Diary of a Journey in Central Arabia (1917).[No place, for the Author, c.1918] Stock Code: 124525
NotesFirst edition, privately printed and remarkably scarce: we have not been able to locate another copy in any institutional library, either in Britain and Ireland or internationally; only two copies have appeared at auction. The official version, which was printed for the British Government in May 1918, is of comparable scarcity: Copac cites only the copy in the India Office Records at the British Library.
Hamilton provides an important first-person account of private talks with Abdulaziz, giving a vital insight into his plans for the Al Saud just 13 years before the unification of Saudi Arabia. Hamilton's description of his route through north-western Najd is also of great value.
Robert Edward Archibald Hamilton (from 1934 Hamilton-Udny, 1871-1950), 11th Lord Belhaven and Stenton (succeeded to the title 1920), was an Indian Army officer, before serving in Mesopotamia (1915-18) during the Great War, where he was mentioned in despatches. He is alluded to extensively by Philby in The Heart of Arabia (1922) and pictured in Arab garb, alongside Fahad of the Royal Bodyguard, photographed at Riyadh. Hamilton was Political Agent in Kuwait when he was chosen to be part of the British Mission to Riyadh, the capital of the Al Saud. It was his task to travel ahead of the other two officers, St John Philby and Lieutenant-Colonel F. Cunliffe-Owen, and to engage Abdulaziz in preliminary discussions. Gertrude Bell refers to this "important mission" and that "their report had been received shortly before I left for Cairo" (see Letters, II p. 520). Hamilton was fully aware of his primary objective, "to discover a plan for his Abdulaziz's effective co-operation with us and the Shereef in the work of expelling the Turks from the Peninsula" (p. 19).
Hamilton builds a formidable picture of Abdulaziz and, importantly, of his ambitions for the creation of an "Empire of Arabia" controlled by the Al Saud. With some prescience, Hamilton stresses Abdulaziz's growing interest in the Ikhwan, a Wahhabi-revivalist movement which later spearheaded Al Saud expansion.
After three weeks and two days in Riyadh, Hamilton departed on 5 December with a pair of oryxes - gifts from Abdulaziz to George V. His account of the return journey is comparatively short, but not without interest, ending with his return to Kuwait, ill and exhausted, on 28 December.
Small folio, pp. [ii], 30 (paper watermarked "Original Cream Laid Kent"). Contemporary pale green buckram. Housed in a green quarter morocco solander box by the Chelsea Bindery.
Illustration in the text at p. 3 (small line drawing of an Arab well).
Boards slightly bowed, a touch of wear to corners. A very good copy.
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