Papers of Professor Robert Bertram Serjeant (1915-1993)

Scope and Content

The collection is composed of three sets of boxes, being one set of four boxes, one set of three boxes, and one set of two boxes.

Set of four boxes. Box 1 contains: photographic copy of Yemeni manuscript, together with a notebook with Arabic notes; spiral-bound 'Universo' notebook with Arabic notes; rolled (paper) copy of Cairo manuscript; photographic copy of History of Yemen and its sovereigns, dating from 919 A.H. (Rylands Arabic MS.253); file with photo-copy of Nihayat Al-Rutba Fi Talab Al-Hisba, of Ibn Bassam Al-Muhtasib, edited and noted by Husam Al-Samarraie, Baghdad, 1968. Box 2 contains: Serjeant's Arabic transcription of Kitab al-Tabyin Fi Al-Man; copy of Bughyat al-Fallahin, an agricultural treatise; photocopy of a manuscript providing genealogies; copy of Tashi al-mudhakarah bi-ah-kam al-mukhabarah wa- l-mu-zara ah wa- '-mugharassah wa- ' -munasharah; several photographic copies of Arabic works; loose-leaf folder containing photographic copies of Arabic manuscript. Box 3 contains: circa 6 extensive copied Arabic manuscript material. Box 4 contains: photocopy of Al-Shamarikh, of Muhammad bin Muhammad bin Ahmad Ba Kathir, a Hadrami text from the late-19th century, early-20th century; photographic copy of Arabic manuscript (MS 3317) in the Chester Beatty Library; and, several extensive copied Arabic manuscript items.

Set of three boxes. Box 1 contains: facsimile pages of Arabic work, K. al-Bukhata, 1937; notebook noted as 'Yemen 1966 tour'; loose-leaf folder of travel description of Muscat, Oman, South Arabia; loose-leaf folder of assorted notes in English, French, and Arabic, some printed matter; file of notes, possibly for a book; file of notes in Arabic; notebook containing (probably) Serjeant's handwritten copy of Bughyat al-Fallahin; and, two talks on Arabia, one for the BBC in 1950, another in Bonn, 1973. Box 2 contains: file containing names of Subaihi tribes, Aden; assorted notebooks and files containing notes in Arabic and English; copies of manuscript Al-Manah al-Rabbaniyah on customary law; notes on an architectural planning thesis; notes headed 'Yemen 1962-68'; notes headed 'Yemen 1967-68'; notes on politico-military situation, 1960s; notes on Yemen, 1967, including printed matter; notes on Hijab manuscript, Hadramawt; notes relating to An introduction to Aden Colloquial Arabic; and, notes on Adwillah. Box 3 contains: notes of FAO report (UN Food and Agricultural Organisation; journal notes, Oct-Dec 1962; assorted notes in English and Arabic in various notebooks, files and envelopes, including South Arabian folk-tales; draft notes on custom and Sharia law in the family, Bedouin of the Judean desert; and, notes on Aden fish and fisheries;

Set of two boxes, containing newspapers on the Arab world, from the UK and around the world.

There are two additional boxes containing: 3 small spiral-bound notebooks; newspaper articles; clippings; off-prints; material about Yemen; publishers material promoting books; and unsorted material relating to the civil war in Yemen.

Administrative / Biographical History

Robert Bertram Serjeant was born in Edinburgh on 23 March 1915. He studied at Edinburgh University where he obtained the degree of M.A. in 1935, before studying at Trinity College, Cambridge, to research Islamic textiles for the degree of Ph.D. which he obtained in 1939. He went to the Arabian Peninsula for the first time during the Second World War when he worked on Arabic dialects in the Aden area. He was commissioned into the Aden Government Guards and visited the remoter parts of the Aden Protectorate. In 1942, Serjeant worked for the BBC Arabic Service, editing the Arabic Listener.

At the end of the war he became a Lecturer at SOAS (School of Oriental and African Studies), University of London, 1945-1947, during which time he returned to Aden's Hadramawt with a research fellowship. In 1948 he became Reader at SOAS, and in 1955 he was Professor of Modern Arabic there.

Serjeant resigned his Chair at SOAS in 1964, and went to Cambridge as Lecturer, 1964-1966, then Reader, from 1966, then became Sir Thomas Adam's Professor of Arabic in 1969. He retired in 1981 returning to Scotland, to Denhead, near St. Andrews.

Serjeant's work included: a translation of the Bukhala of Al-Jahiz; Portuguese off the South Arabian Coast, a collection of early Hadrami texts on Portuguese activity; South Arabian hunt, a study of the ritual ibex hunt; Sanaa, an Arabian Islamic city; and, with others the Cambridge History of Arabic Literature.

Professor Robert Bertram Serjeant died at his home near St. Andrews on 29 April 1993.


The 9 boxs are arranged into: a set of 4 boxes; a set of 3 boxes; a set of 2 boxes.

Access Information

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Other Finding Aids

None prepared

Archivist's Note

Compiled by Graeme D Eddie, Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections.

Location of Originals

Collection contains copies of Arabic manuscripts only. Location of originals noted on some copies, e.g. Rylands Arabic MS.253 in the John Rylands, Manchester, and Arabic MS 3317 in the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin Castle, Dublin