English traveller and scholar
Born 1787 Died 1821
Claudius James Rich, was born near Dijon on the 28th of March 1787. His youth was spent at Bristol. He early developed a gift for languages, becoming familiar not only with Latin and Greek but also with Hebrew, Syriac, Persian, Turkish and other Eastern tongues. In 1804 Rich went to Constantinople, where, and at Smyrna, he stayed some time, perfecting himself in Turkish. Proceeding to Alexandria as assistant to the British consul-general there, he devoted himself to Arabic and its various dialects, and made himself master of Eastern manners and usages. On leaving Egypt he travelled by land to the Persian Gulf, disguised as a Mameluke, visiting Damascus, and entering the great mosque undetected. At Bombay, which he reached in September 1807, he was the guest of Sir James Mackintosh, whose eldest daughter he married in January 1808, proceeding soon after to Bagdad as resident.
There he began his investigations into the geography, history and antiquities of the district. He explored the remains of Babylon, and projected a geographical and statistical account of the pashalic of Bagdad. The results of his work at Babylon appeared first in the Vienna serial Mines de Vorient, and in 1815 in England, under the title Narrative of a Journey to the Site of Babylon in 1811.
In 1813-14 Rich spent some time in Europe, and on his return to Bagdad devoted himself to the study of the geography of Asia Minor, and collected much information in Syrian and Chaldaean convents concerning the Yezidis. During this period he made a second excursion to Babylon, and in 1820 undertook an extensive tour to Kurdistan from Bagdad north to Sulimania, eastward to Sinna, then west to Nineveh, and thence down the Tigris to Bagdad. The narrative of this journey, which contained the first accurate knowledge (from scientific observation) regarding the topography and geography of the region, was published by his widow under the title, Narrative of a Residence in Koordistan and on the site of Ancient Nineveh, etc (London, 1836).
In 1821 Rich went to Basora, whence he made an excursion to Shiraz, visiting the ruins of Persepolis and the other remains in the neighbourhood. At Shiraz he died of cholera on the 5th of October 1821. His fine collections of manuscripts and coins was purchased by the British Museum.
Being the entry for RICH, CLAUDIUS JAMESin the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica, the text of which lies within the public domain.