Sir Wilfred Thesiger Collection

Scope and Content

27 magic lantern slides of the Marsh Arabs in southern Iraq, c1950s. The slides depict ethnological scenes of the Marsh Arabs' communal life such as fishing, hunting, communal gatherings, landscape panoramic views and portraits. All of the slides are labelled 'Royal Central Asian Society' and the original packaging was labelled '1954. Marsh Arabs W. Thesiger'.

Administrative / Biographical History

Thesiger, Sir Wilfred Patrick (1910-2003), Knight, Diplomat, Author and Traveller.

Born 3 June 1910, son of Captain Wilfred Gilbert Thesiger and Kathleen Mary. Educated at Eton College and Magdalen College, Oxford University. Received a grant from the Royal Geographical Society in 1935 to explore the Aussa Sultanate and the country of Abyssinia between 1933-1934. Joined the Sudan Political Service and served in desert campaigns between 1935-1940. Joined the North and East African Campaign with rank of Major during World War II. Worked in Arabia with the Desert Locusts Research Organization between 1945-1949. Explored the Empty Quarter (desert of southern Arabia) between 1946-1950. From 1950 onwards, explored French West Africa, Iraq, Kurdistan, Pakistan, Persia and Kenya. Lived with Marsh Arabs in southern Iraq over seven years from 1950 to the Iraqi Revolution. Returned to England in 1994. Died 24 August 2003.

Access Information


For further information on how to use the Middle East Centre Archive, please see our Archon entry at

Acquisition Information

Transferred to Middle East Centre Archive from St. Antony's College Library in February 1982

Archivist's Note

Item level description created by Nuria Puertas, July 2011. Biographical History based on the entry for 'Thesiger, Wilfred' in Who's Who & Who Was Who online edition and the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

Conditions Governing Use

There are no special restrictions on copying other than statutory regulations (UK Copyright law). The literary executor of Sir Wilfred Thesiger is Alexander Maitland and the Pitt Rivers Museum holds the main Wilfred Thesiger Photographic Collection.

Related Material

In Middle East Centre Archive

  • GB165-0229 St John Philby Collection: Correspondence relating Wilfred Thesiger including letters from Philby to Mrs Astley (Thesiger's mother) reassuring her as to Thesiger's safety.

In Other Repositories

  • In Pitt Rivers Museum (Archon Code: GB485) Collection of 38,000 negatives and 71 personal albums. Over 1300 images are accessible online via the Pitt Rivers Museum web page

Please note that further accessions of collections relating the Marsh Arabs and Wilfred Thesiger may have been acquired after the compilation of this catalogue


Thesiger, Wilfred Arabian Sands (Longmans, Green, 1959) ISBN 0002170051 (pbk.)

Thesiger, Wilfred The Marsh Arabs (Longmans, 1964) ISBN 0141442085 (pbk.)

Thesiger, Wilfred Desert, marsh and mountain (London: Collins, 1979) ISBN 000211643X (pbk.)

Thesiger, Wilfred The life of my choice (London: Collins, 1979) ISBN 000216194X (pbk.)

Thesiger, Wilfred Visions of a Nomad (London: Collins, 1987) ISBN 0002177293 (pbk.)

Thesiger, Wilfred My Kenya Days (London: HarperCollins, 1994) ISBN 000255268X (pbk.)

Thesiger, Wilfred The Danakil Diary (London: HarperCollins, 1996) ISBN 000255710X (pbk.)

Thesiger, Wilfred Among the Mountains (London: HarperCollins, 1996) ISBN 000255898X (pbk.)

Thesiger, Wilfred Crossing the Sands (Dubai; London: Motivate, 1999) ISBN 1860630286 (pbk.)

Thesiger, Wilfred A vanished world (London: HarperCollins, 2001) ISBN 0007108370 (pbk.)

Thesiger, Wilfred My life and travels (London: HarperCollins, 2002) ISBN 000257151X (pbk.)

Geographical Names