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'File 8/15 Arab Series - 1933-1939' [‎170r] (339/434)

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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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report. It is true that the prospectors have not been at work long, and it must
also be remembered that an American company found oil at Bahrein where
the Shell Company had given up the search, but the reports from the com
pany’s experienced geologists, who seem to have covered most of the ground,
nave left the Jedda manager very gloomy. Two other possible sources of
wealth can be foreseen at present: that oil will be found in the Rub’-al-
Khali, and that somewhere in such parts of Arabia as are not included in the
Saudi Arabian Mining Syndicate’s concession gold or some other valuable
mineral will be found in quantities and in conditions that will repay the work
ing. There can be little in the commercial schemes which are discussed in
the Mecca press from time to time. It is not by selling to pilgrims small boxes
of Medina dates that the Saudi budget will be made to meet at the back,
nor by curing rather less badly the few skins the country has to export.
Several grandiose schemes, which in succession raised Saudi hopes, have come
to nothing. The chief of these were the Jedda-Mecca Railway, the Saudi
State Bank, which the ex-Khedive was supposed to be prepared to establish,
and the loan of half a million or so which the Saudi Government hoped they
could raise in England on rather vague security.
6 . For the present, then, the Saudi Government are living on the pil
grimage revenues supplemented by windfalls, such as advances in respect
of the various concessions, the purchase by the Italian Government of an
unknown number of camels at absurdly high prices, and consignments of
arms, petrol, &c., for which they have never paid. Thus, windfalls apart,
Saudi Arabia is dependent upon a source of revenue on which not even the
Hejaz alone had to live before the war, for there seems to be no doubt that the
Ottoman Government put into the Hejaz, in the way of subsidies and in over
head expenses, more than they ever got out of it. The country being depen
dent upon the pilgrimage, the size of the pilgrimage is of the first importance.
The fluctuations of this manifestation of religious enthusiasm are well known
to you. The total of overseas pilgrims this year was about 50,000. In 1927
it rose to 132,000, and in 1933 it fell to 21,000. The number of pilgrims
falls in times of economic stress, but it is also affected by national policy and
social changes, as in Soviet Russia, Turkey and Persia. No Soviet citizens,
and very few Turkish now come on the pilgrimage, and the number of Per
sians is diminishing. Statements made recently in the course of conversa
tion by members of the Persian and Afghan Legations in Jedda suggest
that their Governments regard the pilgrimage as a useless drain upon the
national resources. On the other hand, it seems likely that the increasing
feeling of Arab solidarity will help to maintain, if not to increase, the number
of pilgrims from Egypt, Syria and Palestine and perhaps Iraq, while in Moslem
countries under European rule not only will the authorities be careful not to
take any action which might be interpreted as interference with the pilgri
mage, but nationalist feeling will probably tend to encourage the pilgrimage
by using religious to supplement political feeling. But it seems unlikely
that the average number of pilgrims will increase to such a point as to enable
Ibn Saud to reduce the oppressive pilgrim dues, which he would doubtless be
glad to do not only because he would be exposed to less criticism, but for
religious reasons too.
7. I have redrawn above the familiar picture of Ibn Saud searching year
after year for normal sources of revenue, and thrown back time after time on
the most invidious, viz., levy of toll upon Moslems making the pilgrimage to
the shrine of Allah. It would not be surprising if this disposed him to class
his country with the “ have-nots ”. And it happens that with the exception
of the Yemen, which he refrained from annexing in 1935, partly out of consi
deration for pan-Arab feeling, but partly no doubt for fear of Italy, he sees
around him on the Arabian Peninsula more than one territory which he could
absorb but for His Majesty’s Government, and whose absorption would be to
his economic advantage. This does not apply to the south, for whatever
political attraction the Hadhramaut may have for him, it contains no obvious
form of material wealth. But on the Persian Gulf Historically used by the British to refer to the sea area between the Arabian Peninsula and Iran. Often referred to as The Gulf or the Arabian Gulf. the situation is different.
There is one small sheikh in possession of the fine natural harbour of Koweit
and a pearl fishery, and in far too favourable a position for smuggling into Saudi
territory. Another sheikh so small that Ibn Saud always refers to him by a
65(C) ExAfFairsDept

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' [‎170r] (339/434), British Library: India Office Records and Private Papers, IOR/R/15/2/310, in Qatar Digital Library <> [accessed 29 February 2020]

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