Narrative of a Journey to Kalât


Charles Masson (alias of James Lewis) was a traveler and explorer who was the first European to appreciate the archeological heritage of Afghanistan. Not much is known about his early life. He was born in London in 1800 and by all accounts received a good education that included Latin, Greek, and French. After a quarrel with his father, in 1821 he enlisted as an infantryman in the army of the East India Company. He sailed for Bengal in early 1822. In July 1827, he deserted his regiment, changed his name, and traveled westward to escape British jurisdiction. After wandering through Rajasthan and the independent Sikh territory, he crossed into Afghanistan via the Khyber Pass. Over the course of the next decade he traveled extensively throughout Afghanistan. He also spent time in Persia (present-day Iran) and Sind (present-day Pakistan). He left Afghanistan in October 1838. Living in Karachi, he wrote an account of his archeological investigations and completed his three-volume Narrative of Various Journeys in Balochistan, Afghanistan, and the Panjab, which was published in London in 1842. With the first Anglo-Afghan War (1839‒42) underway, in early 1840 he attempted to return to Kabul, but was caught up in the siege and insurrection in the Khanate of Kalat (in present-day Pakistan) and for a time was imprisoned as a spy. Following his release in January 1841, Masson wrote Narrative of a Journey to Kalât, which he published in 1843 and which, although it also stands alone, he considered as the fourth volume of his previous work. He was a critic of the policies that led to the First Anglo-Afghan War, and in his preface he describes the revolt in Kalat as “the precursor of the catastrophe that subsequently developed” at Kabul. The first part of the book is a detailed account of the insurrection, its suppression, and of Masson’s own ordeal. The second half is entitled “Memoir on Eastern Baloochistan or the Territories of the Brahui Khan of Kalat,” and contains sections on the geography, tribes, government and history, antiquities and dialects, the economy, manners and customs, and natural history and mineralogy of the region. The book has a detailed fold-out map.

Date Created

Subject Date

Publication Information

R. Bentley, London


Title in Original Language

Narrative of a journey to Kalât, Including an Account of the Insurrection at that Place in 1840; and a Memoir on Eastern Balochistan

Type of Item

Physical Description

463 pages : maps ; 22 centimeters


  1. Garry Alder, “Masson, Charles [formerly James Lewis] (1800‒1853),” in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford, U.K.: Oxford University Press, 2004).

Last updated: September 30, 2016