Emily Overend Lorimer

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Emily Overend Lorimer (1881-1949) was a British linguist and political analyst, at first influential through her husband, David Lockhart Robertson Lorimer, British resident in Cairo during the First World War and its Arab Revolt, later in roles where she was more visible. She was an early translator and analyst of Nazi works, including Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf, before the Nazi threat was generally considered serious.[1] She clearly had original ideas, but, when the couple was awarded the Burton Memorial Medal by the Royal Asiatic Society in 1948, she confessed that she merely followed what her husband had become interested in;[2] this was in the context of Asian research, not the German studies she had begun while single.

Early life

Before her marriage, she had been tutor in Germanic Philology at Somerville College, Oxford University (1907-1910).

First World War

She was personal aide to her husband when he was Political Representative in Cairo, with significant influence on the Arab Revolt and the subsequent breakup of the Ottoman Empire.[3]

In 1916-1917, she edited the British-run Basrah Times in what was to become modern Iraq.[4]

During her time in Iraq, she and Gertrude Bell mediated arguments among highly opinionated members of the male staff. For the rest of his life, H. St. John Philby kept a letter written by Emily Lorimer after Philby quarreled with her husband:
When a young man without very wide experience finds himself differing over practical policy from an older man and senior official acting in circumstances of which the former knows nothing, it is sound for him to assume there may be two sides to a question. This I think is an unimpeachable general principle...[5]


Emily Lawrence, as opposed to Gertrude Bell, fiercely opposed Arab independence, "at least before British civilisation had been extensively spread within the territories, and thought that the punitive expeditions to repress Arab nationalism were highly justifiable."[2]

She subsequently received the Order of the British Empire, was a correspondent in Kashmir for the London Times, and was a Postal Censor for Britain's Ministry of Information, resigning in June 1940.

Analysis of Nazism

She was critical of the initial English translation of Mein Kampf, which left out many of the sections on Hitler's ideas of foreign relations. [6] When it the British conventional wisdom that Hitler and his followers were not a serious threat, she concentrated on Nazi ideology. In 1939, she published the book, What Hitler Wants, and wrote other books and articles, [7] She continued working for the Ministry of Information.


  1. Dan Stone (2008), "The "Mein Kampf Ramp" : Emily Overend Lorimer and Hitler Translations in Britain", German History 26 (4), p. 505
  2. 2.0 2.1 Mélanie Torrent, "Book review: Playing the Game: Western Women in Arabia (by Penelope Tuson, I.B. Tauris, 2003)", Cercles
  3. Penelope Tuson (2003), Playing the game: the story of Western women in Arabia, I.B. Tauris, p. 2
  4. Emily Overend Lorimer, Papers of Emily Overend Lorimer, author, editor of 'Basrah Times' 1916-17, wife of Lt-Col David Lorimer, Indian Political Service 1903-27 Mss Eur F177 1902-1949, British Library, Asia, Pacific and Africa Collections; Private Papers [Mss Eur F175 - Mss Eur F199], National Archives (UK)
  5. H.V.F. Winstone (1978), Gertrude Bell, Quartet Books, ISBN 070422203x, p. 192}}
  6. E.O. Lorimer, "Hitler’s Germany" , John O’London’s Weekly (11 Nov. 1933), quoted in Stone 2008
  7. Stone, pp. 507-509