July 27, 2016

Speeches by Lord Curzon of Kedleston

George Nathaniel Curzon (1859‒1925) served as viceroy and governor-general of India from 1899 to 1905. As the head of the British administration in India, he instituted sweeping reforms in the colonial bureaucracy, organized relief in the famine of 1899‒1900, and enacted agricultural reforms aimed at increasing food production. He also modernized the police, railways, educational system and universities, established the North-West Frontier Province (in present-day Pakistan) near the border with Afghanistan, created a directorate-general for archaeology, and launched an expanded program to restore important cultural and historical monuments in India, including, for example, the Taj Mahal. While widely praised for reforms that greatly benefited the people of India, Curzon has been criticized by historians for his fundamentally paternalistic attitude toward the country and his failure to recognize the emergence of the new nationalist elite associated with the Indian National Congress. Presented here is a four-volume compilation of the speeches given by Curzon during his tenure in India, published by the Indian government in Calcutta. Included are both statements to formal sessions of the Viceroy’s Legislative Council and addresses at conferences, meetings, and on ceremonial occasions. The speeches cover a vast array of topics, including the economy, budget and finance, civil and military administration, culture, art, and ancient monuments. A high point of Curzon’s time in India was the great durbar held in Delhi in January 1903 to celebrate the accession of King Edward VII. Curzon’s speeches at the events that were part of the durbar are contained in volume three. Also noteworthy is the last speech in volume four, Curzon’s farewell speech given at the Byculla Club in Bombay on November 16, 1905, in which he proclaimed that he had always striven for the good of India, and concluded: “I have worked for no other aim. Let India be my judge.” Curzon went on to serve in the House of Lords and as British foreign secretary from 1919 to 1924.

Letters about India: At the Afghan Frontier

James Darmesteter (1849‒94) was a great French Iranist who from 1885 occupied the chair of Persian language and literature at the Collège de France in Paris. His major fields of study were Iranian philology and the Zoroastrian religion. His greatest scholarly achievement was his translation of the Avesta, the surviving ancient sacred texts of the Zoroastrians. Darmesteter was also very interested in the language and history of Afghanistan. In 1886‒87 he undertook an 11-month philological mission to India, supported by the French Ministry of Education. He spent much of this time on the Northwest Frontier area of the Punjab, where he studied Pushto, not as a literary language from written texts but as a living language. Assisted by two local amanuenses, he transcribed the texts of songs as dictated by popular singers. Upon his return to Paris, Darmesteter published Chants populaires des Afghans (Popular songs of the Afghans), a collection of more than 100 songs in Pushto script, with annotated French translations. In 1888 Darmesteter also published an accompanying volume based on his travels on the Northwest Frontier, the work presented here: Lettres sur l’Inde: À la frontière afghane (Letters about India: At the Afghan frontier). The book contains short, literary chapters on Darmesteter’s journey; places such as Peshawar, Yagistan, Abbottabad, and Lahore; the Afghan dynasties and amirs; Afghan philosophy; the celebrated Afghan warrior-poet Khushal Khan Khatak (also seen as Khwushhal); and chapters that discuss the histories, culture, and contemporary situations of the Afridi, Baluchi, Ghilzai (or Ghilji), Pushtun, Hazara, and other peoples of Afghanistan and of present-day Pakistan.

Popular Songs of the Afghans

James Darmesteter (1849‒94) was a great French Iranist who from 1885 occupied the chair of Persian language and literature at the Collège de France in Paris. His major fields of study were Iranian philology and the Zoroastrian religion. His greatest scholarly achievement was his translation of the Avesta, the surviving ancient sacred texts of the Zoroastrians. Darmesteter was also very interested in the language and history of Afghanistan. In 1886‒87 he undertook an 11-month philological mission to India, supported by the French Ministry of Education. He spent much of this time on the Northwest Frontier area of the Punjab, where he studied Pushto, not as a literary language from written texts but as a living language. Assisted by two local amanuenses, he transcribed the texts of songs as dictated by popular singers. He supplemented his collection with songs written down by various British authors. Upon his return to Paris, Darmesteter published the work presented here, Chants populaires des Afghans (Popular songs of the Afghans), a collection of more than 100 songs in Pushto script, with annotated French translations. He grouped the songs in five categories: “Chansons historiques” (historical songs); “Chansons religieuses” (religious songs); “Légendes romanesques” (romances); “Chansons d’amour” (love songs), and “Moeurs et folklore” (customs and folklore). Darmesteter’s preface, which runs to more than 200 pages, includes a thorough analysis of Pushto phonology and morphology, a sketch of Afghan literature and history, and an overview of the popular literature of the Afghans. The book also includes several appendices and four indexes (lexicographic, personal names, geographic, and ethnic). The order of the work is: preface, French translations, appendices and indexes (all reading from left to right), and original Pushto texts (reading from right to left). Darmesteter published an accompanying volume based on his travels on the Northwest Frontier, Lettres sur l’Inde: À la frontière afghane (Letters about India: At the Afghan frontier).

History of the Samanids

Mir Khvand (1433‒98) was a leading 15th-century historian and historiographer in the service of the Timurid court at Herat, Afghanistan, under the patronage of Mir ʻAli-Sir Navaʼi. Mir Khvand wrote a world history in seven volumes extending up to 1506, the last volume of which was completed by his grandson, Khvand Mir, also a leading Persian historian. Histoire des Samanides (History of the Samanids) is a translation by the French orientalist Charles François Defrémery (1822‒83) of a part of the larger work. The book includes a brief introduction, the Persian text, the French translation, and a detailed set of notes that reflect Defrémery’s careful historical and linguistic scholarship. The Samanid Empire (819‒999) was founded by Saman Khuda, a landowner originally from Balkh in northern Afghanistan, in what are now eastern Iran and Uzbekistan. At its peak, the empire extended over parts of present-day Iran, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Tajikistan. The Samanids were known for their patronage of commerce, science, and the arts. They extended Persian and Islamic culture deep into Central Asia and even conducted trade with parts of Europe. The works of the poet Firdawsi, Samanid silver coins, and new forms of pottery are among the high points of Samanid culture. Defrémery also published an edited edition of another part of Mir Khvand’s history, L’histoire des sultans du Kharezm (1842). Defrémery was educated at the Collège de France and the École des Langues Orientales in Paris and taught for many years at the Collège de France. He published important scholarship on both Arabic and Persian literature and history and completed a translation from Chagatai Turkish into French of the memoirs of the Mughal emperor Babur.

Present-Day Persia

La Perse d'aujourd’hui is an account of trips made by the author in parts of Persia (present-day Iran) and Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq) in the second half of 1906 and the first half of 1907. The places visited included territories that as a consequence of later territorial changes are now in Azerbaijan and eastern Turkey. Mesopotamia was at this time part of the Ottoman Empire. The author, Léon Eugène Aubin Coullard Descos (1863‒1931), was a French diplomat and writer who served as the French minister in Tehran in 1905‒7. Most of the chapters are devoted to particular journeys and places, for example the road to Tauris (present-day Tabriz), the city of Tabriz, a journey around Lake Urmia (present-day Orumiyeh), the Kurdish regions west of Lake Orumiyeh, a journey from Tabriz to the Caspian, and a journey from Tehran to Isfahan and a sojourn in the city of Isfahan. Other chapters cover particular themes or topics, including Shiism, the Anglo-Russian Agreement of 1907, the Persian revolution of 1905‒6, Persian customs, and Shia holy cities. The book contains a large color fold-out map showing Persia and parts of Iraq, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, and Turkey, indicating Aubin’s routes in 1906‒7. An inset map in the upper right shows Lake Orumiyeh, with Tabriz to the east and Kurdistan to the west. A small inset map in the lower left shows the division of Persia into Russian, British, and neutral zones of influence under the Anglo-Russian Agreement of August 31, 1907. Aubin, who published several books under the pen name Eugène Aubin, was also the author of Les Anglais aux Indes et en Égypte (1899), Le Maroc d'aujourd'hui (1904), Le Chiisme et la Nationalité persane (1908), and En Haïti: Planteurs d'autrefois, nègres d'aujourd'hui (1910).

Memoirs and Correspondence of Major-General Sir William Nott

Sir William Nott (1782–1845) was an army officer in the East India Company who commanded British and Anglo-Indian forces in the First Anglo-Afghan War (1839–42). He was born into a farm family of modest means in Glamorganshire, Wales, and received a limited elementary education. He embarked for India in 1800, and received a commission in the army of the East India Company. For many years he commanded a succession of native infantry regiments. Throughout his military career he appreciated the military qualities of the sepoy (Indian soldiers serving in the army of the East India Company), which he compared favorably with those of the British soldier. A colonel before the Anglo-Afghan War began, Nott soon was promoted to general. He commanded British and native troops in several successful engagements and on January 13, 1842, was appointed commander of all British and Anglo-Indian troops in Lower Afghanistan and Sind. He won a major victory over Afghan forces near Ghazni on August 30, 1842, which led to the capture of Kabul and ultimately termination of the war. After service as resident at the court of Lucknow, Nott returned to England, where within two years he died. This book was compiled posthumously by J.H. Stocqueler, the author of several books of biography and British military history, using documents in the possession of Nott’s daughters. Volume two of the work has a long appendix containing documents relevant to Nott’s activities in Afghanistan, some by Nott himself but most by other officers. Nott is regarded by historians as by far the best British general in the Anglo-Afghan War.