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In the novel They Came to Baghdad, Dr Rathbone is a learned scholar with an idealistic vision of promoting world peace and understanding through literature. To that end he has founded an organisation called the Olive Branch with offices in many places but primarily in Baghdad. This organisation translates English classical works into many languages and young people (he focusses on young people) from all nations are encouraged to read them and participate in discussions.

While this sounded rather far-fetched to someone like Victoria Jones, in fact Rathbone was has fine reputation. According to his secretary Edward Goring, he "hob-nobs with Archbishops and Principals of Colleges" and he succeeds in securing donations from all over the world for his schemes.

For the most part, as Victoria Jones would observe, Rathbone seemed rather baffled as to why the reality did not seem to accord with his ideals. The Olive Branch members did not like one another and quarrels and even fights were common.

It later turns out that Rathbone has been embezzling up to three-quarters of the donations to his organisation for his personal use. Edward Goring found out about this and used this to blackmail him, forcing him to allow the Olive Branch to be used as a front for his secret organisation to bring about a new world order.

At the end of the story, Rathbone admits that he will shortly be prosecuted for his crimes but nonetheless he needs to speak out against the young men like Edward Goring who had nothing but evil in their hearts. He still believes in his ideals, or rather he admits to starting a racket to make money but has ended up believing in what he preached. He still believes in world understanding but not in the methods he used, and he certainly rejects the methods of people who were trying to bring about a new world order through violence.

Dr Rathbone is described as an imposing-looking elderly man of about sixty with a high domed forehead and white hair. "Benevolence, kindliness and charm were the most apparent qualities of his personality. A producer of plays would have cast him without hesitation for the role of the great philanthropist."