statements by Jalal Talabani and Masoud Barzani regarding the forthcoming elections (1992). The IKF subsequently broke up, in part due to the ongoing tension between the KDP and the PUK.

 

Kurdistan National Congress – EUL MS 403/3/6

 

Kongreya Neteweyî ya Kurdistanê (KNK)

كۆنگرەی نەتەوەیی كوردستان

Kongreya Niştimanî  ya Kurdistanê (KNK)

 

 

 

The Kurdish National Congress is a coalition of exiled Kurdish politicians and activists that was founded in 1999 following an initiative by the PKK that began in 1985, and absorbed the former Kurdistan Parliament in Exile.

The KNK’s first president was Ismet Cheriff Vanly (we hold a correspondence file of Vanly’s letters at EUL MS 403/2/13), who had served on the Executive Council of the previous body, and we have various documents relating to the dissolution of the Kurdistan Parliament in Exile and the draft charter for the KNK, as well as correspondence, press releases and publications.

 

Iraqi National Congress – EUL MS 403/3/17

 

 

المؤتمر الوطني العراقي

al-Mu’tamar al-Watani al-‘Iraqi

 

 

The history of the Iraqi National Congress is closely associated with the controversial figure of Ahmad Chalabi (1944-2015). Founded in Vienna in June 1992 as an umbrella organisation of Kurdish, Sunni and Shi’a groups opposed to Saddam Hussein’s government, the INC was comprised mainly of Kurdish exiles but received funding and support from the US government, including the CIA. Over the following decade, Chalabi and others associated with the INC played a significant role in encouraging the development of the US government’s neoconservative foreign policy towards Iraq that resulted in the 2003 invasion and the demise of Saddam Hussein.

The file includes papers from the 1992 INC congress, including a transcript of Jalal Talabani’s speech to the Opening Session, as well as a list of members of the INC, letters from Chalabi to various diplomats, press releases and documents relating to the INC’s involvement in the INDICT campaign for the prosection of Iraqi war criminals (1997).

 

The Independence Party of Kurdistan – EUL MS 403/3/10

 

Partîkarî Serbexoyî Kurdistane

 

The Kurdistan Independence Party was founded in Sweden between 1986 and 1989, and was dedicated to non-violent and democratic means of achieving independence for Kurdistan.

 

Amir Qazi (or Ghazi), Chairman of the Independence Party, was a former member of the politburo of the KDPI and married Efat (1935-1990), the daughter of Qazi Muhammad, president of the Kurdish Republic of Mahabad. She was killed in Sweden by a letter bomb addressed to her husband, and thought to have been sent by Iranian agents. The folder contains a letter from Qazi, several issues of their periodical ‘Ala’ (1986-), documents and press-releases.

 

Revolutionary parties – EUL MS 403/3/11

The Revolutionaries Union of Kurdistan

Yekêtî Sorisgirani Kurdistan 

The Kurdish Revolutionary Party

الحزب الثوري الكردستاني

al-Hizb al-Thawri al-Kurdistani 

Hizbi Shorishgeri Kurdistan

The Kurdish Revolutionary Party was founded in 1964, before temporarily merging with the KDP (1970-72) and then being revived by members who were unhappy with the KDP leadership. In 1974 it joined the Ba’ath Party approved National Progressive Front (NPF) and consequently lost much of its significance. The file includes the constitutions from 1964 and papers from the party congress in 1970 concerning its relationship with the KDP.

The Revolutionaries’ Union of Kurdistan was founded in May 1991 by an Iranian Kurd, Said Yazdanpanah, who was assassinated five months later. The organisation was then led by his brother Hussein. At a party congress in 2006 it was renamed the Kurdish Freedom Party        [پارتی ئازادیی کوردستان‎] and Ali Qazi – brother of Efat, mentioned above – was elected leader.

None of these parties should be confused with Yekêtî Şorişgirani Kurdistan [Revolutionary Union of Kurdistan], which was a faction within the PUK formed around 1982 by an alignment with some Socialist groups. The file holds several letters to and from this group, with correspondents including Omar Sheikhmous, Omar Dababa, Fuad Masoum and Kemal Fuad, as well as membership booklets and other documents.

 

Kurdistan Democratic Progressive Party in Syria – EUL MS 403/3/16

Partiya Dîmoqratî Pêşverû Kurd li Sûriyê

Al-Hizb al-Dimuqrati al-Kurdi al-Taqaddumi fi Suriya

الحزب الديمقراطي التقدمي الكردي في سوريا

 

The history of the KDPPS is inseparable from the life of its leader, the late Abdul Hamid Darwish (1936-2019), who was one of the co-founders (along with Nûredein Zaza and Osman Sabri) of the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Syria in 1957. Internal disagreements led to the KDPS splitting in 1965, with Darwish leading the more moderate and conciliatory group that became known as the Kurdistan Democratic Progressive Party. Over time the KDPPS came to align itself closely with Jalal Talabani’s PUK, while the KDPS aligned itself with Mustafa Barzani’s KDP, which would have a negative impact upon the two Syrian parties’ relations as the rivalry between the KDP and PUK developed into armed conflict.

Within Syria, however, the KDPPS continued to play an important role in both national politics and Kurdish affairs, with Darwish being elected to the Syrian parliament in 1990 and helping to establish relations between the Kurdish National Council and Syrian opposition groups. Papers in this file are dated between 1977 and 1999 and include numerous copies of the party’s newspaper al-Dimuqrati, a proclamation on the war between Kurds in Iraq and the Iraqi regime (1988), as well as documents and press-releases from the mid-1990s.

Kurdistan Popular Democratic Party (KPDP) – EUL MS 403/3/18

Hizb al-Sha’ab Dimuqrati al-Kurdistan

Parti Geli Dimukrati Kurdistan

The Kurdistan Popular Democratic Party (KPDP) was founded by Sami Abdulrahman in 1979 as a breakaway group from the KDP, which they rejoined in 1993.

Documents include various bulletins and statements issued by the party (1981-85), a list of fifteen KPDP members executed in Mosul in 1985, a supplement to the KPDP periodical ‘Gel’ on the General Scientific Conference of Kurds in the Soviet Union (1990), a photocopy of the first page of issue no 40 of Gel [ al-Sha`b], Document from the 2nd conference (1990)

Kurdistan Democratic Union – EUL MS 403/3/21

 

Yeketi Dimukrati Kurdistan

al-Ittihad al-Dimuqrati al-Kurdistani

The Kurdistan Democratic Union (KDU) was founded by Ali Sinjari in 1977 but was later merged with the KDP in 1993. Documents in the file include a news bulletin (1986), a leaflet Reya Yeketiye (1987), an Arabic press release published in June 1991 to mark the 14th year of the founding of the party and issue no.20 (October 1990) of the KDU periodical Al Sha’lah/Mesxel .

The National Democratic Union of Kurdistan (Yekitiya Netewayî Demokratî Kurdistan, or YNKD) was founded in 1995 by Ghafur Makhmuri – the folder contains a press release issued on 15 November 1995.

 

The Sheikhmous archive does include hold material relating to other political parties and movements, and there also folders containing papers from left-wing Iranian parties as well as Islamic political groups and other bodies, such as the Association of Kurdish Doctors in Europe.

The Sheikhmous papers have now been catalogued and the entries can be consulted here. 

Cataloguing the Common Ground archive: ‘Trees, Woods and the Green Man’ and ‘Field Days’

The Common Ground archive cataloguing project is now nearing its end and the final two sections of project material – relating to the Trees, Woods and the Green Man project and the Field Days project – have been catalogued. Read on to find out more about these projects and the archive material relating to them.

Trees, Woods and the Green Man

Common Ground started work on the Trees, Woods and the Green Man project in 1986. The aim of the project was to raise awareness of ‘the importance of trees by exploring their aesthetic, spiritual and cultural value as well as their ecological importance’ (King, A and Clifford, S (eds),’Trees be Company’ (1989), p. xi). Throughout the project, Common Ground commissioned works by sculptors, artists, writers, poets and playwrights to explore themes around trees and woods. In 1989, Common Ground won the Prudential Award for Excellence in the Visual Arts for its work on the Trees, Woods and the Green Man project. Common Ground used the prize of £25,000 to commission further sculptural works, including works by Peter Randall-Page. Common Ground also collaborated with sculptors and artists to produce exhibitions about trees and the arts, including ‘The Tree of Life: New Images of an Ancient Symbol’ in 1989 and ‘Leaves’ by Andy Goldsworthy in 1989-1990. Furthermore, the project generated new campaigns and initiatives, such as the campaign to let fallen or damaged trees recover after the ‘Great Storm’ of 1987, and the initiative to develop a new calendar custom called Tree Dressing Day (you can find out more about Tree Dressing Day in our blog post: Tracing the ‘roots’ of Tree Dressing Day in the Common Ground archive). Common Ground produced several publications as part of the Trees, Woods and the Green Man project, including ‘Trees Be Company: An Anthology of Poetry’ (1989 and 2001), ‘In a Nutshell: A manifesto for trees and a guide to growing and protecting them’ (1990), and a special edition broadsheet newspaper ‘Pulp! with contributions from actors, authors, artists and cartoonists (1989)’, as well as a range of leaflets and postcards.

Promotional material relating to the Tree Dressing Day initiative (EUL MS 416/PRO/4/4/1)

Material in this sub-section of the archive includes:

  • files of assorted material relating to the administration of the Trees, Woods and the Green Man project by Common Ground;
  • material relating to the Tree Dressing initiative;
  • material relating to Trees, Woods and the Green Man arts initiatives (including artistic commissions, literary commissions, exhibitions, and events), which include papers relating to Common Ground’s work with artists such as Andy Goldsworthy and David Nash, amongst others;
  • material relating to Trees, Woods and the Green Man publications and promotional material produced by Common Ground, including ‘Trees Be Company’, ‘In a Nutshell’, and ‘Pulp!;
  • press clippings and material relating to publicity of the Trees, Woods and the Green Man project;
  • research material, including general research material about trees, reports and publications produced by governmental and environmental bodies, and research material concerning the Great Storm of October 1987;
  • and photographic material.

You can find the full catalogue description of the Trees, Woods and the Green Man section here or by clicking the image below.

This section of the archive may be of particular interest to anyone researching Common Ground’s collaborations with sculptors, artists, writers, actors, poets and playwrights, as the project involved a large number of commissions. The material relating to the commissions includes correspondence, press clippings, photographs and – in some cases – interviews with sculptors about their work.

There were several personal highlights for me in this section of the archive. I particularly enjoyed a file containing questionnaires completed by local authority tree officers, which gave insight (and some amusing anecdotes!) into common perceptions and complaints from the public about trees. The archive material relating to the Tree Dressing initiative is also fascinating, and includes correspondence, reports, and a large number of beautiful photographs of Tree Dressing events held around the UK in the 1990s. And I was excited to recognise some famous names in this section of the archive! Files concerning Common Ground’s special-edition newspaper ‘Pulp!’ include letters from those invited to contribute to the newspaper, including Victoria Wood, Martin Amis and Germaine Greer.

Field Days

The Field Days project was launched in 1995 to highlight the historical, cultural and social importance of fields, to celebrate their contribution to local distinctiveness, and to encourage people to take a more active role in their conservation. A variety of publications were produced by Common Ground as part of the Field Days project, including postcards, leaflets, pamphlets, and a book entitled ‘Field Days: An Anthology of Poetry’ (1998). A major initiative of the project was to highlight and uncover the variety of field names in the UK, and to encourage people to research, restore and celebrate the field names in their local areas. In July 1996, Common Ground was commissioned by the Department of the Environment to produce a laminated panel exhibition on the subject of Field Days for the Royal Agricultural Show, which was subsequently available for hire. In addition, Common Ground launched a Field Days poetry competition in partnership with Blue Nose Poetry, and collaborated with theatre groups, writers, poets, artists, craftspeople, photographers, and local communities to explore different ways of engaging with the diverse stories a field might tell.

Publications and promotional material produced for the Field Days project (EUL MS 416/PRO/11/2/7)

Material in this sub-section of the archive includes:

  • assorted papers relating to the administration of the Field Days project, including correspondence, project outlines and project planning papers; project reports; funding applications; papers relating to Field Days publications produced by Common Ground, including drafts; papers relating to field names; papers relating to field events; and research material press clippings, and notes;
  • promotional material and publications produced by Common Ground for the Field Days project, including flyers, postcards, leaflets, press releases, pamphlets and books, as well as papers concerning the content, design and printing of publications;
  • papers relating to the Field Days panel exhibition, which was first displayed at the Royal Agricultural Show in 1996 and subsequently went on tour and was available for hire;
  • papers relating to the Field Days poetry competition in 1997, which was organised by Common Ground in collaboration with Blue Nose Poetry;
  • material relating to arts initiatives concerning fields and the Field Days project, including responses from artists interested in being involved in the Field Days project and wishing to be added to Common Ground’s ‘of visual and performing artists, craftspeople and photographers who are interested in expressing and celebrating / documenting the cultural significance of the field in the British landscape’;
  • press clippings and material relating to publicity of the Field Days project, including promotional material, summaries of press coverage, correspondence, and two cassette tape audio recordings of radio interviews;
  • research material relating to fields, including field names and scarecrows;
  • and 18 slide storage sheets containing 35mm photographic slide transparencies relating to the Field Days project.

You can find the full catalogue description of the Field Days section here or by clicking the image below.

In the final few weeks of the cataloguing project, I’ll be looking to make the Common Ground’s general papers relating to administration, correspondence, finance and research more accessible. And I will look forward to writing to you again soon with my final blog post of the project!

By Annie Price, Project Archivist

Why not start your exploration of the Common Ground archive via our online archives catalogue today?

You can also find out more about the Common Ground archive cataloguing project by taking a look back at our previous blog posts