England and Russia in the East


Henry Creswicke Rawlinson (1810–95) was a British scholar and diplomat, best known for his contributions to the field of Assyriology. In 1827 he entered the service of the East India Company, where he held a variety of posts. He was involved in the reorganization of the Persian army in 1833‒39 and in 1843 was appointed political agent of the East India Company in Turkish Arabia. He later served as consul general in Baghdad, where, in addition to his official duties, he took part in archeological expeditions and worked at deciphering Akkadian cuneiform tablets. He returned to England in 1856 and in 1858 was elected to Parliament as a member of the Conservative Party. He served briefly as British minister to Persia, where he was known for his uncompromising attitude towards Russia, which he regarded as a growing threat to the security of British India and to British interests in the region. England and Russia in the East, published in 1875, is a collection of five essays by Rawlinson about Persian, Afghan, and Central Asian affairs, three of which are reprints of articles that appeared in the Calcutta Review and the Quarterly Review, and two of which were written for this volume. Rawlinson focuses on the perceived Russian threat and argues that “in the event of Russia’s approach to Herát, it will be indispensable to the safety of India that we should resume our military occupation of Western Afghanistán….”  Chapter four of the work, “Central Asia,” is the most scholarly and least polemical part of the book. It offers a comprehensive overview of the geography of the entire region, which Rawlinson defines as located “between the Russian empire to the North and the British-Indian empire to the south, including, perhaps, a portion of the Persian province of Khorassán to the west, and Chinese Turkestán to the east.” Rawlinson provides a wealth of detail about the region, drawn from all of the leading British, Russian, German, and French authorities as well as knowledge derived from his own travels and observations. Regional treaties dating from 1853 to 1874 are included in the appendix in whole or in extract.

Last updated: July 27, 2016