Solomon N Negima: a Palestinian dragoman and his clients (18851933)
Thursday 14 September 2017, 16.00-17.00
BP Lecture Theatre
Free, booking essential
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Using these reference letters, and the first-hand published and unpublished accounts of the travellers themselves, Rachel Mairs, University of Reading, tells stories of several such tourists, including the intrepid Victorian traveller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 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.