Portrait of Harry Saint John Philby
This photograph is from a collection of 65 projectable lantern slides relating to the Arab Revolt of 1916‒18, an important theater of operations during World War I. By supporting the revolt against Ottoman Rule, 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 the British explorer and agent Harry 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 pictures 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 images 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. The collection was probably assembled for a lecture. The A.H. Roberts mentioned on the cover of the box containing the slides is most likely Lieutenant A.H. Roberts, the British assistant and political officer in al-Zubayr, a city located southwest of Basra, at the time of the British military occupation of Iraq. Lieutenant A.H. Roberts is mentioned by 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.
Type of Item
1 photograph : lantern slide, glass plate ; 9 x 10 centimeters
- Together with T.E. Lawrence and Gertrude Bell, Saint John Philby was a key player in the Arab Revolt. Like Lawrence and Bell, he was first of all an Arabist and an explorer, especially known for his accounts The Heart of Arabia (1922) and The Empty Quarter (1933). In 1917 Philby arrived in al-Zubayr where Lieutenant A.H. Roberts introduced him to Sheikh Ibrahim. Philby chose to live in Arabia and became special adviser to Ibn Saʻud and supported him in negotiations with the British, during the Arab Revolt, and later on with the United States, once petroleum was discovered at the end of the 1930s.
- Harry St. John Bridger Philby, The Heart of Arabia: A Record of Travel and Exploration (London: Constable, 1922).
Last updated: November 14, 2017