Scope and Content

The Christoph von Fürer-Haimendorf archive at SOAS contains a large and significant collection of moving films. Shot between 1940s and 1970s, the films total approximately 60 hours of 16mm footage in both black and white and colour. The major locations and subjects are largely the same as those in his photographs: tribal societies in central India, northeast India, Nepal and Nagaland (although he did not have a movie camera when he first went to the Naga Hills in 1936-1937). From the late 1950s, Professor Haimendorf began to edit and compile footage for broadcast on the BBC and Bavarian Television. One of the films (PP MS 19/07/DIGI002) was actually shot by Ursula Betts and given by her to Professor Haimendorf.

For more information see, Alan Macfarlane, ‘Early ethnographic Film in Britain: A Reflection on the Work of Christoph von Fürer-Haimendorf,’ Visual Anthropology 23 (5), 2010.

Access Information

Restrictions Apply

Conditions Governing Use

For permission to publish, please contact Archives & Special Collections, SOAS Library in the first instance

Custodial History

Toward the end of his life, Professor Haimendorf gave this collection of more than 100 different reels of film to his then-student Professor Alan Macfarlane at Cambridge University. Many reels were duplicates, cuts and compilations, and there was no accurate catalogue of the collection. The films, however, were in good condition. At Cambridge, Dr Patricia Bidinger and later Dr Mark Turin produced a summary catalogue; and in the mid-1990s, about 35 hours of the best footage were digitised by the team at Cambridge University and put on the Digital Himalaya web site. In 2003, these same 35 hours were professionally copied by EDINA and made available (to UK universities) on the website of the British Universities Film and Video Council. All the original reels were returned to SOAS over a period of time, and the DVCam tapes of the digitised footage were returned to SOAS in early 2010. SOAS, with financial support from JISC, undertook the work to make some of these 35 hours of films freely available to anyone online, without the BUFVC watermark, in a larger format and with more comprehensive and accurate descriptions.

Since the DVCam tapes are compilations of disparate material, they have been divided into smaller more coherent segments. A selection (currently 25) of these segments have been trimmed, described in depth and placed online at These have been catalogued with a unique identifier starting with: PPMS19_7_DIG001. The rest of the collection remains uncatalogued, although a rough summary, taken from the EDINA website, is available. The frame-by-frame descriptions are provided as on-screen captions that are legible in the downloadable (MPEG4 format) version. A low resolution (Flash format) version can be viewed to get an indication of content, but the captioning is not readable at this resolution.