Rachel Mairs, University of Reading
PEF FREE LECTURE SERIES
IN ASSOCIATION WITH THE BRITISH MUSEUM DEPARTMENT OF MIDDLE EAST
4pm, 14th September 2017, Stevenson Lecture Theatre, Clore Education Centre, British Museum. To book, contact the British Museum Box Office: 020 7323 8181 or www.britishmuseum.org and go to the 'What's On' option at the top of the BM homepage. Then choose the 'Events Calendar' and scroll down the page to see events listed by date and time.
The Testimonial Book of Solomon N. Negima. Image courtesy of Rachel Mairs
In 2014, a collection of papers was found on eBay: a scrapbook, in which was written ‘Testimonial Book of Dragoman Solomon N. Negima’. The letters pasted inside bear recommendations of Negima’s services as dragoman – a combination of tourist guide and interpreter – in the Holy Land, from travellers of different nationalities, social classes, religions, genders and races.
Using these reference letters, and the first-hand published and unpublished accounts of the travellers themselves, Rachel Mairs tells the stories of several such tourists, including the intrepid Victorian female traveller, Ellen E. Miller, and an African–American minister, Rev. Charles T. Walker, who had been born into slavery. Between the lines of others’ letters, Solomon Negima’s remarkable life story also emerges: from a German mission school in Jerusalem, to the British army in the Sudan, to a successful career as a dragoman in Palestine and Syria, and finally to comfortable retirement with his son, Aziz, and daughter, Olinda, at a Mormon mission in Jerusalem.
The discovery of this unique scrapbook allows us an insight into the lives of individuals whose histories would otherwise be lost to us, and a new perspective on the history of travel in the Middle East.
Rachel Mairs is Lecturer in Classics at the University of Reading. She has published widely on the archaeology and culture of the near east and Egypt, including Archaeologists, Tourists, Interpreters: Exploring Egypt and the Near East in the late 19th – early 20th Centuries (with Maya Muratov, Bloomsbury, 2015) and From Khartoum to Jerusalem: The Dragoman Solomon Negima and his Clients (1885 – 1933). Bloomsbury 2016
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