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Near & Middle East Titles:
Middle East Intelligence Handbooks 1943–1946
Alphabetical list
Titles by Topic
Titles by Country

ISBN: (13) 978-1-85207-060-1
Extent: 5 volumes, 3,180 pages, including c. 1260 photos, 335 maps

Editor: N/A
ISBN: (10) 1-85207-060-9
Published: 1987
Paper: Printed on acid free paper
Binding: Library bindings with gilt finish
See sample pages: not available

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The function of the intelligence handbooks, which were compiled by the British Foreign Office, was to inform British officials engaged on diplomatic duties in foreign countries about every aspect of the country in which they were resident. They provide a full, splendidly illustrated, geographic encyclopaedia of the culture and civilisation of each country, including over 1200 photographs.

Each volume describes the history, administration and public life of the country concerned: Iraq and the Persian Gulf; Western Arabia and the Red Sea; Palestine and Transjordan; Syria; Persia. Economic geography, agriculture, trade and communications are dealt with in detail. In volumes also designed for naval and military intelligence, particular attention is accorded to the coasts and topography, but there are also street plans and photographs of every significant town as well as of the archaeological sites.
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Historical Overview

A series of intelligence handbooks produced during the First World War had proved valuable both during the conflict and as subsequent reference sources. Early in the Second World War the Director of Naval Intelligence ordered the preparation of a new and improved series to meet the requirements of the day.

The Handbooks were designed to provide, in the words of the Preface, ´for the use of Commanding Officers, information in a comprehensive and convenient form about countries which they may be called upon to visit, not only in war but in peace-time; secondly, to maintain the high standard of education in the Navy and, by supplying officers with material for lectures ... to ensure for all ranks that visits to a new country shall be both interesting and profitable.´

Authorship of the Handbooks

A sub-centre of the Naval Intelligence Division was established at Oxford to recruit contributors of the first quality. It was directed by the Professor of Geography, Lieutenant-Colonel (later Sir) K. Mason who had, after first war service in Mesopotamia and Persia, spent many years in the Survey of India. He himself wrote much of the volume on Iraq and the Persian Gulf. The principal author of the volume Western Arabia and the Red Sea was Dr Hugh Scott of the Natural History Museum, whose book on the Yemen published in 1942 was by far the best available. The volume on Syria was written mainly by J. W. Crowfoot, who had been Director of the British School of Archaeology in Jerusalem and, as a pupil of D. G. Hogarth, the great archaeologist-cum-intelligence officer of the first two decades of the century, had been a colleague of T. E. Lawrence and Leonard Woolley. The main contributor to the volume on Persia was Dr J. V. Harrison, formerly the geologist of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, who made a name as an explorer in little-known parts of Iran and Borneo. Palestine and Transjordan was largely the work of A. H. Hyamson, late Director of Immigration, Palestine, and author of several scholarly books.

Not all the contributors were academics and information was collected from many other sources. The Western Arabia volume acknowledges the assistance of St John Philby, while photographs were forthcoming from such explorers as Sir Claremont Skrine, Bertram Thomas, Gertrude Bell and Freya Stark, as well as such organisations as the Royal Air Force, the Royal Geographical Society and the Palestine Exploration Society.
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Documentary Importance

Each volume contains authoritative accounts of the history, administration and public life of the country concerned. Economic geography, agriculture, trade and communications are dealt with in detail. In volumes designed for naval and military intelligence, particular attention is accorded to the coasts and topography; there are also street plans and photographs of every significant town as well as of the archaeological sites. There are numerous tables and statistical details and bibliographies. The Handbooks are remarkable for the broad view they convey of the culture and civilisation of each country. They provide a full, splendidly illustrated, geographic encyclopaedia and contain a great deal of information still of current use.
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Arrangement of volumes

This edition is reprinted from original volumes in the Geographical Handbook Series produced by the Naval Intelligence Division of the Admiralty, London. The following volumes are now re-published.
I Iraq and the Persian Gulf. 1944. xviii + 682pp. 237 photographs, 97 maps. Folding map of communications.
II Western Arabia and the Red Sea. 1946. xx + 660pp. 357 photographs, 47 maps.
III Palestine and Transjordan. 1943. xvi + 622pp. 183 photographs, 62 maps. Folding map of communications.
IV Syria. 1943. xvi + 486pp. 148 photographs, 68 maps.
V Persia. 1945. xx + 638pp. 337 photographs, 61 maps.
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Contents Outline

The regions of modern Iraq, Iran, the Arabian Gulf and the Arabian Peninsula are treated in five volumes. The contents of each handbook follow the same general structure.

I Introduction
Frontiers - Administrative divisions - Place names and spelling - Sources and surveys

II Physical geography
Geology - Topography - Regional descriptions - River systems

III The coast
Description of the seaboard approaches

IV Climate, vegetation and fauna
Pressure - Winds - Temperature - Humidity - Vegetation and animal life region by region

V History
Early times - Roman period - Arab rule - Rise of Islam - Turkish rule - The 20th century - The Great War - Development up to 1940s

VI The people
Race and nationalities - Minorities - Language - Religion - Culture - Way of life - Settlements

VII Administration
Central government - Local government - Judicial system - Waqf - Armed forces and police - Education - Medical services

VIII Distribution of population
Census figures or estimates - Population increase and mortality - Movements of population - Labour - Descriptions of chief towns

IX Public health
Statistics and sources - Causes of death - Incidence of main diseases - Medical services and facilities

X Agriculture
Irrigation - Crops - Pests - Land ownership - Stock raising - Forestry

XI Industries
Power - Development - Oil - Manufacturing - Tourism, etc.

XII Finance and commerce
Currency - Banking - Public revenue and expenditure - Trade Imports, exports, tariffs

XIII Ports
Review of main centres

XIV Communications
History and development of roads - History of railways - Organisation and traffic - Shipping services - Aviation and airfields - Review of routes

Appendices include: Geological and meteorological tables - Chronological tables - Calendars and festivals - Historical sites and holy places - Weights and measures - Sheikhs and rulers - Glossaries and conversion tables - Authorship and bibliography

Illustrations give comprehensive coverage of: Landscapes and topography - Rivers and coastlines - Vegetation - Historical buildings - The people: ways of life and tribal types - Houses and villages - Towns and cities - Industry - Ports - Roads and railways
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Key documents

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Editor's Introduction

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Related Titles:
Foreign Office Annual Reports from Arabia 1930–1960
Gazetteer of the Persian Gulf, Oman and Central Arabia
Military Handbooks of Arabia 1913–1917
Palestine and Transjordan Administration Reports 1918–1948
Persian Gulf and Red Sea Naval Reports 1820–1960
Persian Gulf Gazette and Supplements 1953–1972
Persian Gulf Historical Summaries 1907–1953, The
Persian Gulf Précis, The
Records of Syria 1918–1973
Survey of the Shores and Islands of the Persian Gulf 1820–1829
Survey of Western Palestine 1882-1888