Papers relating to the Middle East Centre for Arab Studies (MECAS)

Scope and Content

This collection contains papers relating to the history of MECAS, 20th c., including the following: 'Password: journal for the members of the FCO Association', Nov 2003, issue 10 (containing article 'The story of MECAS', Leslie McLoughlin), 'Cedar Wings: the in-flight magazine of Middle East Airlines', Oct/Nov 1997, issue 41; photograph album of Leslie McLoughlin, showing 'Scenes de la vie Libanaise', (MECAS, Lebanon and Shemlan), 1991; two photograph albums showing MECAS students, former students and student/staff groups, 1960-1984; two files containing presscuttings, lists of students, notes on teaching methods, and other assorted papers relating to the history of MECAS, 1944-1991; one large expanding file containing assorted papers relating to the history of MECAS and lists of students, including papers relating to the MECAS Association, Jan 2002 to Dec 2004.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Middle East Centre for Arab Studies was founded at the Austrian Hospice in Jerusalem in January 1944. Bertram Thomas had been appointed in November 1943 to head the Centre, which was initially administered by the British Army in order to train its officers in the Arabic language, as well as Middle Eastern history and society. In February 1947, the Centre evacuated to Zerqa, Transjordan, before removing permanently to Shemlan near Beirut, Lebanon, in September 1947. From this year, the Centre came under Foreign Office direction.

As the school's reputation as a centre of excellence in language teaching became more firmly established, students from other diplomatic services, organisations and countries also attended. It has been estimated that about 1100 language students had passed through the Centre between 1943 and 1978, and about 4500 had attended its Background Courses. Between June and September 1967, MECAS was evacuated to Beaconsfield, UK, and again between January 1976 and September 1977. The Centre was finally closed in November 1978 because of the instable political situation and civil war in Lebanon.

Leslie McLoughlin founded the MECAS Association in London in 1986-87 by forming a small committee of former MECAS students. They discussed various criteria for membership and procedures for launching such an Association based in London.

Initially the membership was intended to be of those who had been students of Arabic at MECAS (in Jerusalem, Zerqa or Shemlan) but by 2012 membership had been extended by a category of Associate Members.

Among these were the spouses of former MECAS students along with FCO Arabists who studied the language after MECAS closed down in 1978.

The Committee also added a category of co-opted individuals with particular interest in the Arab world.

The Association was launched in November 1987 at Lancaster House with the dual objectives of promoting the study of Arabic and providing regular contact between all members.

Leslie McLoughlin was the first Chairman, succeeded by the late Sir Donald Maitland.

The Association's present Committee has arranged regular events to bring Members together (often at university centres where Arabic is taught); supervised the production of successive Lists of Members; established an Archive in London; promoted the publication of members' memoirs and sponsored the publication in 2012 of A Guide to Speechmaking in Arabic. This is a bilingual compendium, printed by the University of Exeter and written by Leslie McLoughlin.


Retained in the original order of the donor of the collection.

Conditions Governing Access

Access to lists of students and members of the MECAS Association may be restricted: please check with the Archivist for details. Otherwise, usual EUL arrangements apply.

Acquisition Information

Donated to the University Library in 2005 by Leslie McLoughlin, Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies. Principal Instructor, MECAS, 1965-1968 and 1970-1975.

Other Finding Aids

Not currently listed.

Archivist's Note

Description compiled by Charlotte Berry, Archivist, 19 Apr 2005.

Conditions Governing Use

Usual EUL restrictions apply.

Related Material

Other collections relating to MECAS are held at the following repositories: Cambridge University Archives (Archives of the Middle East Centre); The National Archives (FO 366, FO 1018, FO 371).


It is not known whether this collection has been used as the basis for publication.