Provenance of the Diaries Published by the Project

In 1929, a disgruntled and divorced Alexander Richard (later Alexander Joseph) Svoboda left Baghdad for Istanbul, leaving his father’s remaining diaries, which he had inherited, with an unnamed Catholic priest who later turned them over to Yaqub Sarkis (1876-1958) an important amateur historian from Baghdad, who wrote extensively on the history of Iraq and amassed a large and rich library. [[deleted]] The diaries remained in Sarkis’ private library, which was later moved to the Jesuit university (Dar ul-Hikma), later Baghdad University, until the Jesuits were expelled by the Saddam Hussein regime and the university was nationalized. [[See: Catalogue of the Arabic, Turkish, Persian, and Syriac manuscripts in the Ya'qub Sarkis Collection of the library of Al-Hikma University, Kūrkīs ʻAuwād, Ğāmiʻat al-Ḥikma (Baġdād) Hizānat Yaʻqūb Sarkīs, (Baghdad: Al-Ani Press, 1966). This catalogue does not contain any of the Svoboda Diaries, which are in English.]] The contents of the Sarkis library including some of the diaries were moved to the Iraqi National Museum of Antiquities and thence to the National Manuscript Center (Dar ul-Makhtutat) in Baghdad, where they remain to this day. We have received poor quality digital images of three diaries (nos. 36, 37, 38) from the Center but have been, thus far, unable to get a definitive catalogue of the rest of the diaries in their collection.

In the early 1970s, another scholar at al-Hikma University, Mrs. Margaret Makiya, received a small grant from the Gulbenkian Foundation to transcribe the Svoboda diaries. During this period and later, she transcribed 31 of the diaries held in the Sarkis library and planned to transcribe them all eventually. [[For more information see Margaret Makiya, “The Svoboda Diaries”, passim.]] In 1985, Professor Henry Svoboda, head of the Architectural Consultancies of Iraq and an Anton Svoboda descendant, conceived a project to use a few poor photocopies of the diaries and the Makiya transcriptions for writing a family history of 19th century Iraq. In this project he solicited the assistance of one of his staff, the architect Nowf Allawi, who was fluent in French, English, and Arabic. The work proceeded slowly for twenty years and came nearly to an end with the sudden illness and tragic death of Professor Svoboda in 2005. Subsequently, Ms. Allawi decided to keep the project going in honor of her mentor and friend. However, the events of 9/11/2001 and the following invasion of Iraq by U. S. forces made research in Baghdad impossible, at which point, in 2006, Ms. Allawi, who was seeking the assistance of an academic community, made contact with Prof. Walter G. Andrews and the Ottoman Texts Archive Project—an event that was the beginning of the Svoboda Diaries Project and later of the collaborative publishing project: NEWBOOK Digital Texts in the Humanities. As our work progressed and the situation in Baghdad worsened, Ms. Allawi sent, to the University of Washington project, the copies of the Makiya transcriptions which Prof. Svoboda had left with her. These copies were then digitized for archiving by the University of Washington Libraries Digital Initiatives office.

Meanwhile, in the course of her work on the diaries, Mrs. Makiya had borrowed 11 original diaries from the Sarkis collection (apparently before its nationalization) and brought them with her when she moved to England. The existence of these diaries was discovered when, following up on a reference in Roger Owen’s study The Middle East in the World Economy, mentioning “Svoboda’s diaries (also in the possession of Mrs. Makiya)…” we contacted her son, Kanan Makiya (Mrs. Makiya was not well and unable to communicate at the time) who discovered several of these original Svoboda diaries among her effects and more following her death in 2011. [[Roger Owen, The Middle East in the World Economy 1800-1915, (Methuen: London and New York) 1981, p. 327, note 21.]] The Makiya family generously allowed us to make digital images of these diaries, which are now available in the University of Washington Libraries Contentdm Collection and can be accessed by links found in the NEWBOOK Svoboda Diaries on-line publication. In addition, the family allowed us to digitize and publish Mrs. Makiya’s transcriptions and turned over to us the original typescript copies and a large amount of material from Mrs. Makiya’s private papers, which we are archiving for the project.