The History of Persia, from the Most Early Period to the Present Time


Sir John Malcolm (1769–1833) was a British soldier, colonial administrator, diplomat, linguist, and historian. He was born in Scotland, left school at age 12, and, through an uncle, secured a position in the East India Company. While stationed in various parts of India as an officer in the company’s military forces, he became interested in foreign languages, which he studied diligently. He became fluent in Persian and, over the years, served as an interpreter and British envoy to Persia in various capacities. In 1815, he published his The History of Persia, From the Most Early Period to the Present Time, which earned him literary fame and an honorary doctorate from Oxford University. In two volumes, the book covers the period from the legendary Pishdadian Dynasty to the early 19th century. Malcolm drew on both written sources and his own extensive experiences in India and Persia. Volume 2 is particularly valuable as an account of Persia in the early 1700s, with descriptions of the country’s rulers, religions, government, and society. Although Malcolm deeply admired Persian culture and civilization, he believed that the country badly needed political reform, a subject that he addressed in the concluding section of the book. Translated into French in 1821 and German in 1830, The History of Persia was the standard Western work on Persia until the appearance, in 1915, of Percy Molesworth Sykes’s A History of Persia.

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John Murray, London


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2 volumes : folded map, 22 plates ; 32 centimeters


  1. Robert Eric Frykenberg, “Malcolm, Sir John (1769–1833),” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004).

Last updated: September 30, 2016