Lieutenant Roberts Middle Eastern Magic Lantern Slides Collection
Shown here are the cover and contents of a box containing a collection of 65 projectable lantern slides relating to the Arab Revolt of 1916‒18, an important theater of operations during World War I. The collection was probably assembled for a lecture. The A.H. Roberts mentioned on the cover is most likely Lieutenant A.H. Roberts, the British assistant and political officer in al-Zubayr, a city located southwest of Basra, in present-day Iraq, at the time of the British military occupation of Iraq. Lieutenant A.H. Roberts is mentioned by the British explorer and agent Harry Saint John Philby in his The Heart of Arabia, when he describes his presence in al-Zubayr: "... by nightfall I was deposited at the door of the Assistant Political Officer of Zubair, Lieutenant A. H. Roberts, with whom I proceeded at once to the Shaikh's residence, whither we had been bidden for dinner." As reported in the same work, in 1917 a number of Arab tribal leaders gathered in al-Zubayr with British agents and officials to discuss the revolt, which was aimed at overthrowing Ottoman rule in the Arab Middle East. By supporting the revolt, the British sought to weaken the Ottoman Empire, which was aligned with Germany and Austria-Hungary. For their part, the Arabs hoped to secure independence and create a unified empire embracing the region from Aleppo, Syria, to Aden, Yemen. The photographs depict many of the protagonists in this political and military struggle, including Colonel T.E. Lawrence of the British army and Saint John Philby, as well as members of the house of Hashim Faisal bin Hussein and Abdullah bin Hussein, the key tribal leaders who led the revolt, and other prominent Arab leaders such as Dhari ibn Tawala of the Aslam Shammar and Sheikh Ibrahim of al-Zubayr. Other photographs depict unidentified Western agents and Arab tribal leaders. One of the women shown in the photographs most likely is Gertrude Bell of the British Military Intelligence Department. She played a key role in organizing the revolt and in gaining the support of Arab leaders. Other photographs depict desert scenes, Bedouin encampments in the Arabian Peninsula, and settlements along the riverbanks of the Shatt al-Arab. The diversity of settings reflects the fact that the Arab tribal confederations involved in the revolt included those from the heart of Arabia as well as those from the villages of Iraq. Some of the images most likely were postcards or reproductions and may have originated from the Basra Venus Photo Studio, which produced many views of the Shatt al-Arab. The photographs also include views of everyday village life, peasants with their laden donkeys, boat crews sailing the canals, and villagers in the marketplace. Also present are a few pictures representing religious and civil buildings.
Type of Item
65 photographs : lantern slide, glass plate ; 9 x 10 centimeters
- Harry St. John Bridger Philby, The Heart of Arabia: A Record of Travel and Exploration (London: Constable, 1922).
Last updated: May 17, 2017