Tag Archives: ERC

¡Que viva España! The Spanish Records on Jerusalem

Anne Leblay-Kinoshita

The presence of Spain in Jerusalem and its neighbourhood might appear quite marginal and original at the same time: marginal because the Spanish consulate was founded in 1854, later than other European countries, but also original thanks to the presence of Spanish Franciscans in Jerusalem since the 13th century, the specific history of Spain with Jewish and Muslim people (Vilar, 2003) or with the figure of the Spanish diplomat Count of Ballobar who became the guardian of various nations’ interests during the First World War (Mazza, 2010).

Therefore, it appeared opportune, in the framework of ERC Open Jerusalem project, to take a closer look at the historical records of Spanish entities in Jerusalem. Between the 17th and the 24th of January 2016, Anne Leblay-Kinoshita, archivist at the French National Archives, went to Madrid to study those records.

A first visit was paid to Archivo general de la administración” (AGA) in Alcalá de Henares, a city located 30 km from Madrid, best known for its historical precinct and university inscribed on World Heritage List and for being the place of birth of Miguel de Cervantes.


Less known, the AGA are nevertheless one of the biggest archive in the world, after US and French National Archives. Officially created in 1969, the AGA hold records of State administrations, mainly from the 20th century but also the second half of 19th century. In this place 427 boxes and registers of records from the Spanish Consulate in Jerusalem dated from 1852 until 1976 are preserved.

Raimundo Pastor (August 26th of 2007) (licence Creative Commons)
Raimundo Pastor (August 26th of 2007) (licence Creative Commons)


A visit was also paid to the “Archivo histórico nacional” (AHN) in Madrid. Created in 1866, the AHN has been located in the complex of the Spanish Research National Council since 1952. The AHN holds records from Old Regime and Contemporary Institutions (until the Spanish Civil War), Ecclesiastical Institutions, Private archives and specific collections.

Since 2013 and the closing of the Archives of Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, the AHN holds its records prior to the Civil War like those of the “Obra Pía de los Santos Lugares en Jerusalén”. The “Obra Pía” is a religious institution, at first dedicated to the administration and preservation of sacred heritage in Holy Places. It became a State institution in 1772 with Carlos III. Around 435 “packets” and more than 20 registers dated from the 16th century until 1936 are now preserved in the AHN.

Luis Garcia (June 20th of 2011) (GNU Free Documentation License et Creative Commons)
Luis Garcia (June 20th of 2011) (GNU Free Documentation License et Creative Commons)


During those visits, some inventories were collected and it is now possible to have an idea of the content of each box, packet or register.

Amongst the records of the Spanish Consulate, some series appear quite interesting for the history of the city of Jerusalem and the Spanish presence in that place: there is a chronological series, more or less continuous since the creation of the consulate, a series dedicated to the relation between the consulate and the administration of the “Obra Pía” in Madrid, a fascinating series about the protection of foreign interests – especially during First World War for the Russians, French, Italians and, above all, the Greeks – or various series of records for the accountancy and juridical matters which can give an idea of the everyday life of the different communities living in Jerusalem. A first research in the records also showed the importance of the Consulate in Jerusalem during Spanish Civil War.

With regard to the “Obra Pía”, the interest of the records seemed moderate for Open Jerusalem project. First, this institution was established in Spain, so the documents describe mainly the organization there. Secondly, the inventory lacks of precision, e.g. the content of the first 169 packets is described as various correspondence and budgets produced between 1500 and… 1900. However, the continuity of the fonds is indeed outstanding and showss the importance of the institution for the relationship between Spain and the Holy Places.

Those first steps in Spanish archives are quite promising and an exciting research might go on in the records of the Spanish Consulate in Jerusalem. In short: highly encouraging, to be continued!


María José Vilar (2003), “Una percepción desde España de la cuestión Palestina. Aproximación a sus fuentes documentales y bibliográfica en español”, Anales de Historia Contemporánea, 19. pp. 285-312.

Mazza, Roberto (2010), “Antonio de la Cierva y Lewita: the Spanish Consul in Jerusalem 1914-1920”, The Jerusalem Quarterly, 40. pp. 36-44.

Spanish archive portal:


June 25 – 26, 2015, International Conference: Archiving a City. The Future of Jerusalem Past




June 25, 2015
Archives Nationales

18:00 Keynote Speech by Dr Önder Bayır
Director of the Ottoman Archives, Istanbul

«The Ottoman Imperial Archives:
A Key Place for the Study of Jerusalem History»

19:00 Cocktail

11 rue des Quatre Fils 75003 – Salle d’Albâtre

June 26, 2015
Opening Jerusalem’s Archives and Digital Histories
Interconnecting Methods, Tools and Practices

Université Paris-Est Marne-la-Vallée
Laboratoire ACP – EA 3350
Bâtiment Bois de l’étang – Salle 6
Cité Descartes (RER A / Noisy-Champs)

9:30 Vincent Lemire (UPEM): Open Jerusalem Project: A Transnational, Bottom-Up and Collaborative Experience

10:00 Elisa Grandi (Université Paris VII): Digital History. Concepts, Methods and Historiographical Debates

10:30 Pierre Yves Saunier (Université Laval): Writing Open Jerusalem: The www Option

11:00 coffee break

11:15 Francesca Morselli (Cendari): CENDARI. Methodologies of the Collaborative European Archival Infrastructure for the Study of WW1 and Medieval Culture

11:45 Maria Chiara Rioli (Scuola Normale Superiore, Pisa): Open Jerusalem: A Project of Digital Public History?

12:15 – 13: discussion

13:00 – 14:30 lunch break

14:30 Andrea Violante (NiEW): User Experience Design and User Centered Design Methodologies to Drive a Digital Project Within and Beyond the Margins of the Screen

14:45 Stéphane Ancel (Open Jerusalem) / Yann Potin (Archives Nationales): Imperial Ottoman Archives and Open Jerusalem Project: How to Deal with 19600 documents?

15:00 Angelos Dalachanis (Princeton University): Zotero in Jerusalem: Creating an Open Bibliographic Database

15:15 Luca Martinelli (Wikimedia Italy): Information in the Digital Commons: How to Make Knowledge Really Open

15:45 Chiara Scesa (NiEW): Pervasive Information Architecture for Historical Ecosystems. Designing Cross-Channel User Experiences to Move from the Digital to the Physical Environment and Back

16:15 Michele Mauri (Politecnico, Milan): Data Visualization for Digital Collections

16:45 Dario Ingiusto (Mapping the World): Mapping Jerusalem’s Archives and Open Jerusalem Project

17:15 discussion


Seminar Announcement, 15 January 2015



Jeudi  15  janvier  2015  
Centre de recherche français à Jérusalem
à  14h

Séminaire  ERC  Open Jerusalem

« Les  langues  juives  parlées  /  écrites  /  archivées

 à  Jérusalem »

סמינר ירושלים הפתוח

במרכז המחקר הצרפתי בירושלים

השפות העבריות המדוברות, הכתובות והנמצאות בארכיון


  • 14h :  Vincent  Lemire  (Université  Paris‐Est, Open Jerusalem Director)  :  «  Histoire  connectée  et  enjeux  linguistiques : quelle(s)  Lingua  Franca  pour  le  projet  Open  Jerusalem  ?
  • 14h30 :  Marie‐Christine  Bornes­‐Varol  (INALCO‐CERMOM,  Paris)  :  «  Multilinguisme  et contacts  de  langues  :  une  langue parmi  plusieurs  autres  et  plusieurs  langues  dans  une seule  » FULL TEXT
  • 15h : Gaëlle  Collin  (Musée  d’art  et  d’histoire  du  judaïsme,  Paris)  :  «  Les  judéo‐espagnol(s) d’Orient  :  djidyo,  djudyo,  djudezmo  sefardi  ou  ladino,  plusieurs  noms  et  plusieurs graphies pour  une  même  langue  » FULL TEXT
  • 15h30 : Jonas  Sibony  (INALCO‐CERMOM,  Paris)  :  «  Le  judéo-arabe,  judéo‐langue  ou  parler arabe  ?  » FULL TEXT
  • 16h : discussion


Centre de recherche français à Jérusalem

3, rue Shimshon, Baka, Jérusalem
B.P. 547, 91004 Jérusalem

Téléphone : +972 (0)2 565 81 11 
Télécopie : +972 (0)2 673 53 25
Mail : crfj@crfj.org.il

Site web du CRFJ



New Perspectives for Jerusalem’s Late Ottoman and Mandate Social History

by Falestin Naili

The round-table entitled “New Perspectives for Jerusalem’s Late Ottoman and Mandate Social History: Sources and Resources in Jordan” was held on the 24th of November 2014 at the Ifpo Amman. Supported by the Ifpo and the ERC-financed research project “Opening Jerusalem Archives: For a Connected History of ‘Citadinité’ in the Holy City (1840-1940)”, this round-table was conceived and organised by Falestin Naili, research associate at the Ifpo Amman and member of the ERC project. It brought together four members of the ERC project with their colleagues of the University of Jordan in order to present and discuss their respective research in relationship to the ERC project’s aim of overcoming the segmented historiography of Jerusalem by opening and interconnecting the city’s archives and laying the framework for an urban history approach to Jerusalem.

The round-table was welcomed by Vanessa Guéno (Ifpo Amman), who underlined that the Ifpo is currently relaunching the Ottoman studies and who emphasized the possibilities of future synergies between the Open Jerusalem Project and Ifpo Research Programs.

Vincent Lemire, executive director of the ERC Open-Jerusalem Project, briefly presented the scope, the scientific framework and the global schedule of the ERC project (2014-2019). He underlined the importance of Jordan’s archival sources and institutional actors dealing with Jerusalem’s history. Hence, he explained that the ERC project team was eager to meet their colleagues from the Center for Manuscripts and Documents and the Committee for the History of the Bilad Al Sham of the University of Jordan in Amman.

In her presentation entitled “Jerusalem, Amman, Beirut and beyond: moving from the Jerusalem municipal archives to the collective memory of Ottoman Jerusalem in search of citadinité (urban citizenship)”, Falestin Naili presented the first results of her analysis of the Arabic minutes of Ottoman Jerusalem’s municipal council for the period from 1892 – 1917, which account for about 45% of this rare primary source. These hand-written minutes document the decisions and announcements of the council (founded several years before the Ottoman Provincial Law on Municipalities of 1877) and offer a wealth of information and many glimpses of daily life issues in Jerusalem. About two-thirds of the members of the municipal council were elected and one third were ex officio members. Muslims, Christians and Jews were among the members and the Ottoman government chose the mayor among the elected members. After a short digression into the material and palaeographic aspects of the minutes, Falestin Naili gave examples of the issues dealt with in the municipal minutes, emphasizing that revenue-generating activities were an important preoccupation of this urban institution spearheading Jerusalem’s development of modern infrastructures and services. As an interconfessional interethnic urban institution interacting directly with the citizens and the imperial authorities, the municipality was probably the most important mediating structure for Jerusalem’s urban society, translating imperial impulses into local activities and relaying local realities and initiatives back to Istanbul. This new picture of Jerusalem’s society at the end of the Ottoman period should be complemented by several other sources, such as court registers, local press, imperial documents and, last but not least, autobiographical writings and collective memory narratives from this period.

Yasemin Avci, Associate Professor at the University of Pamukkale and member of the ERC team, presented her analysis of the Ottoman language minutes (about 55% of the total text) of Jerusalem’s municipal council for the period from 1892 – 1917 and their link with the imperial level of governmentin a paper entitled “Jerusalem Municipal Archives and Istanbul Imperial Archives: how to interconnect the two levels”. She explained that the resolutions of the municipal council are in a rough draft format, since they were for the internal use of the council itself. Nonetheless, they could occasionally be inspected by central government authorities. She then placed the municipal council back into the new governmental structure created as a result of the Tanzimat reforms, which signified the development of a legal authoritarian regime in the Ottoman Empire. Within the pyramidal structure extending from Istanbul to the provinces and sanjaks, the municipal council was at the bottom as a means of connecting urban administration to the imperial center. Although the objective of the creation of municipalities was not democratic, the municipal councils could at times nuance, circumvent and even subvert imperial intentions in their desire to assert varying degrees of autonomy.


Abdul-Hameed Al-Kayyali, associated researcher at Ifpo Amman and member of the ERC project, presented the first results of his ongoing research on Jerusalem’s Hebrew press in a paper entitled “The Hebrew newspaper Ha-Zvi: a mirror of Jerusalem’s public affairs at the turn of the century”. The Hebrew press, and in particular Ha-Zvi (later called Ha-Or) for the period between 1840 and 1940 (available online www.jpress.org.il) provides some specific information which cannot be found in the minutes of the Jerusalem municipal council, such as the names of candidates for municipal elections. Furthermore, they provide many detailed accounts of daily life (schools, hospitals, transport, water etc.) in Jerusalem, mainly from the perspective of the city’s Jewish inhabitants. The work on Ha-Zvi is relatively easier than that on other newspapers, since (as a publication directed by Eliezer Ben Yehuda, the «father» of Modern Hebrew) it contains a simpler Hebrew with less Talmudic and Yiddish terms than other newspapers of that period.

Nufan Al Sawariah, Professor in the History Department of the University of Jordan, presented a paper entitled “Water and its resources in Jerusalem: The Registers of Jerusalem’s mahkame shar‘iyya as a source of study”. He emphasized that the sijill shar ‘i has to be considered as an important mirror of life in Jerusalem, reflecting a large number of people’s everyday preoccupations. One of the most important daily life issues in Jerusalem was the regular cutting of water which sometimes even amounted to a complete halt. The sijillat contain many details about the extent of people’s suffering due to lack of water and about the efforts of the imperial and local government to resolve these problems. The registers also contain much information about the water infrastructure in and around Jerusalem, including public fountains, reservoirs and aqueducts, which were regularly supervised and repaired by government employees.

Abla Muhtadi, who is a researcher at the Center for Manuscripts and Documents of the University of Jordan, offered a rare insider perspective on the sijillat mahkame shar‘iyya in her presentation entitled “Jerusalem’s court registers as a source for social history”. In fact, although the prerogatives of the shari‘a courts diminished as a result of the reforms of the judiciary system in the second half of the 19th century, these courts remain an extremely valuable source on the daily life of Jerusalemites. Even after the separation of civil courts according to confession, Christians and Jews at times opted for appearing in front of the qadi instead of turning to the courts of their confessional group. The sijillat contain much information about the holders of public offices, about teachers and schools, shops, restaurants, hospitals and hotels, to name just a few categories of public spaces. In Abla Muhtadi’s words, the sijillat are the “living memory” of the city and its inhabitants, providing the texture of daily life.

The discussions in English and Arabic were stimulating and full of promising perspectives for further connections between different local archives, namely the court registers and the local press in Arabic, Hebrew and Ottoman. Mahmoud Yazbak (Professor of History, University of Haifa) who attended the round-table, offered much valuable advice based on his own work on the sijillat for Haifa and Jaffa and urged the participants to pay special attention to continuities between the period preceding the Tanzimat and the actual reform period. Vanessa Guéno shared her insights about the effects of the judiciary reforms from her work on Ottoman Homs. All the participants agreed that a larger event should be organised next year at the Center for Manuscripts and Documents, whose Director Mohammed Adnan Al Bakhit, has expressed his wish to host such an event.

Photo: two excerpts from the municipal minutes of 1910 (1326 hijri),
the first one being a public bid for meat for the municipal hospital,
the second an announcement of a public sale of tax-farming rights
according to the iltizam system

Round-Table Workshop: New Perspectives for Jerusalem’s Social History


ERC Funded Project

Opening Jerusalem’s Archives:

for a Connected History of ‘Citadinité’

in the Holy City (1840-1940)

Programme for round-table workshop

New Perspectives for Jerusalem’s Late Ottoman

and Mandate Social History:

Sources and Resources in Jordan”

Monday the 24th of November from 9:30 am to 1:30 pm

at the Institut français du Proche-Orient (IFPO) in Amman

9:30 am
Word of welcome by Vanessa Guéno
Opening remarks by Falestin Naili and Vincent Lemire

9:45 am
“Jerusalem, Amman, Beirut and beyond: moving from the Jerusalem municipal archives to the collective memory of Ottoman Jerusalem in search of citadinité (urban citizenship)”
Falestin Naili

10:15 am
“Jerusalem Municipal Archives and Istanbul Imperial Archives: how to interconnect the two levels”
Yasemin Avci

10:45 am
“The Hebrew newspaper Ha-Zvi: a mirror of Jerusalem’s public affairs at the turn of the century”
Abdul-Hameed Al Kayyali

11:15 – 11:40 Coffee break

11:45 am
“Water and its Sources in Jerusalem in the Ottoman period”
Nufan Al Sawariah

12:15 pm
“Jerusalem’s court registers as a source for social history”
Abla Muhtadi

12:45 pm
Synthesis and closing remarks
Mohammed Adnan Al Bakhit

Download the pdf announcement