Robert Bertram Serjeant (1915-1993)

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Professor of Arabic and Director of Middle East Centre, University of Cambridge

Robert Serjeant was educated at the University of Edinburgh, where he graduated with an MA in Semitic Languages, and at Trinity College Cambridge where he gained his PhD in 1936. He was the Tweedie Fellow at the University of Edinburgh in 1939; during his fellowship he catalogued the Oriental manuscripts in New College Library, which published his "Handlist of the Arabic, Persian and Hindustani MSS of New College, Edinburgh" (London, 1942), before moving to the School of Oriental and African Studies to engage in research on South Arabia.

He saw war service in Aden before returning to England, to teach at SOAS and then to be seconded to the BBC's Eastern Service. He was appointed first Reader and then Professor of Arabic at SOAS. He moved to the Middle East Centre, University of Cambridge in 1964, eventually retiring as Director, and as Professor Arabic, in 1982. He was a prolific author and editor of publications on a wide range of Middle Eastern subjects.

In 1995 Mrs Marion Serjeant gifted his library of ca 5,000 volumes on Islam and the Yemen, together with his manuscripts, to the University. The collection is available for use in Special Collections, where it has been joined by the library of Professor William Montgomery Watt (1909-2006) . The books are listed in the Library's online catalogue.

All or some of the text on this page originally appeared in the Gallery of Benefactors