The Svoboda Diaries Project began with a 2006 email to Prof. Walter G. Andrews from Baghdad architect Nowf Allawi, who had for years been working with the director of the Iraqi Architectural Consultancies, Prof. Henry Svoboda, on a project to compile a history of 19th century Iraq based on diaries written by members of his extended family. Prof. Svoboda’s participation in the project had ended with his tragic death in 2005 but Ms. Allawi determined to continue his work as a debt of honor. At the time of this first message, Nowf was working on the translation of the Arabic language Travel Journal kept by 19 year-old Alexander Richard Svoboda during a journey with his mother and father overland from Baghdad to Cairo and thence by ship and train to Italy and Paris.
Initially, she was looking for some help with Ottoman Turkish but as time went on and it became clear that the situation in Iraq would prevent her from accessing the resources she needed to complete her project, the OTAP staff offered to assist her in publishing the Journal. It is our hope and conviction that, in time, these diaries and the stories they contain will become a significant resource for the micro-history of 19th century Iraq and that the project will continue to provide an avenue for undergraduates to gain hands-on experience of basic research in the humanities and learn to familiarize themselves with digital tools for the study and dissemination of the products of that research.