Propaganda and Islam: from The National Archives

The entry of the Ottoman Empire into the war in November 1914 posed a great danger for the Allies.  Both Britain and France had empires with substantial Muslim populations and important supply routes and strategic interests were potentially threatened.   The declaration of a jihad against the Allies raised the possibility of mass insurrection.

No such insurrection occurred.  Muslim leaders in French Africa and in the British Empire issued statements of loyalty and the French Government, seeing the propaganda value in publicizing these more widely, published those from West Africa, Algeria, Tunis and Morocco in volume 29 of the Revue du Monde Musulman (December 1914).   In June 1916, the British Government discussed issuing a propaganda volume containing assurances of loyalty from Muslims in Nigeria, the Malay States, Sierra Leone, East Africa and so on (The National Archives, CO 323/719, 520-522) .

However, such statements were not to be relied upon.  A note of caution was added to the file.

Somali loyalty

At about the same time, the British War and Colonial Offices were considering how to use a document that, it was claimed, had been captured by General Smuts’ forces at Moshi (German East Africa) in March 1916 (FO 141/666/2512).  This was in the form of a directive, hostile to Islam, supposedly sent to District Commissioners by Dr Schnee, Governor of German East Africa, in winter 1913.  The document included suggestions that circumcision be banned, preaching in Mosques prohibited and pig-breeding encouraged.

An Arabic translation by the British Directorate of Special Intelligence (MI7) was circulated in Egypt in May 1916 but, unsurprisingly, the British Residency reported back that ‘…in Egypt people generally have been unwilling to believe in its authenticity.  They consider it as a fabrication – and not a very clever one’.  The text was ‘corrected’ by T.E. Lawrence in June but there does not seem to have been any further attempt at general circulation.

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Religious Archives Group 2014 Annual Conference

As usual, the Annual Religious Archives Group conference offers an extremely interesting programme, this year on the general theme of religious archives and the universities. Topics include Methodist archives, the Dissenting Academies Project, and religious buildings and archives.

The meeting is at Pusey House, Oxford, on Thursday 8 May, with registration from 10.20. But booking closes on 18 April, so don’t delay!

You can find information about the day and a booking form at


How to start a church archive

Again, looking at useful religious archives advice from outside the UK, there is helpful elementary advice for starting to create a congregational archive where none exists is given at this Texas Baptists webpage:

It draws on these more detailed pieces from the Southern Baptist Convention Historical Library and Archive website

Although intended for a US and Baptist audience, much of the advice is more widely applicable. 

Letters from the Western Front

“Socks are in great demand when the weather is bad and mud is everywhere, and the mitts and woollen headgear are desirable if not essential, when the weather is cold”, Private R.V. Palmer

The Archive of the Month of the Church of Ireland Representative Church Body Library in Dublin for December 2012 tells the story of letters from the Western Front received by Revd Arthur Barton, Rector of Dundela parish in Belfast, from parishioners serving in the Army who had received Christmas parcels through a parish scheme.

More at

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The Jewish Experience of War

A forthcoming exhibition at the Jewish Museum in London, ‘For King and Country?’ will present personal stories of the First World War, including those of some of the over 50,000 Jewish soldiers who fought for Britain, as well as those who experienced war away from the battlefield.

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The exhibition opens on 19 March.  For more information see

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