Narrative of a Journey from Heraut to Khiva, Moscow, and St. Petersburgh


James Abbott (1807‒96) was a British army officer who went to India in 1823. He participated in the Anglo-Indian invasion that precipitated the First Anglo-Afghan War (1839−42). He reached Kandahar in April 1839 and was a member of a political mission to Herat. In December 1839 he was sent on a mission to the Khanate of Khiva (in present-day Uzbekistan), which was under attack by a Russian military expedition and which had requested British help. The Russian expedition was ostensibly aimed at freeing Russian slaves held by the Khivans and ending attacks on caravans, but it was in fact intended to bring the khanate under Russian control. Abbott was unable to convince the khan of Khiva to free the Russian slaves in order to eliminate any pretext for Russian intervention, but he succeeded in convincing the khan to agree to a treaty that provided for the establishment of a British agent in Khiva and empowered the British to mediate between Khiva and Russia. Abbott then traveled to Saint Petersburg to pursue the mediation. He left Khiva in March 1840 and, after many adventures, which included being attacked and kidnapped by a band of Kazakhs, reached the Russian capital, where his efforts at mediation were rejected. He returned to England and eventually to his post in India. In 1843 he published his two-volume Narrative of a Journey from Heraut to Khiva, Moscow, and St. Petersburgh, presented here. The book contains a detailed account of Abbott’s mission, beginning with his departure from Herat and covering his journey through Turkestan, across Russia to Saint Petersburg, on to London, and finally back to Calcutta. Volume one contains a large fold-out map with the route of Abbott’s journey from Herat to Khiva and on to Orenburg, Russia. An interesting aspect of the book is the perspectives offered by Summud Khaun, an Afghan steward who accompanied Abbott on the entire journey, visiting places not only in Central Asia and Russia, but London, Paris, Genoa, Rome, Naples, Athens, and other European cities on the way back to India. Abbott offers many of his companion’s observations on European customs and conditions (he feels great pity at the poverty and squalor he sees in Naples, for example) under the heading “Summud Khauniana.” In 1845‒53 Abbott was commissioner of Hazara, India, where the city of Abbottabad is named for him.

Date Created

Subject Date

Publication Information

William H. Allen and Company, London


Title in Original Language

Narrative of a journey from Heraut to Khiva, Moscow, and St. Petersburgh, during the late Russian invasion of Khiva; with some account of the court of Khiva and the kingdom of Khaurism

Type of Item

Physical Description

2 volumes : illustrations, maps ; 20 centimeters


  1. R.H. Vetch, revised by Roger T. Stearn, “Abbott, Sir James (1807‒1896),” in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford, U.K.: Oxford University Press, 2004).

Last updated: August 17, 2016