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Collecting for the Middle East

Collecting primary source documentation from the Middle East remains a challenge even for the most well-funded institutions. While some commercially available books, serials, and newspapers can be handled by vendors from country to country with varying levels of ease, much significant content cannot be acquired through mainstream suppliers. Research libraries commonly employ acquisition trips and visits to book fairs throughout the region to supplement commercial acquisition and collect university, government, and NGO publications; street literature; ephemera; and other primary Middle East resources.

The Library of Congress operates a field office in Cairo, Egypt, to coordinate the acquisition of commercial materials and government documents from the Middle East and North Africa (supplied through a network of vendors, book dealers, exchange partners, and acquisition trips). It also manages the Middle East Cooperative Acquisitions Program (MECAP) and supplies monographs and serials from commercial sources to libraries and other research institutions.

Changing paradigms

In addition to traditionally collected resources from the region (reports, journals, archival collections), scholars are turning to interdisciplinary studies, with content related to ecology, environment, public health, statistical data sets, first-person accounts, oral histories, popular culture, and audiovisual resources. Recent events have created a burst of interest in social media and Internet resources.

Commercial electronic resources containing Middle East primary sources can be scarce. The past few years, however, have seen rapid development in the types of resources being made accessible online, both commercially and via Open Access. English-language reference resources such as Oxford Islamic Studies Online, Index Islamicus, and Middle Eastern & Central Asian Studies provide insights into the complex politics and culture of the Middle East. There is growing interest worldwide in digitization of early Middle East manuscripts. Unfortunately, these digital resources are often produced sporadically and contained in information “siloes” that hamper discoverability.

Archiving the Middle East Web

Current web-archiving efforts focus primarily on events (wars, crises, and revolutions), crawled for limited duration and with varying levels of comprehensiveness. The evolving nature of web technologies and increasing reliance on mobile networks (bypassing official web channels) further compound the challenge of documenting contemporary Middle East society.

CRL Collections

    CRL’s collection of Middle Eastern-related material encompasses significant runs of newspapers from every country, dissertations on the Arab world and Islam, monographs and serials acquired through early deposit, and archival and microform sets of primary source content.

    CRL continues to acquire current newspapers on microfilm as well as historical backfiles from the region, microform sets prioritized through CRL’s purchase programs, and dissertations and archival material on demand. CRL also supports the Middle East Materials Project in its preservation and digital activities (see the related MEMP collection guide for additional resources of interest).

    The references below feature the strengths of CRL’s holdings. Links point to more detailed descriptions in our catalog, and where available point to digital versions of the content or digitized finding aids for microfilm.

    Arabic manuscripts

    Arabic Manuscripts in the British Library
    British Library. Oriental and India Office Collections
    IDC Publishers
    12th century to 1800

    CRL has acquired several components of the collection of Arabic Manuscripts in the British Library. These include:

    • Ḥadīth: Collections of traditions and statements of Muhammad, along with commentaries and critical works. Catalog Record.
    • Kalām: theological debates and texts on the Qur'an. Catalog Record.
    • Islamic mysticism & philosophy: works of Moslim philosophers in all fields of philosophical study. Subsets include:
    Catalog Record
    Arabic manuscripts in the library of the S.O.A.S., University of London
    University of London. School of Oriental and African Studies. Library
    Inter Documentation Co.

    Over 400 manuscripts, including traditional Islamic disciplines as Tafsir, Hadith, and Fiqh as well as works on mathematics, astronomy, medicine, falconry, archery, and military equitation. A sizeable portion of the collection relates to Shi'ah literature.

    Catalog Record · Guide

    Books and monographic collections

    Islam-fiche : readings from Islamic primary sources
    IDC
    6th century–20th century

    English translations of primary source texts chosen from published and unpublished sources to reflect the chronological, geographical, and linguistic diversity of Islamic societies. Includes folk and oral literature, poetry, geography and travel writing, legal and commercial texts, and many other genres (including texts from Europe, South/Southeast Asia, and other areas).

    Catalog Record · Guide
    Western books. The Middle East from the rise of Islam.
    Rollman, Wilfrid J. Harvard University. Center for Middle Eastern Studies
    Research Publications

    This set includes over 3,000 titles filmed from the collections of the Harvard University Library and the School of Oriental and African Studies Library at the University of London. It includes works printed between the 16th and the early 20th centuries. Over half of the titles filmed for this collection are printed in English, with the remainder in other Western languages including French, German, Italian, and Spanish. It includes memoirs, travel literature, biographical and bibliographical works, guide books, historical studies, and texts. It also includes works in translation from regional languages, such as legal texts, chronicles, and collected letters. Each unit has guide; a cumulative guide will be published when the project is completed.

    Catalog Record

    CIA Studies

    The Middle East: 1946-1976.
    United States. Central Intelligence Agency
    University Publications of America
    1946–76

     From the microfilm series “CIA research reports.”

    GUIDE: A guide to “Middle East, 1946-1976.” at CRL call no. B-39832.

    Catalog Record
    The Middle East: 1950-1961 supplement.
    Kesaris, Paul
    University Publications of America
    1950–61

    From the microfilm series O.S.S./State Department intelligence and research reports; pt. 12.

    GUIDE: “Middle East: 1950-1961 supplement” available at CRL call no. B-39747.

    Catalog Record
    The Middle East: Special Studies 1970-1980.
    Kesaris, Paul
    University Publications of America
    1970–80

    This collection focuses on contemporary political issues and offers in-depth research on topics from leading public and private policy research facilities. Titles cataloged individually.

    GUIDE: Guide to Special Studies series available at CRL call no. B-39802.

    Catalog Record

    Egypt

    U.S. Department of State records. Egypt
    United States. Dept. of State
    University Publications of America/United States. National Archives and Records Service
    1835–1949

    Instructions sent to and correspondence received from diplomatic posts relating to Egypt's internal affairs. CRL has the following sets:

    • Despatches from United States consuls in Alexandria, 1835-1873 [NARA; T45]. Catalog Record.
    • Despatches from U.S. consuls in Cairo, 1864-1906. [NARA; T41]. Catalog Record.
    • Despatches from United States consuls in Port Said, 1870-1876 [NARA; T658]. Catalog Record.
    • Records of the Department of State relating to internal affairs of Egypt, 1910-29 [NARA; M571]. Catalog Record.
    • Records of the Department of State relating to internal affairs of Egypt, 1930-1939 [NARA; T1251]. Catalog Record.
    • Confidential U.S. State Department Central Files. Egypt, 1945-1949. Catalog Record. Guide.
    • Confidential U.S. State Department Central Files. Egypt, 1950-1954. Catalog Record. Guide.
    • Confidential U.S. State Department Central Files. Egypt, 1955-1959. Catalog Record. Guide.

    Iran

    British intelligence and policy on Persia (Iran), c. 1900-1949 : India Office political and secret files and confidential print
    British Library. Oriental and India Office Collections
    IDC Publishers
    1900–49

    Contains gazetteers and handbooks, military reports, route books, and other printed correspondence collected by the Government of India Foreign Department and U.K. Foreign Office.

    Catalog Record · Guide
    General correspondence, political. Persia.
    Great Britain. Foreign Office.
    Great Britain. Public Record Office
    1906–66

    Contains general correspondence (1906–66) of the Foreign Office’s Political Departments relating to Persia (Iran). From shelfmark FO 371. See record for details on particular subseries included.

    Catalog Record · Guide
    Iran, the making of U.S. policy, 1977-1980
    National Security Archive (U.S.)
    Chadwyck-Healey
    1977–80

    Contains over 14,000 pages of government documentation, much of it once-classified, pertaining to U.S. political, military, and economic involvement in Iran, 1977–80. Collected by the National Security Archives. The two-volume guide provides document-level access to names, organizations, and subjects. Volume II contains an events chronology, glossaries of names and organizations, a chronological document bibliography, and a bibliography of secondary sources.

    Catalog Record · Guide
    U.S. Department of State records. Iran
    United States. Dept. of State
    University Publications of America/United States. National Archives and Records Service
    1867–1954

    Instructions sent to and correspondence received from diplomatic posts relating to Iran's internal affairs. CRL owns the following sets (printed guides available):

    • Notes from the Persian Legation in the United States to the Department of State, 1867-1906. [NARA; M511]. Catalog Record.
    • Despatches from United States Ministers to Persia, 1883-1906. [NARA; M223]. Catalog Record
    • Records of the Department of State relating to internal affairs of Persia, 1910-1929. [NARA; M715]. Catalog Record.
    • Records of the Department of State Relating to Political Relations Between the United States and Persia, 1921-1929. [NARA; M716]. Catalog Record.
    • Records of the Department of State relating to political relations between Persia and other states, 1918-1929. [NARA ; M717]. Catalog Record.
    • Records of the Department of State relating to internal affairs of Iran, 1930-1939. [NARA; M212]. Catalog Record.
    • Confidential U.S. diplomatic post records: Iran, 1942-1944. Catalog Record. Guide.
    • Confidential U.S. State Department central files: Iran, 1945-1949. Catalog Record. Guide.
    • Confidential U.S. State Department central files: Iran, 1950-1954.Catalog Record. Guide.

    Iraq

    Creation of modern Iraq: India office political and secret files, c. 1914-1921
    IDC Publishers
    1914–21

    India Office Political & Secret Department confidential reports, memoranda, maps, and handbooks, as well as policy files describing the background and practicalities of the creation of a political administration, as well as of a social and an economic infrastructure, of the former Ottoman territories known as Turkish Arabia. Arranged in 10 groups:

    BII-1 Gazetteers and handbooks; BII-2 Outbreak of the First World War: situation in Turkish Arabia; BII-3 Wartime military and civil administration; BII-4 Wartime economy: trade and communications; BII-5 Post-war administration and constitution for the state of Iraq; BII-6 Local government and education; BII-7 Kurdistan; BII-8 Iraqi boundaries; BII-9 Post-war economic development; BII-10 The oil industry Summary

    Catalog Record · Guide
    U.S. Department of State records. Iraq
    United States. Dept. of State
    University Publications of America/United States. National Archives and Records Service
    1910–44

    Records of the Department of State diplomatic post files relating to Iraq’s internal and political affairs. CRL has the following sets (guides available):

    • Records of the Department of State relating to internal affairs of Asia, 1910-1929 [NARA; M722]. Catalog Record.
    • Records of the Department of State relating to internal affairs of Iraq, 1930-1944 [NARA; T1180]. Catalog Record. Guide.
    • Confidential U.S. diplomatic post records. Iraq, 1942-1944. Catalog Record. Guide.

    Israel and Palestinian territories

    Confidential U.S. State Department central files. Palestine and Israel : internal affairs, 1945-1949
    United States. Dept. of State
    University Publications of America
    1945–49

    GUIDE: A guide to confidential U.S. State Department central files, Palestine and Israel internal affairs, 1945–49, and foreign affairs, 1945–49. B-38282 c. 13,000 items. “Decimal Files 867N.00-867N.92511.”

    Catalog Record
    Confidential U.S. State Dept. central files: Palestine and Israel: internal affairs, 1950-1954.
    United States. Dept. of State
    University Publications of America
    1950–54

    GUIDE: A guide to Confidential U.S. State Dept. central files, Palestine and Israel internal affairs, 1950–54 and foreign affairs, 1950–54. B-38281

    Catalog Record
    Great Britain. PRO. C.O. 821/1-15. Palestine : miscellanea.
    Great Britain. Colonial Office
    Public Record Office
    1926–40

    The file covers 1926–40, and contains the Blue Book of statistics.

    Jordan

    Records of the Department of State relating to internal affairs of Jordan, 1930-1944
    United States. Dept. of State
    United States. National Archives and Records Service
    1930–44

    National Archives microfilm publications. T ; microcopy no. 1181

    Catalog Record

    Lebanon

    U.S. Department of State records. Lebanon
    United States. Dept. of State
    University Publications of America/United States. National Archives and Records Service
    1836–1944

    Records of the Department of State diplomatic post files relating to Lebanon’s internal and political affairs. CRL has the following sets (guides available):

    • Despatches from United States consuls in Beirut, 1836-1906. [NARA; T367]. Catalog Record.
    • Records of the Department of State relating to internal affairs of Asia, 1910-1929. [NARA; M722]. Catalog Record.
    • Records of the Department of State relating to internal affairs of Lebanon, 1930-1944. [NARA; T1178]. Catalog Record.
    • Confidential U.S. diplomatic post records. Lebanon, 1942-1944. Catalog Record. Guide.

    News Resources

    Newspapers and News Resources
    1880-2010

    CRL holds extensive runs of newspapers from the Middle East, encluding Arabic, English, and French resoruces. Examples of major series include:

    • Ahrām (Alexandria, Egypt)  1880-2010
    • Egyptian gazette  1930-98
    • Ittilaat (Tehran, Iran)  1926-2010
    • Baghdad Observer  1964-92
    • Ha-Arets (Tel Aviv, Israel)  1964-75, 1987
    • Palestine Post / Jerusalem Post  1932-2010
    • Dustūr (Amman, Jordan)    1967-2000
    • Nahār (Beirut, Lebanon)     1962-2002
    • Riyạ̄d (Riyadh, Saudi Arabia)    1972-94
    • Tishrīn (Damascus, Syria)    1987-2002
    • Cumhuriyet (Istanbul, Turkey)    1925-2002

    CRL also holds a variety of press digests, as well as a complete run of reports from the Foreign Broadcast Information Service for the period 1941-1995. This includes Middle Eastern coverage as part of the Daily Reports (1941-74) and subsections for Middle East & North Africa (1974-80), Middle East & Africa (1980-87), and Near East & South Asia (1987-95). See the News Topic Guide for more details.

    Saudi Arabia

    U.S. Department of State records. Saudi Arabia
    United States. Dept. of State
    University Publications of America / U.S. National Archives and Records Administration
    1910–54

    Records of the Department of State relating to Saudi Arabia’s internal and political affairs. CRL has the following sets (guides available):

    • Records of the Department of State relating to internal affairs of Asia, 1910-1929. [NARA; M722]. Catalog Record.
    • Records of the Department of State relating to internal affairs of Saudi Arabia, 1930-1944 [NARA; T1179]. Catalog Record.
    • Confidential U.S. State Department central files: Saudi Arabia, 1945-1949. Catalog Record. Guide.
    • Confidential U.S. State Department central files: Saudi Arabia, 1950-1954. Catalog Record. Guide.

    Syria

    U.S. Department of State records. Syria
    United States. Dept. of State
    United States. National Archives and Records Service
    1910–44

    Records of the Department of State relating to Syria’s internal and political affairs. CRL has the following sets (guides available):

    • Records of the Department of State relating to internal affairs of Asia, 1910-1929. [NARA; M722]. Catalog Record.
    • Records of the Department of State relating to internal affairs of Syria, 1930-1944. [NARA; T1177] Catalog Record.

    Turkey

    General correspondence before 1906, Turkey, 1780-1905
    Great Britain. Foreign Office
    Great Britain. Public Record Office
    1780–1905

    General correspondence (1780–1905) from the political and other departments relating to the Ottoman Empire. From Series F.O. 78. See catalog record and guide ofr specific Subseries included. [CRL has partial set.]

    Catalog Record · Guide
    U.S. Department of State records. Turkey
    United States. Dept. of State
    U.S. National Archives
    1818–1944

    Records of the Department of State relating to Turkey’s internal and political affairs. CRL has the following sets (guides available):

    • Despatches from United States ministers to Turkey, 1818-1906. [NARA; M46] Catalog Record.
    • Notes from the Turkish legation in the United States to the Department of State, 1867-1906. [NARA ; T815] Catalog Record.
    • Despatches from United States consuls in Alexandretta, 1896-1906. [NARA; T504] Catalog Record.
    • Despatches from United States consuls in Constantinople, 1820-1906. [NARA; T194] Catalog Record.
    • Despatches from United States consuls in Erzerum, 1895-1904. [NARA; T568] Catalog Record.
    • Despatches from United States consuls in Harput, 1895-1906. [NARA; T579] Catalog Record.
    • Despatches from United States consuls in Sivas, 1886-1906. [NARA; T681] Catalog Record.
    • Records of the Department of State relating to internal affairs of Turkey, 1910-29. [NARA; M353] Catalog Record.
    • Records of the Department of State relating to internal affairs of Turkey, 1930-1944. [NARA; M1224] Catalog Record.
    • Records of the Department of State relating to internal affairs of Turkey, 1945-1949. [NARA; M1292] Catalog Record.
    • Records of the Department of State relating to political relations between the United States and Turkey, 1910-29. [NARA; M365] Catalog Record.
    • Records of the Department of State relating to political relations between the United States and Turkey, 1930-1944. [NARA; M1223] Catalog Record.
    • Records of the Department of State relating to political relations between Turkey and other states, 1910-29. [NARA; M363] Catalog Record.
    • Records of the Department of State relating to political relations of Turkey, Greece and the Balkan states, 1930-1939. [NARA; T1245] Catalog Record.
    • Records of the Department of State relating to political relations of Turkey, Greece and the Balkan states, 1940-1944. [NARA; T1246] Catalog Record.
    • “Inquiry documents”: special reports and studies, 1917-1919. (Records of the American Commission to Negotiate Peace). [NARA; M1107] Catalog Record.

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