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'Persia' [‎16r] (31/156)

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The record is made up of 1 file (78 folios). It was created in 1 Dec 1879. It was written in English. The original is part of the British Library: India Office The department of the British Government to which the Government of India reported between 1858 and 1947. The successor to the Court of Directors. Records and Private Papers.


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privileges, all their wealth; they would become, in
fact, real slaves, whereas under the Persian dominion
their subjection would be but nominal.
“ But if Herat cannot exist alone, and if she prefer
the rule of the Shah to that of the Chief of Can-
dahar, is it worth our while to interfere in her
behalf? There is little doubt but that the re-occu
pation of the island of Karrack, or a threat of with
drawing our Mission from the Court of Teheran,
would compel Persia to an absolute abnegation of
her pretensions on Herat,—hut this would merely
be to bring back the Candahar forces upon the city,
and thus to swell the power of a Chief who, it must
be remembered, actually signed a treaty with Russia
most inimical to our interests, in 1838; who, driven
from his country by our arms, has always since
regarded us with the bitterest hostility, and who, if
Russia should ever wish to resume her intrigues
upon the North-West frontier of India, would thus
be a far readier and more dangerous instrument in
her hands than would be the boy King at Teheran.
There is, it is true, another course that might be
followed. At the same time that Persia were warned
off from interference with Herat, Kohandil Khan
might be threatened with invasion from Sind, if he
persisted in aggression to the westward; and a
British Agent might be sent from the Governor
General through Persia to reside at Herat, with
authority to support Syud Mohamed Khan in the
exercise of independent rule; but so great is the
jealousy of our presence now generally prevalent
among the Afghans, that I doubt if this compulsory
independence under a British protectorate would
be agreeable to the Heratees themselves; and I
further see that we might be led by a renewed
political interference into ulterior military measures
that would throw us back into our former false
position among the Afghan mountains.
“ Another consideration which, I think, especially
distinguishes the situation of 1838 from that of
1852, is that at the former period we had elements
of real danger at our very threshold, in the formid
able power of the Seikhs and in the intriguing
Court of the Ameers of Sinde; whereas at present
an impression can hardly be made upon our North-
West frontier, except by actual invasion. Had
Persia taken Herat in 1838, our Indian Empire
would really, I think, have trembled in the balance.
If Syud Mahomed Khan acknowledge himself a
vassal of the Persian Crown in 1852, and even
admit a Persian garrison into Herat, the effect on
India will be absolutely imperceptible.
“ It is only in fact in reference to future con
tingencies, that any active interference at present
can, I presume, be advocated. It may be argued
that the lapse of Herat to the Persian Crown will
be severely felt, when Russian influence, and
perhaps Russian arms, are paramount in Khorassan
and in the Caspian Provinces, but that day, it may
be hoped, will be a remote one; and an immunity
from such a danger would, I think, be dearly pur-

About this item


The memorandum is divided into the following chapter headings:

  • 'General Status of Persia', ff 2r-12;
  • 'Persia and Herat', ff 12v-24r;
  • 'Persia and Seistan [Sīstān]', ff 24r-31v;
  • 'Persia and Kohuk', ff 31v-35;
  • 'Persia and the Navigation of the Karun [Kārūn] River', ff 35v-39r;
  • 'Persia and her integrity', ff 39r-47;
  • 'Persia and Merv', ff 47v-52v;
  • 'Continuation of General Status of Persia', ff 52v-61;
  • 'Appendices', ff 63-78.

'General Status of Persia' provides a geographic description of the Kingdom including details of its boundaries, rivers, and transportation links. It also includes an outline of its demography, and its revenue by province. Military matters are also covered in this section; this includes an in-depth look at the Persian army — its pay and composition — and a look at the employment of British officers in Persia. This section concludes with a narrative of Persia's modern history from the sixteenth century.

'Persia and Herat' describes the extent to which the province's boundaries can be defined, and provides a brief description of each district within; Ghorian, Sabzawar, Farah, Bakwa, Kurak, and Obeh. It also includes a description of the town of Herat, and information on the province's demography and climate. The section also provides detailed coverage of the tribes in the region. The development of British policy towards Herat is explained through the use of select correspondence. This includes the relative merits for Britain in either maintaining Herat's independence, or supporting Afghan or Persian rule; extensive reference is made to the Treaty of Paris (1857).

'Persia and Seistan' also provides a geographic description of the province, along with information on its administrative divisions, climate, and transportation links. Its main purpose however is to outline the development of British attitudes concerning the governance of this province; should it be overseen by Afghanistan or Persia? To provide context, it covers the historical basis for the two competing claims. It concludes by describing the British arbitration of the matter in 1871-72 by General Frederick John Goldsmid, and its outcome; summaries of the statements provided by the Afghan and Persian sides are included.

'Persia and Kohuk' explains how Persia has disputed the award of this province to Khelat by General Goldsmid in 1871, and British reluctance to amend the award in favour of Persia.

'Persia and the Navigation of the Karun River' outlines British efforts to open up the Karun River for steam navigation. It explains that Russian success in improving transportation infrastructure in the north of Persia — in contrast to British failure in the south — is seen to be putting British trade at a disadvantage; the Karun River is seen as having the best potential for resolving this. The prospects for the construction of a railway in southern Persia are also briefly examined.

'Persia and her integrity' details the development of a diplomatic understanding from 1834 between Britain and Russia, in which both powers established their mutual interest in the maintenance of the territorial integrity of Persia. It chiefly concerns British suspicions that Russian activities in central Asia do not match their professed intentions towards Persia (i.e. British fears that Russia is encroaching on central Asia).

'Persia and Merv', in addition to providing an overview of the region's history and ancient settlements, considers what the British consider to be the encroachment of Russia on Persia's northern borders; the British consider any potential Russian occupation of Merv to be a threat, and it is explained that Persian control is preferred.

'Continuation of General Status of Persia' concentrates on British concerns over increases in Russian influence at the Persian Court in Tehran; the British fear Persia becoming a vassal of Russia and facilitating Russian expansion towards Afghanistan. It therefore discusses the extent to which Britain should take advantage of Persian overtures to establish friendly relations with that power in order to prevent this scenario. It also briefly discusses Persian designs on Bahrain, and the desirability — for Britain — in maintaining its status as an independent state, in addition to emphasizing the need to maintain Britain's protectorate role in the Persian Gulf Historically used by the British to refer to the sea area between the Arabian Peninsula and Iran. Often referred to as The Gulf or the Arabian Gulf. . Topics also included in this section, but covered in less detail include: the conference of consular powers on the Resident in the Persian Gulf Historically used by the British to refer to the sea area between the Arabian Peninsula and Iran. Often referred to as The Gulf or the Arabian Gulf. ; the development of telegraph lines in Persia; and negotiations respecting the demarcation of the Persian-Turkish border.

The memorandum is signed by Owen Tudor Burne of the India Office The department of the British Government to which the Government of India reported between 1858 and 1947. The successor to the Court of Directors. .

The appendix at the back is divided eight sections as follows:

  • I. 'Employment of British Officers with the Persian Army', f 63;
  • II. A selection of memoranda (dated 20 July-24 December 1868) concerning the need to strengthen British influence over Persia, and the means available to achieve it, ff 63v-64;
  • III. A selection of memoranda (dated 10-30 October 1868) on the possibility of employing British officers with the Persian Army, f 65;
  • IV. 'The Policy of Great Britain towards Persia, ff 66-69;
  • V. Instructions given to Major-General Sir Henry Creswicke Rawlingson as Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to the Court of Persia, dated 4 August 1859, ff 68-69;
  • VI. 'Outline Sketch by Colonel Burne of the Shah of Persia's Visit to England, 1873, ff 69-72;
  • VII. 'Note by Colonel Burne on the Persian Army, 20th December 1871', ff 72-73;
  • VIII. 'Abstract of Events in Persia, Afghanistan, &c. from 1722 to the present period', ff 73v-78.
Extent and format
1 file (78 folios)

The file is arranged into eight chapters — outlined in a table of contents on f 1 — with an appendix at the end.

Physical characteristics

Foliation: the foliation sequence for this description commences at f 1A and terminates at f 78, as it is part of a larger physical volume; these numbers are written in pencil, and are located in the top right corner of the recto The front of a sheet of paper or leaf, often abbreviated to 'r'. side of each folio. Pagination: the file also contains an original printed pagination sequence.

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English in Latin script
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'Persia' [‎16r] (31/156), British Library: India Office Records and Private Papers, IOR/L/PS/18/C28, in Qatar Digital Library <> [accessed 20 October 2019]

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