Papers of Charles Dalrymple-Belgrave

Scope and Content

The collection consists of copies of the personal diaries of Belgrave, from his arrival as advisor in Bahrain to the time of his departure during the Suez crisis. They date from 1926-1957, although the diaries created by Belgrave are known to have covered a more extensive period (1915-1961). The diaries were transcribed by staff of the Centre for Arab Gulf Studies, Old Library, University of Exeter, in 1993-1994.

Also included in the collection is a scrapbook of press-cuttings compiled by Belgrave, together with 3 boxes of material created by Belgrave's nephew Robert Belgrave, who begun work on editing the diaries presumably prior to publication. This work was never finished, although some partial drafts are included in the collection.

Administrative / Biographical History

Charles Dalrymple-Belgrave (b 1894) took up the post as Personal and Financial Advisor to Shaikh Hamad of Bahrain in 1926, as an experienced British colonial officer. The island was thought by the British to be particularly politically unstable in the early 1920s, a period when Iran had claims on ownership of the country. During the 1830s, Bahrain had signed the first of many treaties with Britain, who offered Bahrain naval protection from Ottoman Turkey in exchange for unfettered access to the Gulf. This arrangement kept the British out of Bahrain's internal affairs until a series of internecine battles prompted the British to install their own choice for emir in 1869, the Al-Khalifa ruler Sheikh Isa bin Ali, ending a period of fiefdom rule and inter-tribal feuding. In 1923, Britain intervened to replace Sheikh Isa bin Ali with his son Sheikh Isa Hamad bin Isa.

After a succession of Political Agents it became apparent that a permanent administrator should be found who would ensure some political continuity. Sheikh Hamad agreed to appoint a Personal Adviser employed by himself and not by the British Government, who would help him to modernise the state. There were no readily available candidates and the post was advertised in The Times in August 1925. Charles Dalrymple Belgrave was eventually appointed with an annual salary of 720. During the war he had served with the Frontiers Districts Administration Camel Corps and had spent two years in the oasis of Siwa. At the time of his appointment he was on leave after two years in the Colonial Service in Tanganyika. He brushed up his Arabic at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London and arrived in Bahrain in March 1926. He became Advisor to the Government of Bahrain in 1933, a position which he held until 1949. He helped create the country's educational system, overseeing much modernisation and reforms of Bahrain's infrastructural development. When Emir Isa bin Salman Al-Khalifa ascended the throne in 1942, he further capitalised on Bahrain's superior level of development to take advantage of the oil boom happening in Saudi Arabia and other neighbouring countries, making Bahrain the Gulf's main entrepot.

Belgrave remained in Bahrain until 1957 when British involvement in Bahrain was under heavy criticism. At this point, British troops had been brought into the country as part of the Suez crisis of 1956. Britain announced its intention to leave the Gulf 15 years later, prompting Bahrain to proclaim its independence on 14 August 1971.

Access Information

Access restricted: contact the Archivist for further details.


Listed by Charlotte Berry, Archivist, 17 April 2004 and encoded into EAD 1 June 2004.

Other Finding Aids

Finding aids are available in electronic and hard format.

Alternative Form Available

Not confirmed, but a duplicate set of copies is now possibly held by the government in Bahrain.

Conditions Governing Use

Copying restricted: contact the Archivist for further details.

Custodial History

The original diaries were at one time held at Cambridge University Centre of Middle Eastern Studies. They were transferred to Exeter University in the mid-1990s in order than Anthony Parsons could use them in his research. They then returned into the possession of a member of the Belgrave family. Before this happened, complete transcripts of the diaries were made.

Related Material

Bahrain Government Annual Reports 1924-1970, Archive Editions 1986 (facsimiles of previously unpublished reports, compiled by Belgrave 1926-1957), available at AWDU.

Some papers relating to Belgrave are also held at the National Archives (department code: FO).


The Pirate Coast, Sir Charles Dalrymple-Belgrave, 1966; Personal Column, Charles Dalrymple-Belgrave, 1960; Siwa: the oasis of Jupiter Amman, Charles Dalrymple-Belgrave, 1923

Additional Information

It is understood that the originals are now in the possession of the Belgrave family.


Geographical Names