From the Indus to the Tigris


Henry Walter Bellew was a surgeon and medical officer in the Indian Army who in 1871–72 accompanied Major General F.R. Pollock on a political mission to Sistān in southwestern Afghanistan. Undertaken on behalf of the government of British India, the mission set out from Multan (present-day Pakistan) on December 26, 1871, and arrived in Sistān in early March. From there Pollock and Bellew traveled to Mashhad and Tehran. Bellew went on to Baghdad and returned to India by steamer to Bombay (now Mumbai). From the Indus to the Tigris is Bellew’s account of the voyage. It includes detailed observations on the landscape, people, economic life, and culture of the parts of Afghanistan and Iran that he visited, and descriptions of encounters with Afghan leaders. Like many British and Anglo-Indian officials at the time, Bellew was preoccupied with the perceived Russian threat to India and the importance of Afghanistan in the rivalry between the two empires. Referring to the First Anglo-Afghan War of 1839–42, he regretted “the wrong we inflicted in the Afghan war—a wrong the fruits of which are yet abundant, as anybody who has served on our north-west frontier can testify.” The book contains two appendices: a grammar and vocabulary of the Brahui language (called Brahoe by Bellew) and a record of the meteorological conditions encountered on the journey.

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Subject Date

Publication Information

Trübner & Company, London

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Physical Description

496 pages : illustrations ; 23 centimeters


  1. Josef Elfenbein, “Brahui,” Encyclopedia Iranica, online edition,
  2. D’A. Power, “Bellew, Henry Walter (1834–1892),” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004).

Last updated: September 30, 2016