The defining issues of the Gulf region, as studied by one of its most successful early policymakers, a British diplomat who retired in Abu Dhabi under the protection of Sheikh Zayed

[Henderson Library]. The research library of the British diplomat Edward Henderson (1917-1995).

Various places, 1892-1995.

A collection of 17 works in 27 volumes, including Lorimer's Gazetteer, Aitchison's Collection of Treaties, Engagements and Sanads, and the Buraimi Arbitration memorials. A total of more than 7,500 pp., often profusely illustrated and with rare genealogical tables.


A defining ensemble of specialist literature on the Arabian Gulf, assembled as a research library by the noted British diplomat Edward Henderson, himself a renowned scholar of the Arab world and long a prominent figure in the Gulf region, where he spent most of his life furthering Britain's relations with the United Arab Emirates and other Gulf states.

Notably, the collection includes J. G. Lorimer's almost unobtainable "Gazetteer of the Persian Gulf, Oman and Central Arabia", widely considered the most important single source of historical material on the Gulf States and Saudi Arabia up to WWI. Produced in merely a few dozen copies for internal government use, this long-classified publication contains some the earliest photographic images of the region, such as a view of the Sheikh's Fort at Abu Dhabi, and a genealogical table of the Al Bu Falah (Bani Yas) family of Abu Dhabi. Henderson's copy is that formerly in the library of the "Political Resident of the Persian Gulf". A copy of he first edition of the Gazetter's first Arabic translation is included.

Further, the collection contains Henderson's personal copy of the 1955 first edition of the "Buraimi memorials", similarly published in a small press-run for internal use only and usually accessible only in the Archive Editions facsimile produced in the 1980s. Henderson played a key role in defusing the Buraimi border dispute involving Abu Dhabi, Oman and Saudi Arabia between 1952 and 1955.

Two volumes from Aitchison's "Collection of Treaties, Engagements and Sanads" cover in detail the various treaties between Great Britain and the Gulf States from the early 19th century to 1922, among them the "General Maritime Treaty" of 1235 H (1820 CE), with an illustration of the Trucial Flag.

Henderson's years as Britain’s first ambassador to Qatar in the early 1970s are reflected in a special copyright photoreproduction of the 1904 "Precis of Katar Affairs", an offprint from the Persian Gulf Gazetteer obtained from the India Office Records, Political and Secret Department. Similarly, Henderson owned an excessively rare government-printed volume of extracts from Lorimer's Gazetteer, undated put apparently produced in the 1950s in a very small press-run (the only other known copy being stored among the British Library's India Office Records and Private Papers).

Several volumes in the collection bear evidence of Henderson's linguistic interests: we find E. De Jong's guide to the "Spoken Arabic of the Arabian Gulf" as well as Thomas Bertram's rare 1930 of the "Kumzari Dialect of the Shihuh Tribe" of the Musandam Peninsula, but also a bilingual edition of Ibn Abi Zayd's "Bakurat al-sa'd". His library also included the first Arabic edition of George Antonius's foundational textbook for the history of modern Arab Nationalism, as well as two works by Falih Hanzal on the history and the local dialects of the United Arab Emirates.

Henderson was a good friend of the famous British explorer Wilfred Thesiger (1910-2003), and it is little surprise that his library contains a number of titles by and relating to Thesiger, one a personally inscribed presentation copy.

Henderson served in World War II as a member of the Arab Legion before he was seconded to the British foreign service in 1956. He was fully enlisted into the foreign service in 1959 when he was appointed political officer in Abu Dhabi; subsequent posts took him to Jerusalem and Bahrain. He was respected as a non-confrontational negotiator who achieved his goals through a combination of subtleness and sangfroid, harmonizing the aims of Britain with those of the Gulf with regard to oil exploration and the establishment of the local oil industry. Henderson retired from the foreign service in 1974 and went on to teach at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University. However, in 1976, he returned to Abu Dhabi to settle permanently at the personal request of Sheikh Zayed. A recent feature in Arab News from September 2021 (see below) celebrated the 100th birthday of his surviving wife, Jocelyn Henderson of Abu Dhabi, and the Hendersons' close connection to the Al-Nahyan royal family.

Some early titles in the present ensemble of books show condition faults and flaws commensurate with prolonged use in the field, but on the whole the library is very well preserved. A complete list of titles is available upon application.


Cf. Ashleigh Stewart, "Looking Back on the Memorable Life of the Grande Dame of Gulf Expats", in Arab News, 3 Sept. 2021.

PDF description Stock Code: BN#57200