Memoirs of Baghdad, Kurdistan & Turkish Arabia 1857

  (13) 978-1-85207-099-1   Extent:  1 volume, 500 pages, including 30 maps & plates
Author:J Commander J.F. Jones, (I.N.), with a preface by Dr R.M. Burrell, S.O.A.S., London   Published: 1998
Paper: Printed on acid free paper
Binding: Library bindings with gilt finish
See sample pages: not available

Records of the Bombay Government, No. XLIII, Memoirs of Baghdad, Kurdistan and Turkish Arabia 1857, is a nineteenth-century original with a new preface by the late Dr R.M. Burrell, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. The volume includes six important historical, archaeological and geographical essays covering Baghdad, the Nahrwan canal and large parts of Kurdistan, the topography of Nineveh and the old course of the River Tigris. Also included are some 30 maps and plates, many in colour, most notably the ground-plan of Baghdad.
The author and surveyor, Commander J.F. Jones, joined the Bombay Marine - later renamed the Indian Navy - at the age of 14. By the late summer of 1839 he had begun work in the Persian Gulf, where he was to spend most of the next 25 years. He was Political Agent in Bushire from 1855 to 1862 and had an important role to play in the British invasion of southern Persia in 1856.


The volume includes six important historical, archaeological and geographical essays:
Journal of a Steam-trip to the North of Baghdad, 1846
One of the places of great interest to Jones was Samarrah, on the east bank of the Tigris. This had been the capital city of the Abbasid Caliphate for most of the ninth century A.D., and was then one of the largest and most splendid cities in the Middle East. This report includes illustrations of the tombs of the tenth and eleventh Imams who were buried there. Another illustration shows the distinctive spiral minaret which dates from the middle of the ninth century.
Matters relating to irrigation and water supplies figure prominently in Jones´ observations, and he refers to the ancient Nahrwan canal and to the Median Wall mentioned by Xenophon. These were to form the destinations of separate exploratory survey expeditions later. (See the second and fourth reports in this volume.)
Another place of interest which Jones visited, and where he met the local Governor, was Tekrit, some 140 miles by river north of Baghdad. Jones was among the earliest European visitors to that town, and his drawings of it are therefore of considerable interest.

Journey for the purpose of determining the Tract of the Ancient Nahrwan Canal, 1848
This report, which is the longest in the volume, consists of two parts. The first is a detailed review of the history of the canal; the second describes his journey and personal observations, together with some remarks deriving from a further visit to the area in the Spring of 1849.
The purpose of the canal, which was built in the Sassanian period, was twofold. One was to provide the possibility of year-round navigation between Samarrah and Kut al-Imara, so obviating the problems created by the sharp seasonal fluctuations in the flow of the Tigris which had caused so many difficulties for Jones. The second purpose was to irrigate a very large area of land. The scheme was massive in its conception, and the canal can indeed be regarded as one of the greatest marvels of ancient engineering.
It is worth adding that it was this report by Jones which helped to encourage the famous British hydraulic engineer, Sir William Willcocks, in the early years of the twentieth century, to devise his plans for massive irrigation schemes in southern Iraq, some of which were based on the ancient ones.

Journey to the Frontier of Turkey and Persia, through a part of Kurdistan, 1844
The reasons for this expedition were geopolitical in nature. There was, at the time, growing tension between the Ottoman Empire and Persia over their common border. As Jones´ report repeatedly makes clear, the power of both the Ottoman and Qajar Governments was weak and tenuous throughout much of the border region. While some of the tribes who resided there were often mutually suspicious, and indeed sometimes violently hostile towards each other, none of them wished to see any strengthening whatsoever in the authority of either the Sultan or the Shah over them.
It might be noted that many of Jones´ survey observations had to be made clandestinely. This was, in part, because the local people feared that their lands might well be subject to annexation by either Britain or Russia. As this report, and some of the later ones also show, tribal leaders and village elders in even quite remote locations were aware of the growing international rivalry over the whole of the region.
When Jones returned to Baghdad in October 1844 he immediately compiled a map of the disputed boundary area in Kurdistan. This was then sent to the Border Commission in Erzerum.

Researches in the Vicinity of the Median Wall of Xenophon, and along the Old Course of the River Tigris; and Discovery of the Site of the Ancient Opis, 1850
The subject of this survey had a strongly archaeological and hydrological aspect. It was to explore the so-called Median Wall, and the former course of the Tigris river. (The Median Wall was said by Xenophon to be a defensive structure running between the rivers Tigris and Euphrates, effectively dividing Mesopotamia into two parts.)

In this low-lying desert country surveying was often difficult. However, for some parts of this journey Jones was able to observe, by telescope, the flag flying from the mast-head of his ship, the Nitocris, and as he knew the precise point on the river where she was then moored, accurate bearings and measurements could be made. (The detailed observations recorded in the 32 appendices to this report were to be extremely useful in the compilation of detailed maps at a later date.)
Jones´ search for the Wall referred to by Xenophon was fruitless. In other respects, however, the journey was successful. Jones located the handsome bridge at Harbeh, which had been built on the orders of the Caliph al-Mustansir in 1238 A.D. And in the final part of this report, Jones claims to have found the location of the ´lost´ - but once very rich and powerful - trading city of Opis.

Memoir on the Province of Baghdad, 1855

This outstanding paper, which had required a long period of work by Jones and others, is nothing less than an encyclopaedia of information on Baghdad in the mid-nineteenth century. Even the most casual glance at the list of contents on pages (xiv) and (xv) shows that there are very few aspects of that city´s life and daily activities which are not discussed.
The report is, however, by no means confined to the city of Baghdad itself, for it also includes a very informative 30-page section on the tribes of the region, and their origins, size, genealogies, relationships and feuds are discussed in considerable detail.
One of the most attractive aspects of this report on Baghdad is the inclusion of nine folding colour plates showing urban and river scenes; but therein lies something of a mystery. For on page 311 Jones thanks the English surgeon, Dr J. Hyslop, for his ´photographs´ on which those plates are based. The basic principles of photography had been discovered by the early 1840s, but the first known examples from Arabia were previously believed to be the work of an Egyptian army officer, Colonel Muhammad Sadiq, who took images of the holy city of Medina in the Hijaz in 1861. But Jones´ report was completed six years previously, and if Hyslop already possessed photographs of Baghdad for inclusion in it, these would undoubtedly be the earliest known examples from the region.
An even more remarkable aspect of this report, however, is the accompanying map of Baghdad (1240mm x 790mm). The Ottoman authorities, hostile to the growing presence of the British, were even less keen to see a survey of the city which might be the prelude to the further expansion of British influence there at a time of growing imperial rivalry with Russia over India. However, Commander Jones intended to map the city despite the restrictions he faced. Secretly, he put together this detailed plan of Baghdad by sending W. Collingwood, a Midshipman in the Indian Navy, into the streets to take measurements and bring them back to him to collate. The surveyor is said to have jotted down his observations on his shirt cuff! When the map was completed its existence was kept secret, but the Ottoman authorities later became aware of it. Due to the absence of any other comparable plans of their own, and given its acknowledged reliability, in 1912 the Ottoman Governor of Baghdad made an official request for a copy of it in order to assist with the implementation of various schemes of municipal reform.

Notes on the Topography of Nineveh, and the other Cities of Assyria; and on the general Geography of the Country between the Tigris and the Upper Zab, 1852
This report begins with a long scholarly discussion of the origins of the Assyrian Empire and its topography, the history of its recent archaeological discovery, and the extent of current excavation campaigns.
The most important sites for Jones were Nineveh and Nimrud, on the east bank of the Tigris. Jones´ report includes over 20 pages of very detailed observations which were to be invaluable in the later production of large-scale maps of this region.


List of maps and plates:
  • Map of the Katul el Kesrawi and Nahrwan
  • Map of the River Tigris
  • Ground-plan of the enceinte of Baghdad
  • Fort of Qadesiyeh and old Citadel of Tekrit
  • Modern Town of Samarrah
  • Ruins around Samarrah
  • Nahrwan el Kanatir
  • Bed of the Nahrwan
  • River Atheim
  • Bundi Atheim
  • Katul el Kesrawi
  • Map of the country between Baghdad, Kirmanshah, and Sulimaniyeh
  • Sketches of Ruins and remarkable points on the banks of the Tigris
  • Sketches of Ruins and remarkable points on the banks of the Tigris
  • Sketch of a Boat in use on the Tigris
  • Sketch of the Tomb of Syed Mahomed
  • Sketch of the Tomb of Syed Saadi
  • Northern aspect of the Bridge at Harbeh
  • Eastern Arch of the Bridge at Harbeh
  • Devices on Pottery found in ancient ruins
  • Remains of ancient Sluices and Dam
  • Sketch of the east face of Baghdad on the Tigris on either side of the British Residency
  • Interior Court of the British Residency, Baghdad
  • View of the river line of houses from the British Residency to Haji Selim´s, Baghdad
  • General view from the bridge to the Mehkemeh, Baghdad
  • The steam-vessel´s depôt from the west bank of the Tigris
  • Sketch in Baghdad
  • Tomb of Sheikh Omer Shababooddin, Baghdad
  • Tomb of the Lady Sobeideh from the north, Baghdad
  • View of Sheikh Maruff from the north, Baghdad