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'File 8/15 Arab Series - 1933-1939' [‎120v] (240/434)

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The record is made up of 1 file (214 folios). It was created in 31 Aug 1933-20 Mar 1939. It was written in English and French. The original is part of the British Library: India Office The department of the British Government to which the Government of India reported between 1858 and 1947. The successor to the Court of Directors. Records and Private Papers.


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him a copy of despatch to the Foreign Office, No. 95-E., dated the 29th March
1936 and enclosure, regarding Currency and Coinage position in the Hejaz..
Enclosure I to Serial No. (27).
Letter from His Majesty’s Minister, Jedda, to the Foreign Office, No. 95-
E.-(594/238/10), dated the 29th March 1936.
You are aware that the currency situation in this country has undergone many
vicissitudes since Ibn Saud conquered the Hejaz. These have been particularly
marked since early in 1931, owing to the brakedown in practical application of the
regulations enclosed in Mr. Bird’s despatch No. 12 (196/196/1) of January 20th,
1928 and the further confusion entailed by the suspension of the gold standard in
Great Britain in the autumn of that year. The English gold pound has remained
throughout the main basis of the Saudi currency system but the market value of
the Saudi silver riyal was in and after 1931 far below the official parity of ten riyalst
to the gold pound established by the regulations of 1928.
2 . It may be well to recall very briefly the genesis of the system established
by the regulations of 1928. The main elements in the pre-war Turkish currency
wxre the Turkish gold pound, similar in fineness to, but about *9 per cent, of the
weight, of the English sovereign ; and the famous silver coin called the Mejidie
which, though it had depreciated somewhat, stood for many years in a fixed
relation to gold. The Turkish gold pound was divided theoretically into 100 gold
piastres although the gold piastre did not exist as a coin. It ensued from this that
the English gold pound was worth 110 gold piastres. The mejidie and its sub
divisions, which included a current silver piastre, had various values according to
the uses to which it was put but for official purposes it was reckoned at about 102
piastres to the Turkish gold pound and about 112 piastres to the English gold
pound. The market rate was lower. I quote these figures from memory but they
are sufficiently accurate for my present purpose.
3. The Saudi regulations of 1928 suhstituted for the mejidie and its sub
divisions Saudi silver riyals of exctly the same size, weight and silver content and
established the legal parity, already mentioned, of ten riyals to the English gold
pound, which had more or less superseded the Turkish gold pound. By an adapta
tion of the old Turkish rates for gold, they provided that the English gold pound and
the riyal respectively should be divided into 110 and 11 thecietical piastres called
“ mini ”, which corresponded to the Turkish “ gold piastres ’ and into 220 and 22
current piastres, which came to be known as Saudi.
4. From 1931 to 1934 the Saudi riyal fluctuated greatly, the general tendency
being in the direction of depreciation, subject to seasonal variations in the opposite
sense. Last year, however, the riyal, while still well below its legal value in terms
of gold, showed a tendency to appreciate. There appeared to be a shortage of silver
currency and early in the autumn the Saudi Government cast about for means of
remedying the situation. They had already begun to import large quantities of
Indian rupees, mainly for use in Nejd, where the Saudi riyal had never been popular ^
and had never ousted the Maria Theresa dollar. They also contemplated a new’
issue of silver riyals, a project which has formed the subject of correspondence
ending with my Chancery’s letter to the Eastern Department of February 1st last.
I may add that after that letter was written, I had reason to suppose that the new
riyals were to be similar, except for the Saudi superscription, to the Indian rupee ;
that the quantity ordered, including presumably silver sub-divisions, was riyals
1 ,000,000 ; and that the parity of the new riyals would be fixed at Riyals 20 to
the gold pound. One informant suggested to me that the existing riyals would
be withdrawn and that the new issue would suffice for all requirements, a thing
which I find it difficult to believe unless the rupees from India are used to eke
out the official currency not only in Nejd but in the Hejaz.
5. Pending the issue of the new riyals, of which I have heard nothing further,
the Saudi Ministry of Finance has sprung a fresh surprise on the public by publish
ing on March 23rd a notice, which I enclose in translation. Its main effects appear
to be to establish a new legal parity of the existing riyal at the rate of 20 to the gold
pound for the purpose of transactions with the Government; to abolish the “ miri ”
piastre ; to readjust the relation between Saudi piastres and the other elements in
the currency by calculating the gold pound at 220 Saudi piastres, the riyal at 11

About this item


The file contains the Foreign Office confidential prints of the Arabia Series for the years 1933 to 1938. It includes correspondence, memoranda, and extracts from newspapers. The correspondence is principally between the British Legation in Jedda and the Foreign Office. Other correspondents include British diplomatic, political, and military offices, foreign diplomats, heads of state, tribal leaders, corporations, and individuals in the Middle East region.

Each annual series is composed of several numbered serials that are often connected to a particular subject. The file covers many subjects related to the affairs of Saudi Arabia.

Included in the file are the following:

  • a memorandum on Arab Unity produced by the Foreign Office dated 12 June 1933 (author unknown), folios 11-13;
  • a memorandum on petroleum in Arabia produced by the Petroleum Department dated 5 August 1933 (author unknown), folios 23-26;
  • a record of interviews with Ibn Sa‘ūd, King of Saudi Arabia, conducted by Reader Bullard and George William Rendel between 20 and 22 March 1937;
  • a memorandum on Yemen by Captain B W Seager, the Frontier Officer, dated 20 July 1937;
  • several records of proceedings of ships on patrol in the Red Sea, including that of HMS Penzance , Hastings , Colombo , Bideford , and Londonderry .

Folios 213-15 are internal office notes.

Extent and format
1 file (214 folios)

The file is arranged chronologically.

Physical characteristics

Foliation: the main foliation sequence (used for referencing) commences at the front cover with 1 and terminates at the back cover with 217; these numbers are written in pencil, are circled, and are located in the top right corner of the recto The front of a sheet of paper or leaf, often abbreviated to 'r'. side of each folio. An additional foliation sequence is also present in parallel between ff 2-215; these numbers are also written in pencil, but are not circled, and are located in the same position as the main sequence.

Written in
English and French in Latin script
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'File 8/15 Arab Series - 1933-1939' [‎120v] (240/434), British Library: India Office Records and Private Papers, IOR/R/15/2/310, in Qatar Digital Library <> [accessed 17 February 2020]

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