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Arab World Documentation Unit

Collection Details

Arab World Documentation Unit held at University of Exeter Library [Institution record]

Description of Collection

Content description

The Unit contains primary documents on the politics, economics, society and history of the countries of the Arabian Peninsula (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain, Yemen, United Arab Emirates) and Iraq. The collection of current and historical documentation on these countries is comprehensive. The Unit also holds some documentation for Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Palestine/Israel and Iran, rather less on the countries of North Africa and Sudan; much of this material is non-current, since until recently, apart from the Gulf countries, there was an active acquisitions policy only for Palestine/Israel.

History and development

The Unit was established in 1980 and moved into its current purpose-built accommodation within the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies in 2001. In the same year, the University of Exeter Library took over the management of the Unit.


The collection contains around 100,000 volumes (including individual issues of serial publications, but excluding the newspapers and daily press bulletins - see below) and the material ranges from official reports, statistics, development plans and technical surveys to official gazettes, periodicals, legal texts and archival materials.

Economic coverage is particularly strong. The major statistical publications of all the Arab Gulf states are held along with the annual reports of government ministries and agencies and most local banks and financial institutions. Pan-Arab and international bodies such as the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia, the International Centre for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas, the Gulf Cooperation Council, the Economic Research Forum for the Arab Countries, Iran and Turkey, the United Nations and the World Bank as well as the major oil companies and petroleum organisations such as OPEC and OAPEC are also well represented. The Unit also has a number of rare private commercial reports on water and oil issues in the Gulf and Jordan.

Much political and sociological material is also held ranging from censuses to the newsletters of political parties and opposition groups, human rights pamphlets and grey literature on the Arab-Israel conflict and conditions in Palestine and Israel. The Unit also houses the Davis Collection of material on Israel, Palestine and the Arab-Israeli conflict which is described separately.

In addition to current documentation, the Unit specialises in historical and archival material on the Arab Gulf from the mid-18th century onwards. The selected extracts from the Bombay Diaries: Secret and Political Department (16,000 photocopies pages from 1778 to 1820 with typescripts and guide) are a unique resource not otherwise available except in Mumbai. There are also relevant microfilms from British, American, Indian, French and Portuguese government archives, plus almost 500 volumes of reproduced documents from the British Public Records Office published by Archive Editions. The Unit also has important microfiche holdings of documents on Palestine during the Mandate period, as well as considerable material on the period since 1948. Several collections of private papers and diaries are also held.

In addition to economic, political and historical material the Unit monitors press and media coverage of the Middle East. The Unit holds a classified press-cuttings collection on microfiche covering 1952 to 1982, the the press-cuttings file of the Council for the Advancement of Arab-British Understanding (CAABU) 1967-2002, and has extensive runs of the BBC Summary of World Broadcasts (1955-2000 - Middle East section), Mid-East Mirror (1987-) and Arab Press Service (1979-). The Unit also holds extensive runs of newspapers from the Arab Gulf in hardcopy and on microfilm.

General arrangement and access regulations

The Arab World Documemtation Unit contains a collection of primary documents arranged by country and format. Books and periodicals are on open-access mobile shelving, except for back runs of newspapers; other formats such as maps and videos are on restricted access, but can be viewed on demand. Arabic-script and Western-language materials are shelved together by subject.

Subjects of the Collection

Regions of Asia

Near & Middle East and North Africa.


Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, Yemen.

Languages of material

Arabic, English, French.


Agriculture, Anthropology, Archaeology, Arts, Communication and media, Development, Economics, Education, Environmental sciences, History, Human rights, Industries, International relations, Law, Politics and government, Science and technology, Sociology, Women.

Collection Material and Size of Collection

Material Types

Archival materials (includes non-published & mixed material), Books, Maps (includes all types of cartographic material), Official publications, Public records, Serials, Visual materials (includes photographs, prints, drawings, videos & films).

Total size of collection

100,000 volumes of which 4000 are on Saudi Arabia, 2000 on Kuwait, 1500 on Bahrain, 1000 on Oman, 1500 on the United Arab Emirates, 3000 on the Gulf in general, 1000 on Iran, 500 on Yemen, 500 on Qatar, 5000 on Oil and Petroleum, 1000 on Israel/Palestine and 9000 on other countries or the Middle East in general. These figures on individual countries exclude 300 metres of press digests and newspapers, 1010 microfilm reels of newspapers, and the Davis Collection. Most of these items are in English or in English and Arabic. 1000 maps (folded & sheet). 800 videos and DVDs.

Size of collection - vernacular

3000 volumes in Arabic; 10000 volumes in Arabic and English. Excludes 300 metres of press digests and newspapers)

Size of collection - western

10000 volumes in English and Arabic; 16000 volumes in English; 1000 in other languages (or other languages and English). Excludes 300 metres of press digests and newspapers.

Collection Management Information

The collection is being actively developed, and the average intake has stayed the same.

Annual intake

2000 volumes/issues of periodicals and part-publications (excludes newspapers and daily press bulletins)

Content date range

1950 to present

Interlibrary loan procedure

No material lent.

Collection Catalogue Information


The On-Line Catalogue contains entries for all materials on the countries of the Arabian Peninsula, Iran and Iraq held by the Documentation Unit, most of the material on Palestine/Israel and on the Middle East in general, and some of the material on Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and on oil and petroleum affairs.

Catalogue transliteration schemes

Library of Congress

Catalogue scripts


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