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Basil Zaharoff seems to me to be a quite mysterious figure from World War One. He was a Greek arms dealer and industrialist who sold weapons and ammunition systems to both the sides in the war, and was one of the richest men of his day.

Are there any good books or historical documents that describe his life and career. In particular, I'm interested in his role during the First World War. Information about his personal life would also be of interest.

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    Source requests are out of scope - the question has been raised multiple times on meta, and the consensus is that "good books" is a subjective question. Can you rephrase the question to focus on what you want to know? – Mark C. Wallace Dec 2 '17 at 21:55
  • @MarkC.Wallace Well I want to know about Basil Zaharoff in Historical context about his role in WW1 and it somewhat should also cover his personal life ... – Aashish Loknath Panigrahi Dec 2 '17 at 21:56
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    Why do you describe him as mysterious? What would you expect to know about him that is not in his Wikipedia page? Why would the fact that he sold weapons systems to both sides cause you to expect that more should be known about him? (Seems that such a person would want less to be known about them). – Mark C. Wallace Dec 2 '17 at 21:57
  • @MarkC.Wallace Well when his birth certificate was searched then the church's registered was destroyed in a fire and when documents associated with him were searched in the Vienna War office , all the documents associated with him were missing .... There are a lot of other things which are quite not known about him. – Aashish Loknath Panigrahi Dec 2 '17 at 22:02
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    Try Zaharoff the Armaments King by Robert Neumann. The author includes a fairly decent list of sources. – sempaiscuba Dec 2 '17 at 22:27
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I'm not sure why you describe Basil Zaharoff as a "mysterious figure". A number of biographies have been written about him (some of these are listed under Further Reading on his Wikipedia page), and there is quite a lot of material about his life held in various archives.


A "Good" Book

The problem with asking for a "good book" is that "good" is a highly subjective term.

However, one text that is "good", in the sense that it was written while its subject was still alive, includes material gathered from interviews with people who knew him, and which actually lists the sources used, is Zaharoff the Armaments King by Robert Neumann.

A further advantage of this text is that it has been made freely available online by archive.org.


Primary Sources

In terms of historical documents, there are a great many available in archives, but relatively few of these have been scanned and made available online. (This is nothing unusual. Only a tiny fraction of the documents held in the world's archives are actually available online).

Here in the UK, if you type Basil Zaharoff as a search term in the search field of the UK National Archives' Discovery catalogue, you get 17 hits, including his correspondence with Lloyd George.

[In fact, Basil Zaharoff was even the subject of a blog post on the National archives blog in December 2015.]

Similarly, typing his name as the search term into the JANUS Catalogue reveals 31 results for records held by the various colleges of Cambridge University.

The French National Library (Bibliothèque Nationale de France) also holds records about the life of Zaharoff, including his correspondence with Georges Clemenceau.

His correspondence with Woodrow Wilson would be held at the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library and Museum, although it isn't listed among their digital collections and they do not appear to have an online catalogue of their full collection.

Undoubtedly, a Google search for "Basil Zaharoff" archives will lead you to many more.


In most cases, you would almost certainly need to visit the archives in person, or employ someone to visit on your behalf, to access these records.

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