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  • Print publication year: 2006
  • Online publication date: March 2012

5 - Imperial Player: Richard Burton in Sindh


The Victorian traveller Sir Richard Burton (1821–90) became famous for his sensational narrative of a journey to Mecca in disguise in 1853, published in 1855–56. Less well-known is Burton's account of his travels in Sindh, in present-day Pakistan, from 1844 to 1849. Before embarking on his career as one of the leading explorers and adventurers in the nineteenth century, Burton was stationed in Gujarat as an officer in the Indian Army. It was here that his voracious appetite for Oriental languages and Oriental knowledge was whetted. Burton was transferred from Gujarat to the Indian Survey in Sindh, where he came to the attention of Sir Charles Napier (1809–54), who had conquered the province of Sindh in 1843. Napier required surveillance reports about the morale among the population. It was during the five years he spent in Sindh that Burton first tried his hand at impersonating natives, working as an undercover agent in disguise.

Burton's book Scinde; or, The Unhappy Valley was published in two volumes by Richard Bentley in 1851. As was customary in nineteenthcentury travel writing, it appeared together with a more ethnographic account, Sindh and The Races that Inhabit the Valley of the Indus; with Notices of the Topography and History of the Province, published by William H Allen & Co.

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Travel Writing in the Nineteenth Century
  • Online ISBN: 9781843317692
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