GOLDSMID, Major-General Sir Fredrick John


GOLDSMID, Major-General Sir Fredrick John, British scholar, negotiator and arbitrator of Perso-Afghan boundary dispute (b. Milan, 1818; d. Hammersmith, England, 1909). Goldsmid was the son of a British cavalry officer and grandson of a well-known Jewish financier. He was educated in Paris and King’s College, London, and commissioned in 1839 in the 37th Madras Native Infantry Regiment, with which he served in China and India. In 1851 he went as a political officer to Sind, where, in 1861, he began his long connection with the laying of the telegraph line from London to India, exploring Baluchistan and Makrān and negotiating with local chieftains for the extension of the line. During 1865-70 Goldsmid was director-general in London of the Government of India’s Indo-European Telegraph Department. He spent three months in Tehran in 1865 negotiating the Anglo-Persian Telegraph Convention of that year. He was chief British Commissioner on the Baluchistan (Makrān) Boundary Commission of 1870-71 and Arbitrator on the Perso-Afghan (Sistān) Arbitration Commission of 1872-73. Goldsmid was proficient in Hindustani, Arabic, and Persian and learned Turkish when he was attached to Turkish troops in the Crimea in 1855. He was knighted in 1871. After retiring in 1874, Goldsmid maintained a lively interest in Persia, writing and reading papers to the Royal Geographical and other learned societies. He also undertook a number of foreign assignments in Réunion, Egypt, Constantinople, and the Congo. He married in 1849 and had two sons and four daughters.

Works. Books: Telegraph and Travel: A Narrative of the Formation and Development of Telegraphic Communication between England and India etc., London, 1874. Eastern Persia: An Account of the Journeys of the Persian Boundary Commission 1870-72, 2 vols., London, 1876 (editor). James Outram: A Biography, 2 vols., London, 1880 (editor). Articles: “Exploration from Kurrachi to Gwadur along the Makran Coast,” Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society of London (PRGS) 7, 1862-63, pp. 91-95. “Diary of Proceedings of the Mission into Mekran for Political and Survey Purposes from 12th to 19th December 1861,” JRGS 33, 1863, pp. 181-213. “Notes on Eastern Persia and Western Baluchistan,” JRGS 37, 1867, pp. 269-97. “Journey from Bandar Abbas to Mashhad by Sistan,” JRGS 43, 1873, pp. 65-83. “Notes on Recent Persian Travel,” JRGS 44, 1874, pp. 183-203. “Captain the Hon. G. Napier’s Journey on the Turcoman Frontier of Persia,” PRGS 20, 1876, pp. 166-82. “Persia and Its Military Resources,” Journal of the Royal United Services Institute 23, 1880. “Lieutenant H. B. Vaughan’s Recent Journey in Eastern Persia,” PRGS 12, 1890, pp. 577-95. “A Railway through Southern Persia,” The Scottish Geographical Magazine 6, 1890, pp. 617-32. “On Translations from and into Persian,” Proceedings of 9th International Congress of Orientalists, London, 1893, II, pp. 491-504. “Persien in der europ. Politik,” Deutsche Rundschau, October 1893, pp. 70-77. “The Geography of Persia, with Reference to De Morgan’s Mission” Geographical Journal 5, 1895, pp. 177-80. “Major-General Sir H. Rawlinson: Obituary,” ibid., pp. 490-97. “De Morgan’s ’Mission scientifique’ to Persia,” Geographical Journal 8, 1896, pp. 474-78. “Persia and Her Neighbours,” Journal of the Tyneside Geographical Society 3, 1896, pp. 220-27; 1897, pp. 311-20. Introduction to Ella C. Sykes, Through Persia on a Side-saddle, London, 1901, pp. ix-xvi. “Le Golfe Persique et la Perse,” Bulletin de la Société de géographie et commerce de Bordeaux, 24, 1902, pp. 260-72. “Le Golfe Persique deviendra-t-il un lac Britannique?” A travers le monde 18, 1912, pp. 89-92.



British Library, London, Oriental and India Office Collections, especially MSS EUR. C168, D642 and F134. Public Record Office, Kew, U.K., Foreign Office papers, especially F060/299 and F068/391.

Valentine Chirol, The Middle Eastern Question, or Some Political Problems of Indian Defense, London, 1903, pp. 275, 277-78.

William Kirk Dickson, The Life of Major-General Sir Robert Murdoch Smith, Edinburgh, 1901, pp. 202-3, 208, 215, 229-34, 244.

Dictionary of National Biography, 2nd Suppl., 1901-11, pp. 124-26.

Lorimer, Gazetteer I/2, pp. 2160-63, 2167-77.

Percy Molesworth Sykes, A History of Persia, 2 vols., London, 1921, II, pp. 361-64.

(Denis Wright)

Originally Published: December 15, 2001

Last Updated: February 14, 2012

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