Some Recently Acquired Notable Additions to the Middle East & Islamic Studies Collections

Online Resource

Encyclopedia of Islam online: The entire text of volumes I to XI of the monumental, printed edition of the Encyclopaedia of Islam is now easily available on your computer screen with your Columbia UNI. Additional search facilities, enhanced by the inclusion of two original indices (Index of Proper Names, Index of Subjects) and the Supplement, fascicles 1-10 enable the user to efficiently search and combine data from a vast corpus of over 12,000 printed pages— within seconds.

Newspapers on Microfilm

The following newspapers were acquired on Microfilm from the American University in Beirut:

  • al-Mufid Jan-1911-Dec. 1913
  • Al-Ittihad al-‘Uthmani (Beirut) Sept-1908-Aug 1911, Nov 1912-April 1913
  • Al-Ittihad al-‘Uthmani al-Usbu’i (Beirut) Dec-1908-Oct 1909
  • Al-Iqbal Jan.1909-Dec.1910
  • Al-Umma (Damascus) 4 Dec. 1909-6 March 1910
  • Al-Haqiqa Jan.1910-1912
  • Al-Muqattam (Cairo) 1908-1911.

This collection is vital for research about the Second Constitutional Period in Late Ottoman history, and furthermore it should be useful for the study of Turkish-Arab relations, Arab Nationalism and the political and social history of the Arab provinces of the Ottoman Empire.

Documents on Microfiche

British Intelligence on Persia (Iran), c. 1900-1949
(almost 40000 pages on more than 500 microfiche)


The dominant theme of this collection is the position of Persia between two powerful neighbours, Russia in the north and the British Government of India in the east. British involvement in Persia dated back to the East India Company's first trading contacts of the early 17th century, and by the late 19th century, the country's economic life was largely in the hands of Russian and British concessionaires.

Persia became the playground of Russiand and British interests for almost half a century, during which the British, with their immensely valuable oil concessions in the south, emerged as the dominant, if only despised foreign partner.

Britain's strategic planning and policy formulation relied on information - intelligence on internal politics, tribal groupings, rivalries, personalities, resources, communications and the terrain - to provide 'background' for political relations and practical 'know-how' for military operations and clandestine activities. Information gathering devolved in the first instance upon British diplomatic representatives in Persia.

There were four players on the British side - the Foreign Office and War Office in London, the Government of India Foreign Department, and the Indian Army General Staff. Personnel manning posts in Persia were drawn from the London-based Diplomatic and Consular Services and the British Army, or from the Indian Civil Service, the Indian Political Service and the Indian Army.

Reflecting the perceived importance of Russian designs and of British strategic interests, the country was exceptionally well covered. In addition to a permanent British legation at Tehran from the 1850s (only raised to embassy status in 1944), there were Consuls-General at Bushehr (Bushire) from 1878, Isfahan from 1891 and Mashhad (Meshed) from 1889, and at varying dates Consuls in Ahwaz, Kerman, Kermanshah, Khorramshahr, Rasht (Resht), Seistan and Shiraz. Each post maintained Special Secret Service funds. A small Intelligence Branch was formed within the Quarter Master General's Department at Army Headquarters, India, in 1878. The wide-ranging reforms of the Army in India Committee of 1912-13 established an Intelligence Section (M.O.3) within the Military Operations Directorate of the General Staff, divided into four geographical sub-sections (one of them responsible for Persia) and a fifth devoted to 'special work of a confidential nature.'

Transmission was extremely cumbersome. Predominantly Foreign Office posts (eg. Tehran, Kermanshah, Khorramshahr, Resht, Shiraz) made their reports to the FO in London, from where copies were sent to the India Office. Government of India posts (eg. Ahwaz, Kerman, Meshed, Seistan) reported to Delhi, from where copies were sent to the India Office in London and from there forwarded to the Foreign Office.

The General Staff, in India, was responsible for a stream of gazetteers, route books, military reports and who's who compilations. Sources were the military attachés at the diplomatic posts and military officers in the field (particularly during the two World Wars), their Persian and other contacts, and clandestinely employed local agents. The military attachés also produced regular intelligence summaries. The consulate in Mashhad (in the eastern province of Khurasan) was an especially important listening post for developments across the borders in Russian Central Asia and Afghanistan. In 1913 the Foreign Office laid down that the collection of military intelligence was not part of the duty of British consulates, so that the task devolved almost entirely upon the General Staff, India, with some financial input from the War Office.


This collection brings together information about British reporting, planning and thinking on the Persian revolution of 1905-09, the Anglo-Russian agreement of 1907 which divided the country into informal spheres of influence, World War I intervention, the Communist threat, the reign of Reza Shah, World War II intervention and the countering of German influence, and the succession of Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi.

The two central series are the Government of India Foreign Department Printed Correspondence and the Foreign Office annual political reports 1910-1948. The first, some 5,000 pages in 44 parts, prints all incoming and outgoing papers relating to Persia between 1916 and 1940; the pagination is frequently erratic, but within each 'part' the documents are arranged in a continuously numbered sequence. There are also long runs of Consular diaries/summaries from the various posts, printed up either by the Foreign Office or the Government of India (though typescript became the norm from around 1933/34). The diaries have numbered sequences for each year or issue dates within the year, varying from monthly to weekly.

The various volumes of gazetteers, route books, military reports and who's who compilations have a roughly similar geographical coverage.

  • Vol 1 : North-east (Khorasan, Qa'en (Kain), Seistan),
  • Vol.2 : North and Central (including Azarbaijan, Kurdestan, Kermanshah, Tehran),
  • Vol.3 : South-west (Lurestan, Bakhtiari, Isfahan, Khuzestan, Kughalu),
  • Vol.4/1 : South (Yazd, Fars, Laristan, Persian Gulf Ports)
    Vol.4/2 : South-east (Kerman, Baluchestan).

All the works were classified Secret, Confidential or For Official Use Only, and were subject to strict rules of custody. It was also ordered that when a new edition of a particular work appeared all previous editions had to be destroyed. As a result these works survive in very few locations. The collection in the India Office Records at the British Library, now made available by IDC Publishers, is unique in its breadth and accessibility.


The material is organised into the following five sections:

  1. BIP-1 Gazetteers and Handbooks, 1906-1948.
  2. BIP-2 International and External Affairs, 1904-1949.
  3. BIP-3 Who's Who, 1909-1947.
  4. BIP-4 Military Reports, 1900-1940.
  5. BIP-5 Routes, 1908-1942.

Descriptive Summary

Creator: India Office, UK Government Department

Title: British Intelligence and Policy on Persia (Iran)

Dates (inclusive): c 1900-1949

Quantity: 515 microfiches; 144 files; 37,200 p.

Filmed from the originals held by: British Library, Oriental & India Office Collections (OIOC). In 2003, the OIOC was integrated into the British Library's Asia, Pacific and Africa Collections.