Personal and literary papers of Glencairn Balfour-Paul

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

This collection contains assorted papers created and collected by Balfour Paul reflecting his wide range of interest and scholarship. They include family correspondence and genealogical research on the Monteith family (relations); papers on the Sudan where Balfour Paul had served in the war; papers, photographs, drawings and notebook on Darfur, together with copies and offprints of articles; plus articles, lectures and correspondence on the Gulf. A significant proportion of the archive concerns his creative writing, including the poetry collection "A Kind of Kindness"; papers and notebooks on his and his siblings' childhood language "Lob", and correspondence and reviews on both his poetry and his autobiography "Bagpipes in Babylon". Correspondents include Fleur Adcock, Lawrence Sail, Harry Kemp and Patricia Beer. There are also typescripts for short stories and other literary materials. Miscellaneous papers include draft typewritten suggestions for inclusion in Field-Marshal Montgomery's speech to the Anglo-Chilean Society (undated, but probably 1958-60) and handwritten "Reflexions on the protection of diplomatic agents" (7 sheets, Feb, 1973), several documents on Ceylon/Sri Lanka by Balfour Paul's father and mother.

Additional material: EUL MS 370 add. 1

Administrative / Biographical History

Hugh Glencairn Balfour Paul was born on September 23rd, 1917, in Moniaive, Dumfriesshire, the youngest of the four sons of Lt-Col John William (Jack) Balfour Paul, and his wife Muriel (née Monteith) and grandson of Sir James Balfour Paul, Lord Lyon King of Arms. Balfour-Paul went to school in Sedbergh, and then read Greats at Magdalen College, Oxford, from 1936 until 1939, when he joined the Army. After initial training in Scotland, Balfour Paul was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, and was sent to Egypt in 1941. From there he saw service in Abyssinia, Libya and the Sudan, reaching the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel. He developed his excellent Arabic during this period and, on being demobilised in 1946, he joined the Sudan Political Service expecting to become before long the country's archaeologist. Between 1946 and 1954 he was an assistant, then full, district commissioner in Blue Nile and Darfur provinces, and became highly regarded for his expertise in Sudanese archaeology, publishing numerous papers (including History and Antiquities of Darfur, Khartoum: Sudan Antiquities Service, 1955) and building up an important collection of photographs and drawings. In 1955, as Sudan prepared itself for independence, Balfour-Paul joined the Foreign Office. After a period in Whitehall on the Polish desk of the Northern Department and a posting to Chile (1957-59), he arrived in Beirut, as First Secretary (Information), in 1960. After leaving Beirut in 1964, he spent two years as political agent in Dubai, then another two years (1966-1968) as deputy political resident in Bahrain. After a year's sabbatical at St. Anthony's College, Oxford, he was appointed ambassador to Iraq in 1969 and post he held until the end of 1971, after which he was appointed ambassador to Jordan (1971-1975), concluding his diplomatic career as British ambassador to Tunisia (1975-1977). Having retired from the Diplomatic Service aged 60, Balfour Paul became Director-General of the Middle East Association in London for two years before joining Exeter University as a Research Fellow in the new Centre for Arab Gulf Studies. He undertook a considerable amount of research during his twenty-nine year association with the Centre (which later became part of the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies), publishing numerous articles, as well as The End of Empire in the Middle East (Cambridge University Press, 1991), and the Middle East section of The Oxford History of the British Empire : the Twentieth Century (Oxford University Press, 1999). He continued to travel widely, often accompanying his second wife Jenny in her worldwide researches into indigo, and wrote a considerable amount of poetry, including the published volumes A Kind of Kindness (Crediton: Cervisian, 2000), and The thing that it's about : an anthology for Jenny (privately printed, 2007). He maintained a keen interest in his family history and incorporated his researches in his autobiography, which was published as Bagpipes in Babylon: a Lifetime in the Arab World and Beyond (London: Tauris, 2006). He died at his home near Exeter, aged 90, on July 2nd, 2008. He was appointed a CMG in 1968.

Conditions Governing Access

Usual EUL conditions apply

Acquisition Information

Deposited by Jenny Balfour Paul, Glencairn's widow.

Other Finding Aids

Box list compiled by Paul Auchterlonie available on CALM online catalogue.

Archivist's Note

Catalogued by Sue Inskip, 2012. Admin history, description and box lists compiled by Paul Auchterlonie.

Conditions Governing Use

Usual EUL restrictions apply

Related Material

'British policy in the Persian Gulf, 1961-1968: conceptions of informal empire', Helene von Bismarck, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan, 2013 Donated by the author to accompany this archive. See Exeter University Library Catalogue.