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Arab and Islamic Studies Subject Guide: Arab World Documentation Unit

Subject Guide - help and guidance on finding resources in your subject area

AWDU - relaunched at IAIS building



Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies
University of Exeter
Stocker Road


Dr. James Downs FRHistS

Archivist (Middle East Collections) and Project Manager of DAME (Digital Archive of the Middle East)

Visiting the collection

The Arab World Documentation Unit (AWDU) is based on the lower floor of the IAIS building.

The collection is open to members of the University whenever the building is open.


External visitors

External visitors can be admitted 9.00 - 5.00 Monday to Friday

Please email details of what you wish to consult before your visit to avoid disappointment.

AWDU provides unique collections on Arab Gulf states: Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain, Yemen, United Arab Emirates as well as the wider Arab world including Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan. The collections are mainly documentary reference material such as statistical data, country reports, official publications, political opposition newsletters and Pan-Arab literature. The Unit holds archival, historical and sociological material from the mid-18th century onwards, such as the Bombay Diaries (now held in Special Collections), as well as microfilms from British, American, Indian, French and Portuguese government archives (these can be found in the Old Library) and volumes of reproduced documents from the British Public Records Office published by Archive Editions. 

About the collection

Gulf Countries Collections

This mainly consist of material from government departments, central banks or monetary agencies, commercial banks and companies, and from other non-commercial sources in the country such as universities, research centres and institutes. Statistics, directories, reports and reference materials have also been included.

Gulf Information Project Collection

This was set up in 1991 to monitor the humanitarian effects of the Iraq - Kuwait war, and includes international reports and documents, press cuttings files, etc. The project was continued until 1995, and the consequent archive was then sent to Exeter. Some updated material has been added.

Gulf Microfiche Collection

This collection is available for consultation in the Old Library. It contains material on Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates and incorporates Internal Publications (Administrative, Economic and Commercial and Non-commercial Institutions); External Publications; Descriptive Items and some Periodicals. There is a link to the Library catalogue records from here.

Arab - Israeli Conflict Collection

This substantial collection has been brought together from various sources and includes private libraries that are held and administered by the Unit. It consists of official publications of the PLO, the Israeli government, foreign governments and international organisations, and material from Palestinian organisations and solidarity groups. Other documentation includes archival material. Funds have been used to improve the archives by adding collections of historical official documents: a complete collection of UN resolutions from 1947-1991, British documents, published by Archive Editions as Palestine Boundaries, and American documents from 1910-1959 on microfilm. Also see Uri Davis Collection for relevant materials.

Arab Countries Collections (non-Gulf)

This is arranged by country to cover the official publications, reports, statistics and legislation issued by governmental and non-governmental institutions in the Arab countries or their representatives in other countries.

Archive Editions 

The Unit holds most of the titles relevant to the Arab Gulf region, containing British documents up to 1963, and some of the original documentation that was collected by Archive editions but never published. [some titles are located in the Forum Library].

The Bombay Diaries remain in the Old Library collection on level -1

Access is by request only through Special Collections

The Bombay diaries, were the daily records of the English East India Company's activities in India and throughout its trade routes, covering commerce and the company's involvement in administration, politics and war.  The extracts held at Exeter University were selected for their relevance to the Arabian Peninsula and the sea- routes around it. The diaries were the ledgers of the Secret & Political Department in Bombay, which split into two separate departments in 1809. The diary system went on until 1820, and much later all the ledgers were numbered in one sequence, although the diaries for the separate departments, ran concurrently. The collection is housed in Special Collections.

The Guide, a History

The Descriptive Listing of the Extracts from the Bombay Diaries held at the Arab World Documentation Unit, University of Exeter, is a guide to approximately 11000 pages selected from the Bombay Secret and Political Department Diaries for the years 1778 - 1820, that were photocopied in Bombay in July 1987 and brought back to Exeter. This collection of extracts is therefore unique to Exeter, and not available anywhere else in Europe. The extracts were selected for their relevance to the history of the Arabian Peninsula and the sea routes around it. 

Typed transcripts of these extracts were made during 1987 and 1988 and a guide compiled by Ruth Butler. The original guide aimed to give a detailed analysis both listing the letters and documents available in the extracts and outlining their subject content. 

Subject areas covered include:-

Part 1: Baghdad & Basra; Maskat (Musqat); Tribes of Arabia; Persian Gulf; Arabian Gulf; Persian affairs; Iranian Affairs: (Ottoman) Turkey; Egypt, Syria & the French; Red Sea & Arabia; Red Sea & Egypt: British military expeditions.   

Part 2: Maskat (Musqat) affairs, Persian affairs, Baghdad & Persia (Iran), Events: Persian Gulf, Arabian Gulf,  Egypt & Arabia, Red Sea Activities of : Wahabees (Wahhabis, Wahhabiyah), Sultan Sugger (Saqr), Rahma Ben Jauber (Rahmah bin Jabir), Sayyid Muhammad Akil,  French emissaries; British action against Beni Bou Ali (Banu Bu Ali) tribe.

Part 3: News of Baghdad & Basrah (Basra); Maskat (Musqat): relations: British, French, Wahabees (Wahhabis, Wahhabiyah) , Joasmees (Qawasim), Uttobees (Utubi, Utubiyah)  other tribes; Tribes of Arabia: Wahabees, Uttobees, Joasmees; Beni Bu Ali (Banu Bu Ali) tribe & piracy; Persian Gulf & piracy;  war & peace; Red Sea Egypt & Arabia (includes Mocha (Mukha) expedition);   Other British activities; News of: Mukalla; Persian (Iranian) Affairs;  Turkey; Abyssinia (Ethiopia); Activities of : Sultan Sugger (Saqr);  Rahma Ben Jauber (Rahmah bin Jabir); Imam of Senna (San'a', Sanaa); Sadlier; Said Muhammad Akil (Aqil); Sheriff (Sharif, Sherif) of Mecca;  French emissaries; French ships; survey; slave trade; Oman; Trucial States; Bahrain.

Materials housed in Special Collections are available to use in The Ronald Duncan Reading Room. It is open by prior appointment only to consult pre-reserved materials between 10am and 5pm, Monday to Friday. To reserve items for consultation email

Uri Davis

Uri Davis was born in Jerusalem in 1943 to a British Jewish father and a Czechoslovak Jewish mother, and describes himself as a Palestinian Jew. He was brought up and educated in Kefar Shemaryahu and Tel Aviv, spending some of his compulsory military service as a medic and the remainder of the period in alternative civilian service on Kibbutz Erez (1961-1963). Developing an interest in pacifism and human rights, he became Vice-Chairman of the Israeli League for Human and Civil Rights in 1969. He graduated with a BA in Philosophy and Arabic from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem in 1968, going on to a Masters in Philosophy at the same institution in 1970. He completed a Masters in Anthropology in 1973 and subsequently also a PhD in Anthropology in 1975, both from the New School for Social Research, New York. His PhD thesis was entitled 'Israel: utopia incorporated - a study in class, state and corporate kin control'.

He subsequently held a range of academic and research positions at British universities and institutions, including the universities of Bradford (School of Peace Studies, 1974-1981), Durham (Centre for Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies, 1981-1982) and Exeter (Department of Arabic and Islamic Studies, and Department of Politics, 1982-1986), whilst dividing his residence between the UK and Israel. His main research interest is Palestine, with special focus on the structure and history of the Zionist movement and the state of Israel. He has published prolifically on a range of topics, including his autobiography Crossing the Border: an autobiography of an anti-Zionist Palestinian Jew , 1995. He is probably best known for his book Israel: an apartheid state (1987).

In 1986 he resigned as Programme and Research Director of the Palestine Studies Trust (1985-1986) at the University of Exeter in order to take up the Directorship of the Jerusalem and Peace Service consultancy office, London, a position which he held until 1991. Since 1988 he has held and continues to hold honorary research fellowships at the Universities of Exeter and Durham.

He is also a member of the Executive Committee of the Council for the Advancement of Arab-British Understanding (CAABU), is a founding member of the Editorial Board of RETURN magazine ('Against the Israeli Law of Return - For the Palestinian Right to Return'), and was also Director of Ithaca Press, publishers on the Middle East, from 1989-1991. He is also a founder of MAIAP (Movement Against Israeli Apartheid in Palestine), and was its chairperson in 2002. He is also involved with MIFTAH (the Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Demoacracy) and Al-Beit (the Association for the Defence of Human Rights in Israel).

Having lived abroad for many years, he returned to Israel in 1992 where he is now actively involved in educational and human rights issues involving Israeli Arabs. His most recent academic project was on the nature of citizenship which resulted in the publication of Citizenship and the state: a comparative study of citizenship laws.

The Collection

The Uri Davis Library covers the Arab-Israeli Conflict and related topics, including civil rights and the history of Palestine, and consists of books, pamphlets and periodicals in English, Arabic and Hebrew. 

AWDU Opening. 26 October 2022

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