Freya Stark (Biographical details)

Freya Stark (author/poet; collector; British; Female; 1893 - 1993)

Also known as

Stark, Freya


Born in Paris, spent her childhood in Devonshire and Italy. Educated at Bedford College and the School of Oriental Studies, London. Studied Arabic. Began travelling in the Middle East in 1927, and in the next decade travelled in Luristan (Iran) where she recorded looted cemeteries, and in the Hadhramawt where she observed the excavations at Huraydha by Miss Gertrude Caton-Thompson (q.v.); she collected a small number of South Arabian antiquities and coins during this trip which she presented to the Ashmolean Museum (q.v.) and Department of Coins & Medals. During the Second World War she worked for the Ministry of Information in Aden, Cairo, Baghdad, the USA, and India. Married the writer, Stewart Perowne (q.v.) in 1947 (dissolved 1952). Her home base was Italy, and she settled in Asolo. She was made a DBE in 1972.

Her books on her travels in Iran, Iraq, southern Arabia, and Asia Minor include: 'Baghdad Sketches (1933); 'The Valleys of the Assassins' (1934); 'The Southern Gates of Arabia' (1936); 'Seen in the Hadhramaut' (1938); 'A Winter in Arabia' (1940); 'Beyond Euphrates' (London 1951); 'Iona: A Quest' (1954); 'The Lycian Shore' (1956); 'Dust in the Lion's Paw: Autobiography 1939-1946' (London: John Murray, 1961). She also published four volumes of autobiography (1950) and six volumes of letters (1950-61; 1974-81).

Her observations on the excavations at Huraydha in Yemen are included in an article "The Hadhramaut - a land of strongly contrasting peoples", 'Illustrated London News', 4 February 1939, p.186. She also published comments on looted cemeteries in Luristan in an article entitled "The mystery of the origin of the Luristan bronzes: dangerous travel in a land of unidentified art" in 'The Illustrated London News' for 31 December 1932, pp.1054-55. Other articles of archaeological interest include "An Exploration in the Hadhramaut and Journey to the Coast", 'Geographical Journal' 93 (1939).

She deposited a small number of Mesopotamian antiquities in the British Museum on 1 July 1937 (WAA deposit book entry).

Archive correspondence on her time in Southern Arabia includes the following collection:

An oil on canvas portrait of Freya Stark by Paul Ayshford Methuen, dated c. 1934, hangs in the Royal Asiatic Society in London (RAS.01.013).


M Drabble, 'Oxford Companion to English Literature', OUP, 1995.