Art And Culture

Passman Tate’s Travelogue in Persian

The original edition of the book: inside and coverThe original edition of the book: inside and cover

The travelogue of British geographer George Passman Tate across the regions of Sistan and Baluchestan has been translated into Persian by researcher of Sistan history, Hassan Ahmadi Karviq.

The original English title of the travelogue is ‘The Frontiers of Baluchistan: Travels on the Borders of Persia and Afghanistan.’ It is a monograph authored by Tate with an introduction by British Indian Army officer and diplomat Colonel Sir Henry McMahon who served twice as chief commissioner of Baluchestan.

Baluchistan is an arid desert and mountainous region in southwest Asia. It comprises the Pakistani province of Balochistan, Iranian province of Sistan-Baluchestan and the southern areas of Afghanistan including Nimruz, Helmand and Kandahar provinces.

Ahmadi Karviq’s translation is released in 200 pages by Mazyar Publications based in Tehran. The publishing house has also released ‘History of Sistan’s Physical Geography,’ authored by Karviq, ISNA reported.

First publication of the original book was in 1909 by the publishing group Witherby & Co. in London.

Born in 1856, Tate was a member of Asiatic Society, an India-based institution for Oriental research. He was a fellow of the Royal Geographic Society, UK’s learned society and professional body of geography. His date of death is not recorded.

He was an assistant superintendent employed by the Survey of India, an Indian agency in charge of mapping and surveying. He headed the surveys undertaken by two missions that determined large parts of the borders of Afghanistan, the Baluch-Afghan Boundary Commission of 1895-96 and the Sistan Arbitration Mission of 1903-5.


The first of Passman’s surveys was carried out to delimit the so-called Durand Line, the border between Afghanistan and British India (present-day Pakistan) that was negotiated during the 1893 mission to Kabul by Sir Mortimer Durand of the Indian government and codified in an agreement signed by Durand and the ruler of Afghanistan, Amir ‘Abd al-Rahman Khan.

The second survey was on Sistan, a region that straddles eastern Iran and southern Afghanistan (and parts of Pakistan). It was undertaken after the governments in Kabul and Tehran asked Britain to arbitrate the border between the two countries in the region.

The book contains an introduction by Colonel Sir Arthur Henry McMahon (11862-1949), the British commissioner on both missions. Most of the book is taken up by Tate’s account of the Sistan Mission.

He describes the journey overland from Quetta (in present-day Pakistan) to eastern Iran and the region of the marshy Hamun-i Helmand (present-day Daryacheh-ye Hamun) fed by the Helmand (Hirmand) River.

Tate offers vivid descriptions of the harsh and forbidding climate, the famous ‘Wind of 120 Days,’ and the people, economy, and social conditions of the region.

The final chapter is devoted to the Helmand River. The book includes illustrations and two fold-out maps, one showing the route of Tate’s travels, and another the region of the Daryacheh-ye Hamun.

The author describes the work of the surveying parties, but he offers little insight into the politics surrounding the determination of the borders, a topic which, as Sir Henry McMahon phrased it in his introduction, he “felt himself debarred from touching.” Tate filed a number of official reports in which these topics were discussed.


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