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Personal Papers of Margaret Smith, 1900 - 1963

Reference Code: GBR/0271/GCPP Smith

Scope and Contents

Margaret Smith's surviving papers comprise a series of 17 diaries dating from 1900 to 1963, a 1950s/60s record of share dividends and income tax, and some of her published articles, together with 3 diaries written by Florence Smith, one of her six sisters, 1905-07.


  • Creation: 1900 - 1963


Biographical / Historical

Margaret Smith was born at Southport, Lancashire, the sixth of seven daughters of William Smith, a businessman (cotton spinner) and Alice Ann Tullis. She was known to her family as Gretchen in younger years. She was educated at Preston High School then St Margaret’s Polmont, Stirlingshire, and came to Girton as a Pfeiffer Scholar in 1904 to read History (Part I 1906) then Moral Sciences (Part 1 1907). She obtained a Teachers’ Diploma at Oxford in 1916 and taught, mainly in the Middle East, until 1925 when she began research in Arabic studies in London (enrolling at the School of Oriental Studies in 1926) and in Cambridge (at Girton as an Amelia Gurney Graduate Scholar 1926-28), which led to a London PhD in 1928, and later D.Litt (1937). She was awarded various prizes, among them the Gamble prize in 1926 for an essay on ‘The place of the woman saint in the history of Islam’ and the Gibson Prize in 1932 for an essay on 'St Paul the Ecclesiastic & Mysic'. She was known at Girton as 'Mystic' Smith to distinguish her from 'Bursar' Smith [F M Smith]. In the thirties she was a Lecturer on Islamic mysticism at the School of Oriental Studies (1930-32), a Research Fellow at Girton (1932-35) and a Senior Research Student at Manchester College, Oxford (1936-38). During the Second World War she was on the staff of the Wartime Social Survey, translated and wrote scripts for broadcasting in the Middle East and taught Arabic to army personnel. She was a Fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society and published widely on Islamic and Christian mysticism, on Arabic texts and on Islamic saints. Margaret Smith presented history books to Girton in memory of her sister Alice in 1937 (see GCAR 2/6/25/2). She bequeathed to the Library at Girton her collection of oriental books and copies of the Royal Asiatic Society Journal. She also left the residue of her estate to College to found a Research Fellowship for graduates working within the general field of her own research (see GCAR 2/6/69). Margaret Smith's six sisters, several of whom were also educated at St Margaret's, Polmont, and who are mentioned frequently in her diaries, are as follows: Helen (b. 27 September 1878, d. 28 July 1944); Alice Mary (came up to Girton to study history in 1897; known to her sisters as 'the Buffer'; b. 27 February 1880, d. 17 December 1936: see also Girton College Register entry); Clara (b. 9 June 1881; educated at Cheltenham; taught for a time at Liverpool Girls' College from September 1904); Ethel (b. 26 May 1882, d. 24 May 1937; worked for a time in Kendal as a rural postman during the First World War from July 1915); Florence (b. 19 June 1883, d. 13 April 1907; see also separate entry for Florence Smith at GCPP Smith 2); Agnes (b. 12 September 1886, d. 18 November 1943; educated at Cheltenham; went to Japan in 1912 to work 'under the S[ociety for the] P[ropagation of the] G[ospel]'). Margaret Smith died on 23 February 1970.


2 archive box(es) (2 boxes) : paper

Language of Materials


Immediate Source of Acquisition

The diaries are thought to have been bequeathed to Girton College in 1970 along with the bequest of books and journals to the Library. The published articles were donated to Girton by Margaret Smith in the 1940s: they were transferred to archives from the Library's pamphlets collection in May 2013.

Related Materials

See also articles by Margaret Smith in the Girton Review, Michaelmas Term 1911 (Damascus) and 1933 (A Near-Eastern Tour). There are also reviews of several of M S's books in the Girton Review - see GCPP Smith 1/3 for a list of these. See GCAR 2/6/25/2 for note of presentation of history books in 1937. See GCAR 2/6/69 for correspondence and papers re bequest of books and journals, and money to found the Margaret Smith Research Fellowship.


Smith, Margaret, 1884-1970, orientalist

Finding aid date

1998-09-03 13:40:49+00:00

Genre / Form


Repository Details

Part of the Girton College Archive Repository

The Archivist
Girton College Archive
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Cambridge CB3 0JG United Kingdom
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