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LORD CURZON AND E. G. BROWNE CONFRONT THE ‘PERSIAN QUESTION’*

  • CHRISTOPHER N. B. ROSS (a1)
Abstract
ABSTRACT

As British efforts to secure the approaches to India intensified in the closing years of the nineteenth century, expert knowledge of the states bordering the subcontinent became an increasingly sought-after commodity. Particularly high demand existed for individuals possessing first-hand experience of Qajar Persia, a state viewed by many policymakers as a vulnerable anteroom on the glacis of the Raj. Britain's two foremost Persian experts during this period were George Nathaniel Curzon and Edward Granville Browne. While Curzon epitomized the traditional gentleman amateur, Browne embodied the emerging professional scholar. Drawing on both their private papers and publications, this article analyses the relationship between these two men as well as surveys their respective views of British policy toward Iran from the late 1880s until the end of the First World War. Ultimately it contends that Curzon's knowledge of Persia proved deficient in significant ways and that Anglo-Iranian relations, at least in the aftermath of the Great War, might well have been placed on a better footing had Browne's more nuanced understanding of the country and its inhabitants prevailed within the foreign policymaking establishment.

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Magdalene College, Cambridge, CB3 0AGcnr28@cam.ac.uk
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*

Research for this article was made possible by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the Cambridge Commonwealth Trust, and the Canadian Centennial Scholarship Fund. It is based on papers delivered to the Nordic Summer School in Contemporary History, St Petersburg, Russia, and the World History Seminar and Churchill Era and Beyond Postgraduate Conference, Cambridge, England. I am greatly indebted to Ali Ansari, Sir Christopher Bayly, Piers Brendon, John Gurney, Edward Ingram, David Motadel, Tom Rodgers, Douglas Ross, Veronica Strong-Boag, Carl Emil Vogt, and the anonymous referees of the Historical Journal for their constructive comments on earlier drafts. All the usual disclaimers apply. As this article was initially composed in Tehran during the summer of 2007, I would also like to extend my deepest thanks to all members of the Doroudian family, whose extraordinary hospitality and stimulating conversation made for a wonderful stay in the Iranian capital.

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1 While Curzon has been the subject of several biographies, most prominently David Gilmour's recent Curzon: imperial statesman (London, 1994; 2nd edn, 2003), for a full-length portrait of Browne we must await John Gurney's much anticipated monograph.

2 Curzon at Wixenford and Browne at Burnside's.

3 K. Rose, Superior person: a portrait of Curzon and his circle in late Victorian England (London, 1969), pp. 42–3; E. G. Browne, A year amongst the Persians: impressions as to the life, character, and thought of the people of Persia (Cambridge, 1893; 2nd edn, 1926), p. 7.

4 It is beyond the scope of this article to discuss both Curzon's and Browne's orientalism as it relates to Edward W. Said's arguments. For such an analysis see chs. 4 and 5 devoted to Curzon and Browne respectively in G. P. Nash, From empire to Orient: travellers to the Middle East, 1830–1926 (London, 2005), pp. 107–68. While Curzon in many ways epitomized the orientalist tradition which Said excoriated in Orientalism (New York, NY, 1978), Browne should by no means be tarred with the same brush. As Abbas Amanat has argued, ‘Browne's liberal defense of Iran and its revolution, in open defiance of the prevailing imperialism of his time, are essentially at variance with the negative stereotype of orientalism developed in our time by such critics as Edward Said.’ A. Amanat, ‘Edward Browne and the Persian Revolution of 1905–1909’, in E. G. Browne, The Persian revolution, ed. A. Amanat (Washington, DC, 2006), p. x. Thus as another scholar reminds us, ‘Imperialism and its multifarious consequences were, and remain, undeniable facts. But that does not sanction an ahistorical and crude equation of imperialism with the entire range of Western encounters with and representations of Oriental societies.’ M. Bonakdarian, Britain and the Iranian constitutional revolution of 1906–1911: foreign policy, imperialism, and dissent (Syracuse, NY, 2006), p. xxiv.

5 G. N. Curzon, Speeches by Lord Curzon of Kedleston, viceroy and governor-general of India, 1898–1901 (Calcutta, 1901), i, p. v.

6 K. J. M. Smith, ‘Stephen, Sir James Fitzjames’, in vol. lii of H. C. G. Matthew and B. Harrison, eds., Oxford dictionary of national biography: from the earliest times to the year 2000 (Oxford, 2004), p. 441.

7 Browne, A year amongst the Persians, p. 8.

8 Ibid. Browne's instinctive sympathy for the underdog may well have been fostered by his family's Christian puritanical nonconformism. As Abbas Amanat suggested, ‘Browne's tempered dissent must have allowed him to see the weak and empathize with the underprivileged.’ Amanat, ‘Edward Browne’, p. xii. For a more extensive discussion of this aspect of Browne's personality and upbringing we must await John Gurney's biography.

9 Significantly, it was Jowett, having been one of the first Oxbridge dons to encourage the admission of non-Europeans, who brought Curzon in contact with presumably his first real life Persian, Abolqasem Qaragozlu (1856–1927). Curzon's Balliol friend, Cecil Spring-Rice (1859–1918), described the latter as one of Jowett's ‘oriental pets … and an eloquent opponent of Curzon's in our debating society’. After 1887 known by his aristocratic title, Naser al Molk, Oxford's first Persian went on to become his country's prime minister as well as regent to the last Qajar shah. Spring-Rice as qu. in S. Gwynne, ed., The letters and friendships of Sir Cecil Spring-Rice (2 vols., London, 1929), p. 288. For further on the transnational life of Naser al Molk see D. Wright, The Persians amongst the English: episodes in Anglo-Persian history (London, 1985), pp. 143–5.

10 Curzon's classical education exerted a continuing powerful influence. As Robert Irwin posited, ‘when one considers the great British imperial proconsuls, such as Lord Curzon or Lord Cromer, their mindset and the ways in which they thought about the native peoples they governed owed more to their reading of Caesar, Tacitus and Suetonius than it did to any substantial familiarity with Orientalist texts’. R. Irwin, For lust of knowing: the orientalists and their enemies (London, 2006), p. 288. See also P. Kennedy, The realities behind diplomacy: background influences on British external policy, 1865–1980 (London, 1981), p. 60; P. Brendon, The decline and fall of the British empire, 1781–1997 (London, 2007), pp. xv–xviii and passim.

11 Curzon as qu. in Gilmour, Curzon: imperial statesman, p. 28. During this period, Curzon's imperious demeanour inspired the doggerel that would haunt him the rest of his life: ‘My name is George Nathaniel Curzon, I am a most superior person. My hair is soft, my face is sleek, I dine at Blenheim once a week.’ Balliol College, The masque of Balliol (Oxford, 1881), p. 45.

12 For more on Browne in Istanbul see J. Gurney, ‘E. G. Browne and the Iranian community in Istanbul’, in T. Zarcone and F. Zarinebaf-Shahr, eds., Les Iraniens d'Istanbul (Paris, 1993), pp. 149–75.

13 Membership of these two groups offered Curzon a range of valuable social connections. The leading member of the Souls, for instance, was A. J. Balfour (1848–1930), nephew of the prime minister, Lord Salisbury (1830–1903), and a future premier himself. The founder of the Crabbet Club, meanwhile, was the oriental traveller, poet, and hedonist, Wilfrid Scawen Blunt (1840–1922), who eventually developed a close friendship with Browne.

14 Browne, A year amongst the Persians, p. 16.

15 Ibid., p. 17.

16 Ibid., p. 3.

17 Curzon as qu. in Gilmour, Curzon, p. 65.

18 Salisbury as qu. in W. J. Olson, Anglo-Iranian relations during World War I (London, 1984), p. 1.

19 E. Abrahamian, A history of modern Iran (Cambridge, 2008), pp. 1–2. For a treatment of Persia's ‘tribal question’ see R. Tapper, ‘The tribes in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Iran’, in P. Avery, G. Hambly, and C. Melville, eds., The Cambridge history of Iran, vol. 7: from Nadir Shah to the Islamic Republic (Cambridge, 1991), pp. 506–41; S. Cronin, Tribal politics in Iran: rural conflict and the new state, 1921–1941 (London, 2007).

20 A. M. Ansari, Modern Iran since 1921: the Pahlavis and after (London, 2003), p. 12.

21 Abrahamian E., ‘Oriental despotism: the case of Qajar Iran’, International Journal of Middle East Studies, 5 (Jan., 1974), pp. 331; and Abrahamian, A history of modern Iran, pp. 8–9, 31–3.

22 P. J. Cain and A. G. Hopkins, British imperialism, 1688–2000 (London, 1993; 2nd edn, 2002), pp. 351–9. For a detailed account of the Imperial Bank of Persia see G. Jones, Banking and empire in Iran: the history of the British bank of the Middle East, i (Cambridge, 1986).

23 For further discussion of the Qajars' failed attempts to reform and Persia's ensuing financial crises see S. Bakhash, Iran: monarchy, bureaucracy and reform under the Qajars, 1858–1896 (London, 1958); Avery P. W. and Simmons J. B., ‘Persia on a cross of silver, 1880–1890’, Middle Eastern Studies, 10 (1974), pp. 259–86; F. Kazemzadeh, Russia and Britain in Persia, 1864–1914: a study in imperialism (New Haven, CT, 1968), pp. 302–85; and, more generally, C. Issawi, The economic history of Iran, 1800–1914 (Chicago, IL, 1971).

24 Browne, A year amongst the Persians, p. 475.

25 Though much is often made of the friendships Browne cultivated with the Iranian ‘grassroots’, including the heretic and the downtrodden, his privileged access to expatriate community networks in London and Constantinople facilitated contacts with high-ranking Persians. The Cambridge don's interview with the Qajar aristocrat, Moshir al Dowleh, confirms contacts well beyond the lower ranks of Iranian society. See ibid., p. 106.

26 A. J. Arberry, Oriental essays: portraits of seven scholars (London, 1960), p. 171.

27 C. A. Bayly, ‘The Orient: British historical writing about Asia since 1890’, in P. Burke, ed., History and historians in the twentieth century (Oxford, 2002), p. 93.

28 Moreover, as Ali Ansari emphasized, much of the reason for the West's persistent miscomprehension of Iran stems from the fact that its experts have long been severely lacking in cultural empathy. Ansari, Modern Iran since 1921, p. 10.

29 G. N. Curzon, Russia in Central Asia and the Anglo-Russian question (London, 1889), p. 275.

30 G. N. Curzon, Persia and the Persian question (2 vols., London, 1892), i, pp. 29–30.

31 ‘Workers and their work’, Pearson's Weekly, 13 May 1893.

32 While Foreign Office personnel in Persia significantly assisted Curzon, his most valued source was Albert Houtum-Schindler (1846–1916). A German national resident in Persia since 1868, Houtum-Schindler had held long-term positions with both the Indo-European Telegraph Company and the shah's Persia service. His knowledge of Iran was unrivalled by any other European of his generation. Browne also acknowledged Schindler as possessing ‘probably more knowledge about geography, ethnology, and local dialects of Persia than any man living’. Browne, A year amongst the Persians, p. 203.

33 Curzon, Persia, i, p. x.

34 Writing to his publisher in February 1891, he emphasized: ‘It is not a work of travel. It is to be an authoritative work (I trust) of permanent value, which will be read and referred to, twenty, fifty, and perhaps more years hence, when lighter productions that sold well in their day are forgotten.’ Curzon to T. N. Longman, 20 Feb. 1891, as qu. in Earl of Ronaldshay, The life of Lord Curzon (3 vols., London, 1927), i, p. 157.

35 As he outlined in the preface, the two-volume, nearly 1,300 page monograph, would deal with ‘every aspect of public life in Persia, with its inhabitants, provinces, cities, lines of communication, antiquities, government institutions, resources, trade, finance, policy, and present and future development – in a word, with all that has made or continues to make it a nation’. Curzon, Persia, i, p. viii.

36 Before departing for Persia Curzon flippantly claimed that having read every work on Iran in the reading room of the British Museum he knew the country so well that he hardly needed to travel there. Sir I. Malcolm, The pursuits of leisure (London, 1929), p. 137.

37 Curzon, Persia, i, p. xii.

38 Ibid., i, p. ix.

39 Ibid., i, p. 2.

40 H. Nicolson, Curzon: the last phase, 1919–1925 (London, 1934), pp. 120–1.

41 Sir J. Malcolm, The history of Persia, from the most early period to the present time (London, 1815). As C. A. Bayly argued, Malcolm essentially provided ‘the rail-tracks on which many histories of Persia would continue to move until the 1930s’. Bayly, ‘The Orient’, p. 101.

42 Browne to Curzon, 8 and 16 June 1892, London, British Library (BL), Curzon papers, MSS Eur. f111.58-9.

43 Browne, A year amongst the Persians, pp. 1, 2.

44 Ibid., pp. 410–11, 133.

45 Gurney, ‘E. G. Browne’, p. 152. Browne became especially fascinated by the Babi faith. For his scholarship on Babi doctrine and history see A. Amanat, Resurrection and renewal: the making of the Babi movement in Iran, 1844–1850 (Ithaca, NY, 1989), pp. 423–4, 439; H. Baluyzi, Edward Granville Browne and the Baha'i faith (Oxford, 1970).

46 For further discussion of Browne's role as a critic of British foreign policy see Bonakdarian, Britain and the Iranian constitutional revolution, passim; McLean D., ‘A professor extraordinary: E. G. Browne and his Persian campaign, 1908–1913’, Historical Journal, 21 (1978), pp. 399408; A. J. A. Morris, Radicalism against war, 1906–1914 (London, 1972), pp. 186, 257, 272–4; A. J. P. Taylor, The troublemakers (London, 1964), pp. 15, 96, 115.

47 Browne described the reigning Persian monarch, Naser al Din Shah Qajar (1831–96), as ‘a selfish despot, devoid of public spirit’. Browne, A year amongst the Persians, p. 99. Significantly, Curzon's assessment of the Shah – whom he interviewed during his visit – was similarly negative and Lord Salisbury in fact required him to excise some of his harsher judgements about the monarch from the final manuscript for Persia and the Persian question.

48 See, for instance, ibid., pp. 91, 99.

49 Salisbury as qu. in A. Roberts, Salisbury: Victorian titan (London, 1999), pp. 691–2.

50 Bayly, ‘The Orient’, p. 92.

51 As Sir Edward Denison Ross remarked in his 1926 preface to the second edition of A year amongst the Persians, when initially published in 1893 it had ‘somehow failed to attract the attention it deserved’. Browne, A year amongst the Persians, p. vii.

52 G. Curzon, ‘Reviews. A new book on Persia’, 10 Feb. 1894, Pall Mall Gazette.

53 E. G. Browne, ‘The Persian language’, 17 Feb. 1894, Pall Mall Gazette.

54 That publishers Macmillan and Methuen selected Curzon and Browne to introduce their respective 1895 editions testified to the stature of both as among Britain's leading Persian experts. For Curzon's introduction, see J. Morier, The adventures of Hajji Baba of Ispahan (London: Macmillan, 1828; 1895) and for Browne's, see J. Morier, The adventures of Hajji Baba of Ispahan (London: Methuen, 1828; 1895).

55 Morier, Hajji Baba (Macmillan), pp. x, xiv.

56 Curzon, Persia, ii, p. 632, i, p. 462.

57 Ibid., ii, p. 628.

58 Morier, Hajji Baba (Methuen), pp. xi–xii.

59 Ibid., p. xii.

60 As he remarked in one passage from Persia and the Persian question, ‘knowing well, as I do, that the ways of the East and West are wide asunder as the poles’. Curzon, Persia, i, pp. 464–5.

61 While Browne's conviction that the division separating East from West was highly exaggerated can be glimpsed in numerous passages in A year amongst the Persians, it was perhaps best articulated in an unpublished essay entitled ‘The outlook of Asia’. In the paper Browne declared: ‘Indeed the favourite antithesis between East and West seems to me to have been very much overdone, and almost as much might be advanced in favour of a similar antithesis between North and South.’ E. G. Browne, ‘The outlook of Asia’ (unpublished essay, 1911), Cambridge, Cambridge University Library (CUL), Browne Pembroke papers, box 5.

62 Curzon, Persia, ii, p. 629. G. N. Curzon, ‘Persian politics’, Vanity Fair, 4 July 1891. As Nikki Keddie further elaborated, ‘The protest against the tobacco concession was the first successful mass movement in modern Iranian history, and led to a defeat of the government and triumph of the protesters in their demand for a total cancellation of the concession. This success undoubtedly gave courage to the conscious opponents of the government and of foreign encroachments, and led many to see for the first time that it was possible to defeat the government, even on a matter involving European interests. The movement involved the first successful alliance between the ulama, modernizing reformers, and the discontented population of Iran, particularly the merchants – an alliance which was to reappear in later protests and to come to fruition in the Constitutional Revolution.’ N. R. Keddie, Religion and rebellion in Iran: the tobacco protest of 1891–1892 (London, 1966) p. xix. For further corroboration that the protest represented a major turning point in Iranian history see R. W. Cottam, Nationalism in Iran (Pittsburgh, PA, 1964), pp. 12–15.

63 See chs. 5 and 6 in volume i, and ch. 2 in volume ii. D. Dilks, Curzon in India (2 vols., London, 1969).

64 Dilks's unconvincing explanation for the controversy was simply that the ‘Persian passion for etiquette obtruded itself’. Dilks, Curzon in India, p. 65.

65 For a detailed analysis of Curzon's role in contributing to the ‘Bushehr Incident’, await ch. 3 in C. N. B. Ross, ‘Lord Curzon, Persia, and geopolitics, 1888–1921’ (anticipated Ph.D. thesis, Cambridge, 2009).

66 Abrahamian, A history of modern Iran, p. 41.

67 Ibid., p. 52. For recent treatments of Iran's constitutional revolution see V. Martin, Islam and modernism: the Iranian revolution of 1906 (London, 1989); M. Bayat, Iran's first revolution: Shi'ism and the constitutional revolution of 1905–1909 (Oxford, 1991).

68 Curzon further observed, quite prophetically, ‘I have been reluctantly driven to the conclusion that, whatever may be the ultimate effects produced, we have thrown away to a large extent the efforts of our diplomacy and of our trade for more than a century; and I do not feel at all sure that this treaty, in its Persian aspect, will conduce either to the security of India, to the independence of Persia, or to the peace of Asia.’ House of Lords, Parliamentary Debates, 183 (1908), col. 1014, 29 Jan. 1908.

69 Browne fought an ongoing battle with David Fraser, the Times correspondent in Persia who took every opportunity to denigrate the constitutional movement. See, for instance, D. Fraser, Persia and Turkey in revolt (London, 1910), passim.

70 McLean, ‘A professor extraordinary’, pp. 400, 406.

71 McLean D., ‘English radicals, Russia, and the fate of Persia, 1907–1913’, English Historical Review, 93 (Apr. 1978), p. 347.

72 Ibid., p. 340; McLean, ‘A professor extraordinary’, pp. 401–6; M. Bonakdarian, ‘Selected correspondence of E. G. Browne’, in Browne, The Persian revolution, ed. Amanat, pp. xix–lxiv.

73 Browne E. G., ‘The Persian view of the Anglo-Russian agreement’, Albany Review, 2 (Dec. 1907), p. 288. Later he went on to explain, ‘It has been the modern fashion to ascribe [Iran's] decline to the worthlessness of the Persians, but this estimate of the national character is disputed by many of those who have known them well enough to appreciate not only their charms but their virtues.’ Browne E. G., ‘The Persian crisis: rebirth or death?’, English Review, 3 (Aug. 1909), p. 173.

74 Browne E. G., ‘The Persian crisis: a reply’, Fortnightly Review, 502, New Series (1 Oct. 1908), p. 687.

75 For an extensive treatment of the Persia Committee's activities and membership see Bonakdarian, Britain and the Iranian constitutional revolution; and Bonakdarian M., ‘The Persia committee and the constitutional revolution in Iran’, British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, 18 (1991), pp. 186207.

76 In November and December 1911 Russia delivered two ultimata to the Majles deputies threatening the occupation of Tehran unless Morgan Shuster was dismissed. Ultimately, this pressure produced a coup d'état and the new government sent Shuster home. For a detailed account of these events see R. A. McDaniel, The Shuster mission and the Persian constitutional revolution (Minneapolis, MN, 1974).

77 Earl Curzon of Kedleston, ‘Persian autonomy’, 15 Nov. 1911, BL, Curzon papers, MSS. Eur. f111.249, p. 4.

78 Ibid., p. 5.

80 Ibid., p. 10.

81 Browne felt the speech significant enough to deserve mention in the ‘Chronology of the Persian revolution’ which he compiled for his The press and poetry of modern Persia (1914). See E. G. Browne, The press and poetry of modern Persia (Cambridge, 1914), p. 332.

82 Curzon to Browne, 19 Nov. 1911, CUL, E. G. Browne papers, box 9, bundle 10.

83 Browne further arranged to wire copies of the speech to several of his correspondents in Tehran. H. F. B. Lynch to Browne, 23 and 27 Nov. 1911, CUL, E. G. Browne papers, box 11.

84 Shuster to Browne, 29 Nov. 1911, CUL, E. G. Browne papers, box 9, bundle 10.

85 Shuster to Browne, 6 Dec. 1911, CUL, E. G. Browne papers, box 9, bundle 5.

86 ‘England and the Russo-Persian dispute', Morning Post, 15 Dec. 1911.

87 Browne's most recent monograph, which related the vicissitudes of the Persian constitutional movement up to 1909, was largely based on eye-witness accounts relayed to him by his friends and former students resident in Iran. Curzon appears to have been grateful for Browne's kind gesture, expressing ‘his utmost gratitude+pride at possessing [the book]’. Curzon to Browne, 7 Dec. 1911, CUL, E. G. Browne papers, box 9, bundle 10.

88 In the last weeks of December 1911 Browne wrote to Curzon requesting he preside over a January gathering of the Persia Committee. Disappointed with the negative turn of events on the ground in Iran as well as Grey's seeming intractability, Curzon declined. Browne to Curzon, 20 Dec. 1911, BL, Curzon papers, MSS Eur. f112.250; Curzon to Browne, 25 Dec. 1911, CUL, E. G. Browne papers, box 9, bundle 10.

89 McLean, ‘A professor extraordinary’, p. 408.

90 For an engaging study of these years see J. Siegel, Endgame: Britain, Russia, and the final struggle for Central Asia (London, 2002).

91 Gurney, ‘E. G. Browne’, p. 171; Arberry, Oriental essays, p. 186.

92 Series of letters from G. W. Prothero (of the FO's historical section) to Browne, between Aug. 1917 and Oct. 1919, CUL, Browne Pembroke papers, box 2, packet 1.

93 Prothero to Browne, 16 Aug. 1917, CUL, Browne Pembroke papers, box 2, packet 1.

94 Hardinge to Browne, 3 June 1919, CUL, Browne Pembroke papers, box 2, packet 1; minute by Lancelot Oliphant, 13 Sept. 1920; Stephen Gaselee to Prothero, 15 Sept. 1920, Kew, the National Archives, FO 370/122, L922/6/405.

95 This governmental Persia Committee, comprised of representatives from the Foreign Office, War Office, and India Office, should, of course, not be confused with Browne's earlier lobby group of the same name. For an insightful account of the powerful influence the Persia and Eastern Committees exerted upon British foreign policy toward the Middle East, see J. Darwin, Britain, Egypt, and the Middle East: imperial policy in the aftermath of war, 1918–1922 (London, 1981).

96 Lord Lamington, colonial governor and first president of the Persia Society, was well known in Britain and Iran for his highly sympathetic view of Persia and its inhabitants. ‘Persia Committee minutes’, 12 Jan. 1918, BL, Curzon papers, MSS. Eur. f.112.271, fos. 32–5.

97 E. G. Browne, ‘Hope for Persia: the new British policy’, 26 Jan. 1918, Manchester Guardian.

99 An account of Browne's lecture appeared in ‘The future of Persia. Professor Browne's five points’, 7 Feb. 1918, Manchester Guardian.

100 An extensive search of both Curzon's and Browne's correspondence yielded nothing for these years.

101 In December 1918 one Dr Marrable wrote to Browne, ‘I shall be glad to hear of the result of your letter to Lord Curzon.’ Marrable to Browne, 4 Dec. 1918, CUL, E. G. Browne papers, box 12, bundle 1.

102 As William Olson remarked, Anglo-Iranian relations in 1919 were ‘Curzon-Iranian relations’. W. J. Olson, ‘The genesis of the Anglo-Persian Agreement of 1919’, in E. Kedourie and S. G. Haim, eds., Towards a modern Iran: studies in thought, politics, and society (London, 1980), p. 188.

103 Nicolson, Curzon, p. 121.

104 For treatment of Curzon's repeated dismissal of the government of India's concerns see Olson, ‘The genesis of the Anglo-Persian Agreement of 1919’, pp. 190–4 and passim.

105 For corroboration that the Anglo-Persian Agreement would have effectively made Iran a veiled protectorate within the British empire see, for instance, Abrahamian, A history of modern Iran, p. 60; Ansari, Modern Iran since 1921, p. 23; Darwin, Britain, Egypt, and the Middle East, p. 185; and Cottam, Nationalism in Iran, p. 182. While Curzon repeatedly denied such an intent, a glimpse of his true sentiment can be gleaned from his revealing letter to Lord Milner in January 1920, ‘You and I agree that these Eastern peoples with whom we have to ride pillion have different seats from Europeans and it does not seem to me to matter much whether we put them on the saddle in front of us, or whether they cling on behind and hold us round the waist. The great thing is that the firm seat in the saddle shall be ours.’ Curzon to Lord Milner, 3 Jan. 1920, BL, Curzon papers, MSS. Eur. f112.213a.

106 For coverage of the widespread Iranian opposition to the Anglo-Persian treaty see Katouzian H., ‘The campaign against the Anglo-Iranian Agreement of 1919’, British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, 25 (May 1998), pp. 546.

107 ‘Cuttings on Asia and India, vol. v’, July 1912 – Mar. 1922, London, BL, Curzon papers, MSS. Eur. f112.593, fo. 46.

108 E. G. Browne's name appears on the published guest list of the dinner at the Carlton Hotel. ‘Lord Curzon on Persia’, 19 Sept. 1919, Times.

109 Browne to Blunt, 23 Mar. 1920, Cambridge, Fitzwilliam Museum, Blunt papers, MS 1020–1977.

110 B. Disraeli, Tancred (London, 1870).

111 As A. C. Benson (1862–1925), the master of Magdalene College, Cambridge, acidly observed in his diary after meeting Curzon in late 1913, ‘Curzon's a failure, on the whole … If he hadn't had birth+rank, he wd. now have been an Oxford Professor, I think – not much liked, but rather feared. That's what he really is.’ ‘A. C. Benson diary’, 4 Oct.–21 Nov. 1913, Cambridge, Old Library, Magdalene College, Benson papers, vol. 141, fos. 40–1.

112 Curzon, Persia, ii, pp. 356–7.

113 Browne, A year amongst the Persians, p. 277.

114 Browne's skill as a Persian expert thus seems linked to his humanism and empathy. As R. A. Nicholson observed, ‘He was the most human of men, and if he ranks among the greatest Orientalists it is because he was also, I suppose, the greatest humanist who has ever devoted himself to studying the life, thought, and literature of the East.’ Nicholson as qu. in Arberry, Oriental essays, p. 192.

* Research for this article was made possible by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the Cambridge Commonwealth Trust, and the Canadian Centennial Scholarship Fund. It is based on papers delivered to the Nordic Summer School in Contemporary History, St Petersburg, Russia, and the World History Seminar and Churchill Era and Beyond Postgraduate Conference, Cambridge, England. I am greatly indebted to Ali Ansari, Sir Christopher Bayly, Piers Brendon, John Gurney, Edward Ingram, David Motadel, Tom Rodgers, Douglas Ross, Veronica Strong-Boag, Carl Emil Vogt, and the anonymous referees of the Historical Journal for their constructive comments on earlier drafts. All the usual disclaimers apply. As this article was initially composed in Tehran during the summer of 2007, I would also like to extend my deepest thanks to all members of the Doroudian family, whose extraordinary hospitality and stimulating conversation made for a wonderful stay in the Iranian capital.

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