Journey to the North of India, Overland from England, through Russia, Persia, and Affghaunistaun


Captain Arthur Conolly (1807–42?) was an intelligence officer of the British East India Company. After briefly attending Rugby School and the Addiscombe Military Seminary in England, he went to India in 1823 and enlisted as a cadet in the 6th Bengal Native Light Regiment. In 1829 Conolly was granted permission to return to India from sick leave in England via an overland route through Russia and Central Asia. Journey to the North of India, Overland from England, Through Russia, Persia, and Affghaunistaun, presented here, is Conolly’s two-volume account of this voyage. After arriving in Saint Petersburg by ship from England, Conolly travelled by land across Russia and through the Caucasus. He arrived in Herat, Afghanistan, in September 1830, and reached India in January 1831. Conolly describes such incidents as his failed attempt to travel in disguise through the khanate of Khiva and offers his impressions of the Sunni and Shia Muslim populations of the region. Conolly’s journey was a reconnaissance mission, conducted as part of the growing geopolitical rivalry between the British and Russian empires for control of Central Asia. It was in fact Conolly who is credited with coining the phrase the “Great Game” to describe this rivalry. Conolly later attempted to bring together the warring khanates of Bukhara, Khiva, and Kokand to counter the Russian encroachment on British India. In 1841, he set out to rescue Colonel Charles Stoddart, a British officer who was imprisoned by the amir of Bukhara. Both men ended up in jail and, about a year later, were beheaded in a public square in front of Bukhara’s Ark Fortress.

Last updated: March 23, 2017