Margaret Makiya


In the early 1970s, a scholar at al-Hikma University in Baghdad, 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 in the Sarkis library and planned to transcribe them all eventually.1 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.

Partnership with the University of Washington

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. 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 (OTAP). As our work progressed and the situation in Baghdad worsened, Ms. Allawi sent us copies of some Makiya transcriptions which Professor Svoboda had left with her. These copies were 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 of the original diaries from the Sarkis collection (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 and more, among her effects, following her death in 2011.2 The Makiya family generously allowed us to make digital images of these diaries. In addition, the family allowed us to digitize and publish Mrs. Makiya’s transcriptions and provided to us the original  typescript copies and a large amount of material from Mrs. Makiya’s private papers, which we are archiving in Newbook Digital Text’s Margaret Makiya Archive.

A page from Joseph’s diary (Diary 39) copied perhaps by Prof. Henry Svoboda.
  1. For more information see Margaret Makiya, “The Svoboda Diaries”, passim.
  2. Roger Owen, The Middle East in the World Economy 1800-1915, (Methuen: London and New York) 1981, p. 327, note 21.