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PHILBY, Harry St John Bridger (1885-1960)

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0402 HSP
Held at: Royal Geographical Society
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Full title: PHILBY, Harry St John Bridger (1885-1960)
Date(s): 1918-1955
Level of description: Collection (fonds)
Extent: 2 boxes
Name of creator(s): Philby | Harry St John Bridger | 1885-1960 | explorer and Arabist x Abdullah | Saudis Sheikh


Administrative/Biographical history:

Born 1885; educated Westminster School and Trinity College, Cambridge, 1904; Indian Civil Service; posted to the Punjab, 1908; civilian administrator, Mesopotamian expeditionary force, 1915; personal assistant to Percy Cox; head of a mission to Ibn Sa'ud, ruler of the Nejd in central Arabia, 1917; long leave in England; Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society (RGS), 1919-1960; RGS Gold Medallist - Founder's Medal, 1920; recalled to Baghdad to help with the administration of the new state of Iraq; British representative in Transjordan, 1921-1924; left public service, 1925; settled in Jiddah, founded a trading company, Sharqieh Ltd, and became a close friend and an unofficial adviser of Ibn Sa'ud; made a series of explorations, of which the greatest was his crossing of the Empty Quarter,1932; converted to Islam and assumed the name Saudis Sheikh Abdullah, 1930; stood as an anti-war candidate in a by-election in Hythe, 1939; arrested in Bombay, taken to England, and imprisoned briefly under wartime regulations, 1940; involved for a time with the Common Wealth party; returned to Arabia; after the death of Ibn Sa'ud in 1953 his outspoken criticisms of the extravagance and corruption under the new king led in 1955 to his exile in the Lebanese village of Ajaltun; died, 1960.


Scope and content/abstract:

Papers of Harry St John Bridger Philby, 1918-1955, including notebooks, journals, observations, letters and annotated typescript of Arabian Highlands. The journal and notebooks cover his journey across the Empty Quarter (Al Rub al Khali) in 1932. Typewritten reports cover his motorised journeys around Saudi Arabia from 1946-1955. His observations formed the basis for maps of Arabia prepared and published by the Royal Geographical Society.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

Nine files with sub-files, comprising listed material brought together at different times.

Conditions governing access:

Open by appointment only, subject to completion of application form. Non-Fellows require a letter of reference.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Photocopying at Archivist's discretion, and subject to completion of 'application for copies' form. No reproduction or publication without permission of the RGS-IBG Archivist.

Finding aids:

The RGS archives: a handlist compiled by Christine Kelly. London: RGS, 1977.

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Material presented by the creator from 1920s to 1955.

Allied Materials

Related material:

RGS Archives - Correspondence Blocks 1911-1920, 1921-1930, 1931-1940, 1941-1950. Jnl. Mss.: Middle East 1920 (2), 1923, 1948 and Miscellaneous 1920.

The main collection of Philby's diaries is held at St Antony's College Oxford.

National Register of Archives: Click here to view NRA record

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Prepared by David Tatham, Archives Volunteer using existing finding aids. Revised by Sarah Drewery.
Sources: Oxford DNB; Obit: Geog. Journal Vol.126, pp.563-5.

Rules or conventions:
ISAD(G) ed.2, name authority NRA.

Date(s) of descriptions:
19 July 2000; Aug 2008

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