India Office Records: Middle East resources

View of Aden
‘Town of Maculla’, The Expedition for the Survey of the rivers Euphrates and Tigris by Francis Rawdon Chesney. London, 1882 (IOL.1947.c.142)

The records of the East India Company and the India Office contain a wealth of information relating to British activities in the Middle East from the 17th to 20th centuries.

About the collection

The records of the East India Company, Board of Control and India Office relating to the Middle East span from the early 17th to the mid 20th centuries. They cover the East India Company’s first ventures into the region in search of new markets for trade, through to the establishment of a network of Government of India Residencies and Agencies maintaining diplomatic and strategic links in the areas surrounding the Indian sub-continent.

The records include the day-to-day business of the Residencies and Agencies; the correspondence, business records, and policy documents being transmitted between agents in the Middle East, the Government in India and the Home Government in London; and collections of private papers of individuals employed in the region.

The principal places covered by the records include:
  • Bahrain (mainly 1800s to 1960s, some earlier 17th and 18th century)
  • Egypt (18th to 20th centuries)
  • Iraq (1635 to 1921)
  • Kuwait (mainly 1800s to 1948, some earlier 18th century)
  • Muscat (1800 to 1948)
  • Qatar (1800s to 1950s)
  • Saudi Arabia (early 17th century to 1932)
  • Syria (mainly 17th to 19th centuries)
  • Turkey (late 18th to early 20th century)
  • United Arab Emirates (17th century to 1948)
  • Yemen, including Ethiopia and Somalia whose agencies were subordinate to Aden (17th century to 1967)

What is available online?

Digitised material relating to the Persian Gulf and the wider region may be found on the Qatar Digital Library.

What is available in our Reading Rooms?

The sources for the Middle East appear across a wide range of East India Company and India Office series, including East India Company General Correspondence; the Collections of the Board of Control; Factory Records; Departmental Records; Proceedings; Records of the Persian Gulf, Egypt and Aden Residencies and Agencies; and official publications.

These records can be accessed by searching for keywords, subjects, individuals, and institutions in the Library’s Explore Archives and Manuscripts catalogue.

What is available in other organisations?

Responsibility for the residencies and agencies across the Middle East transferred during the mid 20th century to the Foreign Office and these records are held at the National Archives, along with earlier records of the work of both the Foreign Office and Colonial Office in the region. These records can be searched online using the National Archives Discovery catalogue.

Further information

For further reference works on this collection, see:

Penelope Tuson, Sources for Middle East Studies in the India Office Records (London, 1982; second edition 1984).

Penelope Tuson, The Records of the British Residency and Agencies in the Persian Gulf (London, 1979).

‘India Office Records’ in N Mathews and M D Wainwright, A Guide to Manuscripts and Documents in the British Isles relating to the Middle East and North Africa, (Oxford, 1980)

Julia Ashtiany, The Arabic Documents in the Archives of the British Political Agency in Kuwait, 1904-1949 (London, 1982).

Penelope Tuson, 'Archive Sources for Arabian and Gulf Studies in the India Office Records', typescript, 1977 (Arabic version in Journal of the Gulf and Arabian Peninsula Studies, vol. 4 (1978), pp. 95-110.

F.C. Danvers, Report on the India Office Records relating to Persia and the Persian Gulf (London, 1889).