The Land of the Lion and the Sun
: British Travel-­‐writing on Persia, 1890-­‐1940

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis explores the diversity and evolution of British travel-writing on Persia from 1890, and argues that as a liminal space with the British geo-political world view, Persia offered an especially fertile ground for travel-writers to record their experiences in a wide variety of forms and styles. Furthermore, European awareness of ancient and early modern Persian history, culture and literature colours many of the works, which are seen to evolve towards a more poetically inclined style of travel-literature in the 1920s and 1930s. With a structure which often compares men’s and women’s writing from the same decade, the selection of authors stresses travel-writing’s connections with other genres including journalism, war reportage, accounts of military exploration and missionary memoir. Over the fifty years of the thesis, Britain engaged deeply with Persian internal politics, and records emerge from soldiers, diplomats, missionaries and independent travellers.
The first chapter compares George Curzon’s Persia and the Persian Question (1892) with Ella Sykes’ Through Persia on a Side-Saddle (1896), particularly their implied readers. The second chapter compares Percy Sykes’ Ten Thousand Miles in Persia (1902), a cartographically and historically engaged text, with the work of a missionary, Mary Hume-Griffith, whose Behind the Veil (1906) considers the position of women in Persia, and implicitly in Britain. Chapter 3 discusses various engagements with the Persian Constitutional Revolution: the memoirs of journalists; the British Government’s Persia Committee; and the Persia Society. Chapter 4 looks at the war memoirs to emerge from Persia, then Vita Sackville-West’s two travelogues, Passenger to Teheran (1926) and Twelve Days (1928). The final chapter considers Freya Stark’s The Valleys of the Assassins (1934) and Robert Byron’s The Road to Oxiana (1937), reassessing the pair in the light of their predecessors.
Date of Award8 Aug 2012
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorRuvani Ranasinha (Supervisor) & Max Saunders (Supervisor)

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