Claudius James Rich

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Claudius Rich

Claudius James Rich (28 March 1787 – 5 October 1821) was a British business agent, traveller and antiquarian scholar,[1]


Rich was born near Dijon.[2] His youth was spent at Bristol. Early on, he developed a gift for languages, becoming familiar not only with Latin and Greek but also with Hebrew, Syriac, Persian, Turkish and other Eastern tongues. In 1804 Rich went to Constantinople, where, and at Smyrna, he stayed some time, perfecting himself in Turkish.

Proceeding to Alexandria as assistant to the British consul-general there, he devoted himself to Arabic and its various dialects, and made himself master of Eastern manners and usages. On leaving Egypt he travelled by land to the Persian Gulf, disguised as a Mamluk, visiting Damascus, and entering the great mosque undetected. At Bombay, which he reached in September 1807, he was the guest of Sir James Mackintosh, whose eldest daughter Mary he married on 22 January 1808, proceeding soon after to Baghdad as resident.

There he began his investigations into the geography, history and antiquities of the district. He explored the remains of Babylon, and projected a geographical and statistical account of the pashalic of Bagdad. The results of his work at Babylon appeared first in the Vienna serial Mines de l'orient, and in 1839 in London under the title Narrative of a Journey to the Site of Babylon in 1811.

In 1813-14 Rich spent some time in Europe, and on his return to Bagdad devoted himself to the study of the geography of Asia Minor, and collected much information in Syriac and Chaldean Christian convents concerning the Yezidis. During this period he made a second excursion to Babylon, and in 1820 undertook an extensive tour to north of iraq, the chaldean villages, alongside al-Munshi al Baghdady[3]—from Bagdad north to Sulaimaniya, eastward to Sinna, then west to Nineveh, and thence down the Tigris to Bagdad. The narrative of this journey, which contained the first accurate knowledge (from scientific observation) regarding the topography and geography of the region, was published by his widow under the title, Narrative of a Residence in Koordistan and on the site of Ancient Nineveh, etc. (London, 1836).

In 1820 Rich went to Basra, whence he made an excursion to Shiraz, visiting the ruins of Persepolis and the other remains in the neighborhood. At Shiraz he died of cholera on 5 October 1821. Rich's collections of manuscripts and coins was purchased by the British Museum.[4]



  1. Public Domain This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Bringing Home the Exotic, Claudius James Rich, nysoclib, accessed August 2010
  3. Jwaideh, Wadie (2006). The Kurdish national movement : its origins and development (1. ed.). Syracuse, NY: Syracuse Univ. Press. p. 350. ISBN 0-8156-3093-X.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. The British Museum - Assyrian Sculpture, pg 6-7 (Julian Reade, 2004, ISBN 0-7141-2141-X)