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Bertram Sidney Thomas

BT Bertram Sidney Thomas (1892-1950), Explorer

Bertram Thomas was born in Easton-in-Gordano, near Bristol, 13 June 1892. He was educated privately and was a fellow commoner at Trinity College, Cambridge, PhD. He worked in the Civil Service, 1908-14. He served with the North Somerset Yeomanry in Belgium, 1914-15, and the Somerset Light Infantry in Mesopotamia (Iraq), 1916-18. He was an Assistant Political Officer in Mesopotamia, 1918-22, and Assistant British Representative in Trans-Jordan (Jordan), 1922-4. He was appointed as Finance Minister and Wazir to the Sultan of Muscat and Oman (Oman), 1925-32. During this time he made a number of expeditions into the desert, becoming the first European to cross the Rub' Al Khali (Empty Quarter), 1930-1. He married Bessie Hoile, 1933. He was Information Officer in Bahrain, 1942-3; Director of the Middle East Centre for Arab Studies, Palestine, 1943-6, and Lebanon, 1947-8; and an adviser to Shell Group, 1948-9. He was awarded the OBE, 1920, and CMG, 1949. He died in Cairo, 27 December 1950.

Correspondence and papers, 1919-50

The collection mainly comprises manuscripts, articles, book reviews, lectures, notes, correspondence and maps.

9 boxes.

The Library also holds a collection of Thomas's photographs of Mesopotamia and Arabia, comprising 1 box (uncatalogued), and a video copy of a film made by Thomas in Arabia, 1928-9 (also available in DVD format).

The Faculty also has a portrait of Thomas by Walter Westley Russell.

index of people, places and institutions

[ books | articles | reviews | lectures/speeches | notes | correspondence | family/personal | maps/plans ]

BT B Books

BT B/1 Draft of Alarms and Excursions in Arabia (1931)
undated [1931]
1 sheaf, typescript
Comprises Adventure III, Chapters 1-5

BT B/2 Drafts of Arabia Felix (1932)
undated [1932]
6 bundles, ms and typescript
The text was read and amended by Arnold Wilson, T. E. Shaw (Lawrence), Reader William Bullard and Hamilton Alexander Roskeen Gibb

BT B/2/1 Manuscript of text
1 bundle, ms and typescript
With annotations by Arnold Wilson and pasted-in excerpts from Thomas' articles in The Times, 11-15 May 1931

BT B/2/2 Draft text
1 bundle, typescript
With annotations by Reader William Bullard
Comprises pp. 1-338

BT B/2/3 Draft text
1 bundle, typescript
With annotations by Hamilton Alexander Roskeen Gibb
Comprises pp. 1-212

BT B/2/4 Draft text
1 bundle, typescript
With annotations by T. E. Shaw (Lawrence)
Comprises pp. 2-9, 48, 186, 209, 234-41, 306-28, 335-6, 370

BT B/2/5 Draft text
1 bundle, typescript
With annotations and headings by Arnold Wilson
Marked 'First Revise'

BT B/2/6 Draft text
1 bundle, typescript
With annotations by Thomas and Arnold Wilson
Final version

BT B/3 Draft texts about the geography and ethnography of south east Arabia
undated
2 bundles (1, 4) and 2 files (2-3), ms and typescript
Presented as a Cambridge University PhD thesis

BT B/3/1 Manuscript of text
1 bundle
Comprises pp. 21-215

BT B/3/2 Draft text
1 file, typescript
Comprises pp. 1-211, 306-44

BT B/3/3 Draft text
1 file, typescript
Comprises pp. 212-74

BT B/3/4 Notes
1 bundle

BT B/4 Draft of The Arabs (1937)
undated [1937]
2 bundles, ms and typescript
Based on the Lowell Lectures given at the Lowell Institute, Boston, 1936

BT B/4/1 Draft text
1 bundle, ms and typescript
pp. 1-111 only

BT B/4/2 Notes
1 folder, ms and typescript

[ books | articles | reviews | lectures/speeches | notes | correspondence | family/personal | maps/plans ]

BT A Articles

BT A/1 Report on the Shatrah tribes, Mesopotamia
1 Sep 1919
1 pamphlet, printed
Thomas was Assistant Political Officer, Shatrah, 1918-19, and returned to the district, 1920
Titled 'Short History of Shatrah Tribes during the last Half Century'

BT A/2 Proof copy of an article on the Marsh Arabs, Mesopotamia
undated
4 sheets, typescript

BT A/3 Draft article on the Kumzari dialect of the Shihuh tribe, Arabia
undated [1930]
1 file, ms and typescript
Published as 'The Kumzari dialect of the Shihuh tribe and a vocabulary', Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society (Oct 1930)
With an earlier draft and 2 letters, 1929

BT A/4 Draft articles on crossing the Rub' Al Khali, Arabia
1931
26 sheets
Published in The Times, 11-15 May 1931
With covering letter from The Times, 10 May 1931

BT A/5 Papers relating to a controversy with Harry St John Bridger Philby
undated, 1933
1 bundle, ms and typescript
Comprises draft article on Ubar and Wabar by Thomas, undated; and 2 copies of a letter from Thomas to the Royal Central Asian Society about Philby's views on the anthropology of south Arabia, 1 Jun 1933

BT A/6 Draft article on the Hadara group of languages
undated [1937]
1 bundle, ms and typescript
This article was based on part IV of Thomas' PhD thesis
Published as 'Four strange tongues from South Arabia. The Hadara group', Proceedings of the British Academy, vol. 23 (1937)

[ books | articles | reviews | lectures/speeches | notes | correspondence | family/personal | maps/plans ]

BT R Book reviews

BT R/1 Draft reviews of Harry St John Bridger Philby, The Empty Quarter: being a description of the great south desert of Arabia known as Rub' Al Khali (1933)
undated [1933]
1 bundle, ms and printed
Includes a review published in the Journal of the Royal Central Asian Society (1933)
With notes and press cuttings

BT R/2 Draft review of Harold Courtenay Armstrong, Lord of Arabia, Ibn Saud: an intimate study of a king (1934)
undated [1934]
5 sheets, typescript

BT R/3 Abbas Mahmud Al Akkad
Draft review of Bertram Thomas, The Arabs (1937)
undated [1937]
3 sheets, typescript

BT R/4 W. E. G.
Draft review of Bertram Thomas, Arabia Felix (1932)
undated [1932]
2 sheets, typescript

BT R/5 Arnold Wilson
Draft review of Rudolph Said-Ruete, Said bin Sultan, 1791-1856 (1929)
undated [1929]
3 sheets, typescript
Published in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society (July 1929)

[ books | articles | reviews | lectures/speeches | notes | correspondence | family/personal | maps/plans ]

BT L Lectures and Speeches

BT L/1 Copies of speeches made during the visit of Taimur bin Faisal, Sultan of Muscat and Oman, to England
1928
6 sheets, typescript
The speeches were made at a dinner in Sultan Taimur's honour at Claridge's Hotel, London, Oct 1928

BT L/2 Copy of a lecture on crossing the Rub' Al Khali, Arabia
1931
25 sheets, typescript
Given at the Royal Geographical Society, 18 May 1931

BT L/3 Copy of a lecture on crossing the Rub' Al Khali, Arabia
undated [1931]
8 sheets, typescript

BT L/4 Copy review of a lecture on crossing the Rub' Al Khali, Arabia
9 Sep [1931]
3 sheets, typescript
Given at the British Association, Leicester

BT L/5 Flyer for a lecture on folk stories heard in the Rub' Al Khali, Arabia
1932
1 item, printed
Given at the Folklore Society, University College, London, 19 Oct 1932

BT L/6 Summary of a lecture on anthropological observations in south Arabia
undated [1932]
3 sheets, ms and typescript
Published as 'Anthropological observations in south Arabia', Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, vol. 62 (Jan-Jun 1932)
With a list of slides

BT L/7 Draft lectures on the Arabs
undated [1936]
1 bundle, typescript
A series of 8 lectures given as the Lowell Lectures, at the Lowell Institute, Boston, 1936

BT L/8 Copy of a lecture on Arab rule under the Al Bu Sa'id dynasty of Muscat and Oman, 1741-1937
1938
1 folder, ms and typescript
Raleigh Lecture, British Academy, 1938
With drafts of lecture and notes

BT L/9 Draft broadcast on the Queen of Sheba
1930s
3 sheets, typescript

BT L/10 Draft lecture on the map of Arabia
1930s
31 sheets
With notes

BT L/11 Draft lecture on the wildlife of the Qara Mountains and the Rub' Al Khali, Arabia
undated
6 sheets, typescript

BT L/12 Draft lecture on Richard Burton and the Rub' Al Khali, Arabia
undated
21 sheets, typescript
With annotations by Arnold Wilson

BT L/13 Speech notes for civic occasions
undated
9 sheets

BT L/14 Harry St John Bridger Philby
Copy of a lecture on crossing the Rub' Al Khali, Arabia
undated [1932]
50 sheets, typescript
Given at the Royal Geographical Society

BT L/15 Arnold Wilson
Lecture on the next twenty years in Asia
1932
1 bundle, typescript
Anniversary Lecture, Royal Central Asian Society, 8 Jun 1932

[ books | articles | reviews | lectures/speeches | notes | correspondence | family/personal | maps/plans ]

BT N Notes

BT N/1 Notes on a journey into Wadi Samayil, Arabia
3 Jun-13 Jun 1927
1 folder, typescript

BT N/2 Fragment of a diary describing an incident at Sur, Arabia
29 Aug [1927]
2 sheets
The incident is described in Alarms and Excursions in Arabia (1931), pp. 257-64
Numbered pp. 53-5

BT N/3 Diary of a journey along the coast of south Arabia
27 Dec 1927-14 Feb 1928
2 files, typescript
From Suwayh to Dhofar

BT N/3/1 Diary

BT N/3/2 Notes

BT N/4 Cartographic notes on a journey into the Rub' Al Khali, Arabia
1930
1 folder, ms and typescript
From Dhofar to Wadi Dhabalil

BT N/5 Cartographic notes on the crossing of the Rub' Al Khali, Arabia
10 Dec-5 Feb [1931]
11 sheets
Comprises notes of date, place, time, direction, rate of progress and bearings. Details of water holes and geographical features are given
With sketch map

BT N/6 Notes on the natural history and anthropology of the Rub' Al Khali, Arabia
undated [1931]
7 sheets, typescript

BT N/7 Notes on dialects of south Arabia
undated
1 vol
Mainly blank
With sketch of Wadi Arbot from the camp at Fuzah, undated
English and Arabic

BT N/8 Miscellaneous notes on Muscat and Oman
undated
5 sheets

BT N/9 Notes on a visit to an oilfield at Ras Gharib, Egypt
30 Nov 1948
1 vol
Mainly blank

BT N/10 Unknown
Notes on a lecture on Ibn Saud and Arabia
undated
2 sheets, typescript
Lecture given at the Royal Central Asian Society, 7 Nov

[ books | articles | reviews | lectures/speeches | notes | correspondence | family/personal | maps/plans ]

BT C Correspondence

BT C/1 General correspondence
undated, 1931-50
1 folder, ms and typescript

BT C/2 Extracts from letters about military action against Badr ar Ruma'iyadh, shaikh of the Albu Saleh tribe, one of the tribes of the Muntafiq confederation, Mesopotamia
21 Jan-11 Sep 1919
1 sheaf, typescript
With sketch maps

BT C/3 Confidential letterbook about military action against Khaiyyun al 'Ubaid, shaikh of one of the Shatrah tribes, Mesopotamia
May-Jul 1920
1 vol, ms and typescript
This is a letterbook of the Baghdad High Commission (official reference: file 38/60). It was removed by the Civil Commissioner, Arnold Wilson, and passed to Percy Cox, who was returning to Mesopotamia as High Commissioner in Oct 1920
The letterbook mainly comprises correspondence, telegrams and signals between the Civil Commissioner, Arnold Wilson, and the Political Officer, Nasiriyah, A. H. Ditchburn
The records of the Baghdad High Commission, 1919-32, are held by the National Archives of India

BT C/4 Letter about pay and conditions of British officials in Trans-Jordan
1923
1 item, typescript

BT C/5 Correspondence about a pay dispute between Thomas and his sweeper, Sanwalia
1924
1 bundle, typescript
Sanwalia was employed at Shatrah and Baghdad, Mesopotamia, 1918-21

BT C/6 Correspondence about Muscat and Oman
undated, 1927-31
1 bundle, ms and typescript
Thomas was Wazir and Finance Minister to the Sultan of Muscat and Oman, 1925-30
With 2 black and white photographs attached to letters
English and Arabic

BT C/7 Correspondence and papers about the Royal Air Force
1927
1 bundle, ms and typescript
Comprises letters, telegrams and a report about the RAF Trans-Oman Expedition from Suhar to Sharjah, Arabia, 1927

BT C/8 Correspondence and papers about British interests in Arabia
1928-9
1 bundle, typescript
Comprises correspondence and Thomas' report about the Muscat Levies, 1928; a telegram about the arrest of Hilal Bin Hamad, shaikh of the Yal Saad tribe; and a report by Harold Dickson on camel disputes, 1929, with additional notes by Thomas

BT C/9 Telegrams of congratulation on crossing the Rub' Al Khali, Arabia
21 Feb-31 Mar 1931
1 bundle, ms and printed

BT C/10 Letters of congratulation on crossing the Rub' Al Khali, Arabia
undated, Feb-Jun 1931
1 bundle, ms and typescript

BT C/11 Correspondence and papers about geological and natural history specimens collected by Thomas in the Rub' Al Khali and the Qara Mountains, Arabia
1930-4
1 folder, ms and typescript
Mainly comprises reports and correspondence with the staff of the British Museum, London, and the Anglo-Persian Oil Company

BT C/12 Letters about lecture tours in Canada and the United States
undated, 1933-4
1 bundle

BT C/13 Letters about the Middle East Centre for Arab Studies, Lebanon
1948-9
1 folder, ms and typescript

BT C/14 Christmas cards and correspondence
1948-50
1 bundle, ms and typescript

BT C/15 Correspondence about the award of the CMG (Companionship of the Most Distinguished Order of St Michael and St George)
Jan-Mar 1949
1 bundle, ms and typescript
Comprises letters and telegrams

BT C/16 Letters from Ali Muhammad
1937
3 items
Ali Muhammad was Thomas' secretary in Muscat

BT C/17 Letter from Norman Bentwich
15 Sep 1936
1 item, typescript

BT C/18 Letter from Reader William Bullard
28 Oct 1931
1 item

BT C/19 Letters from Robert Cheeseman
1929-31
4 items
Includes 2 letters to Arthur Keith

BT C/20 Correspondence with Percy Cox
1930-4
6 items, ms and typescript

BT C/21 Letters from Charles Richard Crane
1934, 1937
2 items

BT C/22 Letters from Harold Dickson and Violet Dickson
1931, 1950
2 items

BT C/23 Letter from E. M. Forster
22 Jul 1936
1 item

BT C/24 Letters from Hamilton Alexander Roskeen Gibb
1931-6
6 items, ms and typescript

BT C/25 Letter from Arthur Keith
3 Aug 1937
1 item

BT C/26 Letters from Gilbert Laithwaite
1931-3
4 items

BT C/27 Letter from Reuben Levy
10 Dec 1929
1 item, typescript

BT C/28 Letter from David Samuel Margoliouth
31 May 1928
1 item, typescript

BT C/29 Letter from Harry St John Bridger Philby
10 Mar 1929
1 item, typescript

BT C/30 Letter from Charles Gabriel Seligman
27 Feb 1931
1 item, typescript

BT C/31 Letters from T. E. Shaw (Lawrence)
undated, Sep-Nov 1931
4 items, typescript
Includes 1 telegram

BT C/32 Letters from Grafton Elliot Smith
1928
2 items

BT C/33 Letter from Arthur Henry Fox Strangways
2 Aug 1928
1 item
With notes made by Thomas of chants from the Rub' Al Khali, Arabia

BT C/34 Letters from Percy Molesworth Sykes
undated
2 items

BT C/35 Letters from Lowell Thomas
undated, 1936-50
6 items, typescript

BT C/36 Correspondence with Arnold Wilson
undated, 1929-33
29 items
Includes 1 letter from Harry St John Bridger Philby, 31 Aug 1922; 1 letter to David Hogarth, 17 Aug 1922; and 3 letters from Rudolph Said-Ruete, 1927-31

[ books | articles | reviews | lectures/speeches | notes | correspondence | family/personal | maps/plans ]

BT F Family and Personal Papers

BT F/1 Publicity brochure about Mesopotamia
ca. 1918
1 folder, printed
Titled 'A Tour Through Central Arabia. The following pictures were taken by a British Officer touring through Central Arabia with an escort of Arabs'
Comprises plates of photographs with captions
Includes views of Basrah, Amarah, Nasiriyah, Baghdad, Najaf, Mosul and Suq ash Shuyukh, Mesopotamia. Also includes a few views of Persia
English and Arabic

BT F/2 Press cuttings
1928-[36]
6 bundles (1-2, 4, 6-8) 1 sheaf (3) and 1 vol (5)

BT F/2/1 Press cuttings about the the visit of Taimur bin Faisal, Sultan of Muscat and Oman, to England
1928
1 bundle, typescript and printed
With a letter and press release from Reuters Limited, 21 Sep 1928

BT F/2/2 Press cuttings about a journey into the Rub' Al Khali, Arabia
undated, Jun 1930
1 bundle, printed
From Dhofar to Wadi Dhabalil
An account of the journey was given to the Royal Geographical Society by Arnold Wilson

BT F/2/3 Press cuttings about the crossing of the Rub' Al Khali, Arabia
May 1931
1 sheaf, printed
A series of articles written by Thomas and published in The Times, 11-15 May 1931

BT F/2/4 Press cuttings about Thomas' portrait
Apr-May 1933
1 bundle, printed
The portrait was painted by Walter Westley Russell and depicts Thomas in Arab dress. It was exhibited at the Summer Exhibition of the Royal Academy, 1933

BT F/2/5 Press cuttings about a lecture tour of Canada
Apr-Dec 1933
1 vol, printed
Indexed by place
With some loose items

BT F/2/6 Press cuttings about Thomas' engagement and marriage to Bessie Mary Hoile
Jul 1933
1 bundle, printed

BT F/2/7 Press cuttings about a lecture tour of the United States
undated [1936]
1 bundle, printed
Relates particularly to a series of lectures on the Arabs given as the Lowell Lectures at the Lowell Institute, Boston, 1936

BT F/2/8 Miscellaneous press cuttings
undated, 1929-34
1 bundle, printed

BT F/3 Menus, table plans and invitations
1931-8
1 bundle, printed

BT F/4 Honorary degree certificate from Acadia University, Nova Scotia
15 Nov 1933
1 sheet, parchment, with paper seal
Latin

BT F/5 Permit to enter restricted area of Sinai, Egypt
1948-9
1 item, printed
With photograph of Thomas attached
Arabic

BT F/6 Lists of supplies
undated
7 sheets, ms and typescript
With lists of possessions put into storage, undated and 1950

[ books | articles | reviews | lectures/speeches | notes | correspondence | family/personal | maps/plans ]

BT P Maps and Plans

BT P/1 Maps of the Muntafiq Division, Mesopotamia, showing details of military operations against Badr ar Ruma'iyadh, shaikh of the Albu Saleh tribe
undated [1919]
5 items, ms and printed

BT P/1/1 Map of the Muntafiq Division, showing tribal areas
1 item, printed and folded
With ms annotations

BT P/1/2 Outline sketch map of the Muntafiq Division, showing railway, lake and rivers
1 item, folded

BT P/1/3 Sketch map of the territory of the Albu Saleh tribe, showing positions of the British attacking force
1 item, folded
Marked 'A'

BT P/1/4 Sketch map of the territory of the Albu Saleh tribe, showing position of Badr ar Ruma'iyadh
1 item, folded
Marked 'B'

BT P/1/5 Map key, listing names of tribes, towns, lakes, rivers, areas and ruins
1 item
The symbols on this key - for British land forces, British gun boats and the author's route with irregular Arabs - do not relate to any of the maps listed above

BT P/2 Maps of the Rub' Al Khali, Arabia
undated [1931]
3 items
The maps are extensively annotated and may have been used by Thomas during his crossing of the desert, 1931

BT P/2/1 Map of the Rub' Al Khali, from Dhofar to Doha
undated [1931]
1 sheet, printed, linen-backed, mounted on boards and folded

BT P/2/2 Map of the Rub' Al Khali, from Dhofar to Abu Dhabi
undated [1931]
1 sheet, printed, mounted on boards and folded

BT P/2/3 Map of the Rub' Al Khali, from Dhofar to Wadi Dhabalil
undated [1931]
1 sheet, printed, mounted on boards and folded
Thomas travelled into the desert but was forced to turn back at Wadi Dhabalil, 1929-30

BT P/3 Sketch map of the coast of Arabia, north of Muscat, showing the territories of Wahhabi and non-Wahhabi tribes
undated
1 sheet, folded

[ books | articles | reviews | lectures/speeches | notes | correspondence | family/personal | maps/plans ]