India Office Records: Resources for Iran

Early British envoys to the Qajar Court from a contemporary copy of a fresco originally in the Negarestan Palace, Tehran (Add.Or.1241)
Early British envoys to the Qajar Court from a contemporary copy of a fresco originally in the Negarestan Palace, Tehran (Add.Or.1241)

Official and private records created as a result of British contacts and relations with Iran (Persia) through the agency of the East India Company and, later, the British administration of India, from the 17th to the mid-20th centuries.

About the collection

The East India Company’s commercial and political relations began with the establishment in the early 17th century of factories at Shiraz, Isfahan and Bandar Abbas. Although trade was no longer of primary importance by the mid-18th century, the siting of what was to become the Political Residency in the Persian Gulf at Bushire in 1763 ensured continued British involvement in Persian affairs.

From 1798-1859 control of the British Mission at Tehran alternated between the Government of India and the Foreign Office. From 1859 onwards it was permanently assigned to the Foreign Office. However the Government of India and the India Office continued to be closely involved in Anglo-Persian relations and from the end of the 19th century they maintained their own consular representatives in posts throughout the country.

The official records relating to Iran are also complemented by collections of private papers of individuals who either travelled through, or were posted to the country or wider region.

Highlights include:

  • Factory records for Gombroon [Bandar Abbass] 1616-1763
  • Records of Captain John Malcolm’s missions to Persia 1799-1811
  • Records of the British Mission at Tehran whilst under the responsibility of the Government of India 1800-1857
  • Records relating to the Iranian Constitutional Revolution of 1905
  • Records relating to the signing of the D’Arcy Oil Concession and the work of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company

What is available online?

Digitised material relating to the Persian Gulf and the wider region may be found on the Qatar Digital Library.

The Asian and African Studies and the Untold Lives blogs also include many fascinating stories on a wide range of subjects covered by the collections.

Apart from the archival material described above, the British Library also holds extensive Persian Collections, including printed books and manuscripts.


What is available in our Reading Rooms?

The Asian and African Studies Reading Room is where original material is consulted.

The sources for Iran appear across a wide range of East India Company and India Office series, including East India Company General Correspondence; the Collections of the Board of Control; Factory Records; Departmental Records; Proceedings; and the Records of the Persian Gulf Residencies and Agencies.The A&AS Reading Room includes guides to these collections in addition to printed catalogues and open access reference books. The Reading Room PCs also give free access to a number of useful sites, such as Find My Past and Nineteenth Century Collections Online.

What is available in other organisations?

Responsibility for the British Mission at Tehran alternated between the Government of India and the Foreign Office until 1859, when responsibility was transferred permanently to the latter. These Foreign Office records can be searched online using the National Archives Discovery catalogue.

Further information

Further reference works on these collections

  • Penelope Tuson, The Records of the British Residency and Agencies in the Persian Gulf (London, 1979).
  • “India Office Records” in N Mathews and M D Wainwright, A Guide to Manuscripts and Documents in the British Isles relating to the Middle East and North Africa, (Oxford, 1980)
  • Charles Umpherston Aitchison, A collection of treaties, engagements, and sunnuds relating to India and neighbouring countries (Calcutta 1865).
  • John Gordon Lorimer, Gazetteer of the Persian Gulf, Oman and Central Arabia (Reprint, Farnborough, 1970)
  • R N Schofield (ed.) The Iran-Iraq Border 1840-1958 (Archive Editions, 1989)
  • Political diaries of the Persian Gulf (Archive Editions, 1990)
  • Oil concession (Archive Editions, 1994)

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