Papers of John Spencer-Churchill Guest

Scope and Content

Research material of John Spencer-Churchill Guest, author of the relating to the Yezidi [Yazidi] community and their history. Comprises: copies of archival, manuscript, and printed material [1660s-1990s] and videotapes of visits by Guest and Robert A. Mitchell to Yezidi communities in Turkey and Armenia. Material in English, Kurdish, Northern Kurdish [Kurmanji], French, Arabic, Ottoman Turkish, Russian, and Latin.

Administrative / Biographical History

John Spencer-Churchill Guest was born in London on 14 May 1913, the only child of Lieutenant-Colonel the Hon. Christian Henry Charles Guest (Viscount Wimborne) and the Hon. Frances Henrietta Lyttelton. John Guest's great-grandfather was the Duke of Marlborough and his father was a first cousin of Winston Churchill. Guest was a King's Scholar at Eton and later graduated with a BA and MA in Economics from Trinity College, Cambridge. He first visited the USA in 1933 and returned two years later to obtain an MBA from Harvard University. On graduating from Harvard, he joined the investment banking firm Kuhn, Loeb & Co in Wall Street, where he remained until his retirement in 1989. As partner in the company, and later as the managing director of Lehman Brothers Kuhn Loeb Inc, he specialised in transportation industries. He was instrumental in the restructuring of Penn Central Railroad and was sent to Hong Kong to rescue the failing shipping empire of the future Governor of Hong Kong, Tung Chee-hwa.

During the Second World War, Guest served in the British Army in the US, the Middle East and Italy, and his linguistic expertise were put to use in intelligence work.

John Guest was the great-nephew of the archeaologist, Sir Henry Layard, who in the 1840s had discovered the Bulls of Nineveh. In 1976, he retraced Layard's steps to a tribe known as the Yezidi [Yazidi], in a remote village in eastern Turkey called Kurukavak, and he helped to provide running water to the village. Back in the United States, he traced the history of the tribe in his book 'The Yezidis', published in 1987, and republished during the Gulf War under the title 'Survival Among the Kurds'. Guest became a leading scholar in Middle Eastern history and other publications included 'The Euphrates Expedition', 1992, and 'The Ancient Road'.

John Guest married Margaret Hetherington Houck on 23 October 1948 and they had a daughter, Cornelia, and a son, Richard. John Guest died in New Canaan, Connecticut 14 May 1997. His wife, Margaret, passed away a week later on the 21st May.


Arranged as follows: archives (UK, France, Ottoman Empire, Russia and Vatican) [PP MS 51/01-05]; manuscripts [PP MS 51/06]; monographs [PP MS 51/07]; bibliographies [PP MS 51/08]; newspaper articles [PP MS 51/09]; rare books [PP MS 51/10]; dissertations [PP MS 51/11]; old books [[PP MS 51/12]; and videotapes [PP MS 51/13].

Access Information


Acquisition Information

The papers were donated to SOAS by John Guest in 1993.

Conditions Governing Use

No copying of any material in the collection is permitted.

Copyright held by various

Geographical Names