Finding Aid: Political Residency, Bushire IOR/R/15/1: 1763-1948

Author

Content Specialist, Archivist, British Library
An overview of the records created by Britain’s Political Residency at Bushire between 1763 and 1948, including a description of the records and the subjects they cover.

What types of records will you find?

The records that can be found within the Bushire files can be broadly divided into three groups, each reflecting changes in record-keeping practice at the Residency A diplomatic office of the British Government established in the provinces and regions considered part of, or under the influence of, British India. : 1) chronological letter books covering the period 1763-1849; 2) subject-based letter books covering the period 1850-1889; and 3) subject files covering the period 1889-1948.

Letter books (1763-1849): IOR/R/15/1/1-118

The letter books consist of series of letters sent and received by the Bushire Residency A diplomatic office of the British Government established in the provinces and regions considered part of, or under the influence of, British India. . This correspondence was with whoever was responsible for the Residency A diplomatic office of the British Government established in the provinces and regions considered part of, or under the influence of, British India. at the time (e.g. the Basra Agency An office of the British Government and, earlier, of the East India Company. , the Government of Bombay, or the Government of India), other British officials or officers in 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. , British diplomatic representatives in Persia, local Arab or Persian officials, and the rulers of 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. States. In some circumstances the Residency A diplomatic office of the British Government established in the provinces and regions considered part of, or under the influence of, British India. was authorised to communicate direct with the home authorities in England. The volumes in this period were originally numbered chronologically using book numbers. In the 1830s these volumes were divided up into three types, reflecting increased volumes of correspondence: General (with Bombay), Native, and Secret.

Extract of a typical Political Department letter, dated 1823. IOR/R/15/1/29, f. 4r
Extract of a typical Political Department letter, dated 1823. IOR/R/15/1/29, f. 4r

Letters received from Bombay were bound by the relevant department (Marine, Military, Political, etc.) and bear Bombay Government reference numbers. Letters sent to Bombay were numbered by the department they were addressed to. Letters to destinations other than Bombay were not numbered in this fashion.

‘Native’ inward correspondence contains English translations of letters received in either Arabic or Persian. ‘Native’ outward correspondence consists of draft letters for translation into Arabic or Persian.

‘Secret’ correspondence comprises letters predominantly to or from the Secret Department at Bombay, the Secret Committee of the Board of Control Board of Commissioners for the Affairs of India, appointed by an Act of Parliament to supervise the East India Company. , or British diplomatic representatives in Persia. Enclosures are either transcribed with their original covering letter, or have their location in another volume referenced accordingly.

Typical cover and title page of an 1850 letter book in original condition (IOR/R/15/1/121)
Typical cover and title page of an 1850 letter book in original condition (IOR/R/15/1/121)

Letter books (1850-1889): IOR/R/15/1/119-198

During this period correspondence to and from the Bushire Residency A diplomatic office of the British Government established in the provinces and regions considered part of, or under the influence of, British India. was bound into subject-based compilations. It is unclear at what stage these were created, as some volumes contain papers that were previously filed separately. Some of these volumes bear old style book numbers, and some were maintained after the introduction of a subject-based filing system in 1889. A number of ad-hoc series have survived from this period, for example ‘Old Records’ or the ‘Political Diaries’, possibly as a result of poor record-keeping practices.

Subject files (1889-1948): IOR/R/15/1/199-703

In 1889 Residency A diplomatic office of the British Government established in the provinces and regions considered part of, or under the influence of, British India. staff overhauled the establishment’s record-keeping. Files were subsequently numbered using a subject-based file system. Each subject was assigned a number, and each file within a subject was given a part number. The subject files include all relevant material on a subject, including Arabic and Persian correspondence. In 1945 these series (now known as the A Series) were reorganised: unused subjects were discontinued, inactive files were bound for reference, and active files were transferred to a new B Series. A new confidential series was also created, and miscellaneous files reclassified. Because of the limited number of B Series files, the Bushire subject files at the British Library have been filed under their A Series numbers.

Front cover, spine, edge and title page of a typical bound Bushire subject file (IOR/R/15/1/351)
Front cover, spine, edge and title page of a typical bound Bushire subject file (IOR/R/15/1/351)

Additional files from the Foreign Office

A number of Bushire Residency A diplomatic office of the British Government established in the provinces and regions considered part of, or under the influence of, British India. files were later discovered in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Library, and subsequently transferred to the 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 in September 1979. The files arrived after the collection had been allocated 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. reference numbers, and therefore could not be added into the appropriate places within the IOR/R/15/1 sequence. They have been listed at the end of the appropriate sequence as IOR/R/15/1/7-10 and IOR/R/15/1/704-708 instead.

Gaps in the Records

Though the Bushire Residency A diplomatic office of the British Government established in the provinces and regions considered part of, or under the influence of, British India. files cover a long time span (1763-1948) there are significant gaps in the records. A large number of letter books from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries have survived, although many are incomplete or in poor condition. Many of the A series files have been lost as a result of a thorough weeding by the Foreign Office in 1951. There are also very few B series files remaining in the 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; these remained in active use when the Foreign Office assumed responsibility for the Residency A diplomatic office of the British Government established in the provinces and regions considered part of, or under the influence of, British India. in 1948. These files can be found in the Foreign Office Embassy and Consular Archives in the UK National Archives [FO 1016]. Indexes for the Bushire Residency A diplomatic office of the British Government established in the provinces and regions considered part of, or under the influence of, British India. provide some indication of the original scope and extent of the records (IOR/Z/R/15/1/1-6).

Detail of a map of Bushire, created c. 1800, showing the Residency building. IOR/X/3111, f. 1r
Detail of a map of Bushire, created c. 1800, showing the Residency building. IOR/X/3111, f. 1r

Below is a list of surviving records comprising the Bushire Records A Series, with links to the first available digitised file in each subject:

 

FURTHER READING

 

Tuson, Penelope, The Records of the British Residency A diplomatic office of the British Government established in the provinces and regions considered part of, or under the influence of, British India. and Agencies in 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. . IOR R/15 (London: 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, 1979)

Lorimer, John Gordon, Gazetteer of 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. , ’Oman, and Central Arabia, vol. 1: Historical, vol. 2: Geographical and Statistical (Calcutta: Superintendent of Government Printing, 1908, 1915; reprinted by Archive Editions, 1986)

Hughes, Thomas, R. (ed.), Selections from the Records of the Bombay Government, new series 24: Historical and Other Information, Connected with the Province of Oman, Maskat, Bahrein, and Other Places in 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. … Etc., issued by the Bombay Political Department (Bombay: Bombay Education Society Press, 1856; reprinted by Oleander Press, 1985, as Arabian Gulf Intelligence: Selections from the Records of the Bombay Government)

Kelly, J.B., Britain and 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. , 1795–1880 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1968)

Kelly, J.B., Fighting the Retreat from Arabia and the Gulf: The Collected Essays and Reviews of J.B. Kelly, volumes 1-2, edited by Saul Kelly (London: New English Review Press, 2013-14)

Kumar, Ravinder, India and 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. Region, 1858–1907: A Study in British Imperial Policy (Bombay: Asia Publishing House, 1965)

Busch, Briton Cooper, Britain and 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. , 1894–1914 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1967)

Onley, James, The Arabian Frontier of the British Raj: Merchants, Rulers, and the British in the Nineteenth-Century Gulf (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007)

Onley, James, “Britain and the Gulf Shaikhdoms, 1820–1971: The Politics of Protection”, CIRS Occasional Paper No. 4 (Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in Qatar), pp. 1–44

Standish, John, Persia and the Gulf: Retrospect and Prospect (Richmond: Curzon Press, 1998)