FERRIER, JOSEPHE-PIERRE, 19th-century French traveler. Little biographical information survives relating to this intrepid explorer in Afghanistan. A professional soldier who saw service during the Algerian campaigns of 1830-37, he was one of several French officers loaned to Moḥammad Shah’s government in 1839, following the withdrawal of British military advisors over the issue of Herat. In Tehran he attained the rank of adjutant-general but fell foul of the Russian legation, leading to his repatriation to France in 1843.

He now sought military employment with the Sikh government in Lahore, whereto several French officers, some formerly in the service of Fatḥ-ʿAlī Shah’s son, Moḥammad-ʿAlī Mīrzā, beglarbeg of Kermānšāh, had preceded him. Ferrier unwisely took the overland route at a time when the Anglo-Afghan War of 1838-42 (q.v.) had left conditions in much of Afghanistan very disturbed. The result was a turbulent year in Afghanistan where he fell prey to the internecine rivalries between various local rulers including the hostilities between the wālī of Ḵolm and Dōst Moḥammad Khan (q.v.) in Kabul. After many adventurers and a period in captivity, he finally had to admit defeat and returned to Herat on 15th of November, 1845. From there he set off for Tehran, which he reached in January 1846.

By 1854, he was in Pondicherry with a manuscript account of his travels to which was appended a recent history of the Afghans. The former, when published, provided much new information regarding Afghan topography, but was flawed by having been written without benefit of notes, these having been seized by Moḥammad Ṣādeq Khan. For example, Ferrier’s account of what appears to have been a Sasanian bas-relief in the upper Harī Rūd region (Caravan Journeys, pp. 229-30) remains unconfirmed by later travelers (Maricq, p. 71, 75). In his journeys, Ferrier showed determination and fortitude, and in his account of them he displays a shrewd and ironic intelligence. His description of Yār Moḥammad Khan (History of the Afghans, ch. 13, 27 and 32) is a counterweight to the jaundiced view of his British contemporaries.



J. P. Ferrier, articles on the contemporary situation in Afghanistan, Journal de Constantinople, 6 and 11 July 1847.

Idem, Caravan Journeys and Wanderings in Persia, Afghanistan, Turkistan, and Beloochistan; with Historical Notices of the Countries Lying between Russia and India translated from the original unpublished manuscript by Captain William Jesse and ed. by H. D. Seymour [and Sir H. Creswicke Rawlinson and Sir J. Login], London, 1856; 2nd. ed., London, 1857, repr. with intr. by G. R. G. Hambly, Karachi, 1976.

Idem, History of the Afghans …translated from the original unpublished manuscript by Captain William Jesse, London, 1858.

Idem, Voyages en Perse dans l’Afghanistan, le Bélouchistan et le Turkestan (avec notes traduites de l’anglais par B. H. Révoil), Paris, 1860 (with a preliminary account of the author by X. Raymond).

Idem, “Viaje por la Perse, el Afghanistan, el Turquestan y el Beluchistan,” in N. Fernandez Cuesta, ed., Universal Enciclopedia de Viahes Modernos, 5 vols, Madrid, 1859-62.

Idem, “Situation de la Perse en 1851,” Revue Orientale et Algérienne, Paris, 1852, pp. 141-59.

A. Maricq, “Le ‘Bas-Relief Ferrier,’” in A. Maricq and G. Wiet, Le Minaret de Djam, Paris, 1959, Appendix 2, pp. 71-76.

T. Holdich, The Gates of India, London, 1910.

(Gavin R. G. Hambly)

Originally Published: December 15, 1999

Last Updated: January 26, 2012

This article is available in print.
Vol. IX, Fasc. 5, pp. 535-536