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'Persia' [‎17v] (34/156)

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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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and his fear of the Ameer Dost Mahomed, to
establish themselves at Herat as his protectors, it
will immediately become the duty of the Govern
ment in this country to decide and direct what
measures shall be taken for the maintenance of the
independence of Herat, as an important element in
the defence of British India against the possible
machinations of Russia.”
The aggressive tendencies of Dost Mahomed
succeeded in rousing Persia in 1856 to a reassertion
of her old claims on Herat. The opportunity of
this was a favourable one, inasmuch’ as the British
Government was occupied with the Crimean War,
and Mr. Murray, British Minister at Teheran,
after repeated insults, which it is not necessary
to enlarge upon in this Note, had hauled down his
flag and left the capital.
So anxious was the Shah to possess Herat, that
he braved all consequences and sent a force openly
against the city. It fell to the Persian forces in
October 1856. * So seriously was this step viewed
the British Government that the Governor
General of India was authorized to declare war
against Persia.* This step was followed by the
despatch of an expedition under Sir James Out ram
into 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 operations were suc
cessful ; the British troops occupied the island of
Karrack, defeated the Persian army at Khushab
(8th Pebruary 1857), and captured Mohammera
(26th March 1857). In the meantime, however, a
treaty had been concluded at Paris,f under which
the British forces were to withdraw from Persia,
and the Shah was compelled to relinquish once
more all claim to suzerainty in Herat and the
countries of Afghanistan, and to abstain from all
interference in their internal affairs.
Before leaving Herat, on the 27th July 1857,
the Persians installed as rnler Sultan Ahmed Khan,
a refugee nephew of the Ameer Dost Mahomed.
The question then arose as to the course which Her
Majesty’s Government should pursue in regard to
him. Her Majesty’s Minister at Teheran proposed
to recognize Sulta'n Ahmed as the de facto ruler,
and to^apprize him fully of the Persian engage
ment with regard to the independence of Herat;
but Mr. Murray was alarmed lest Sultan Ahmed,
while nominally acknowledged to be independent,
should be bribed by the Persian Government into
some degree of subserviency to that State.
The President of the Board of Control Board of Commissioners for the Affairs of India, appointed by an Act of Parliament to supervise the East India Company. J did not
see in that circumstance any cause for alarm. The
Secretary of the Board, in answer to a reference
from the Foreign Office,§ wrote :—
“ We uphold the independence of Herat, not
because we should dread the strength of Persia,
even if Herat were added to her dominions, but
because we fear the claim which a mightier Power
might put forth as to the location of agents, if
Herat were considered as part of the Persian terri
tory, and because we believe that the machinations
* let November 1856.
t Treaty of Paris, Ath March 1857.
“ Article 6.
“ His Majesty the Shah of Persia agrees to
relinquish all claims to sovereignty over the
territory and city of Herat and the countries
of Afghanistan, and never to demand from
the 'Chiefs of Herat, or of the countries of
Afghanistan, any marks of obedience, such
as the coinage, or ‘ khootbeh/ or tribute.
“His Majesty further engages to abstain
hereafter from all interference with the
internal affairs of Afghanistan. His Majesty
promises to recognize the independence of
Herat and of the whole of Afghanistan, and
never to attempt to interfere with the inde
pendence of those States.
“ In case of differences arising between the
Government of Persia and the countries of
Herat and Afghanistan, the Persian Govern
ment engages to refer them for adjustment
to the friendly offices of the British Govern
ment, and not to take up arms unless those
friendly offices fail of effect.
“ The British Government, on their part,
engage at all times to exert their influence
with the States of Afghanistan to prevent
any cause of umbrage being given by them,
or by any of them, to the Persian Govern
ment ; and the British Government, when
appealed to by the Persian Government, in
the event of difficulties arising, will use their
best endeavours to compose such differences
in a manner just and honourable to Persia.
“ Article 7.
“In case of any violation of the Persian
frontier by any of the States referred to
above, the Persian Government shall have
the right, if due satisfaction is not given, to
undertake military operations for the re
pression and punishment of the aggressors ;
but it is distinctly understood and agreed to
that any military force of the Shah which
may cross the frontier for the above-men
tioned purpose shall retire within its own
territory as soon as its object is accomplished,
and that the exercise of the above-mentioned
right is not to be made a pretext for the
permanent occupation by Persia, or for the
annexation to the Persian dominions, of any
town or portion of the said States.”
J Mr. Vernon Smith.
§ 15th October 1857. Secret Corre
spondence, Vol. 49, p. 285 B.

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' [‎17v] (34/156), British Library: India Office Records and Private Papers, IOR/L/PS/18/C28, in Qatar Digital Library <> [accessed 15 July 2020]

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