Brigadier-General Sir Percy Molesworth Sykes KCIE, CB, CMG (28 February 1867 – 11 June 1945) was a soldier, diplomat, scholar and historian, with a considerable literary output. He wrote historical, geographical, and biographical works, as well as describing his travels in Persia.
Sykes was born in Brompton, Kent, England the only son of Rev. William Sykes and his wife Mary Molesworth, and educated at Rugby School and the Royal Military College, Sandhurst. He was commissioned into the 16th Lancers, but transferred to the 2nd Dragoon Guards in 1888. He was posted to India and made several journeys through Persia and Baluchistan. During the Second Boer War he served in the Intelligence Department and commanded the Montgomeryshire Imperial Yeomanry. He did a secret mission in the November of 1892 where he went to Uzbekistan the Trans-Caspian Railway. The Royal Geographical Society awarded him the Back grant in 1899 and the Patron's Gold Medal in 1902. In 1902 he transferred to the Indian Army. Over the next few years he made extensive journeys in the Middle East and was appointed consul-general for Khūzestān in 1906.
Towards the end of 1915, Percy Sykes was given the temporary rank of Brigadier-General and sent with the agreement of the Persian government at the head of a mission to raise a Persian force to counter the strong German influence in most of South Persia. His forces supported the Russians against the Turks and restored some order to the country. In 1917 his South Persia Rifles, received recognition from the Persian government, but this was withdrawn in June when a new Government took office. This resulted in some local conflict until the war ended.
Sykes retired from the army in 1924, retaining the honorary rank of Brigadier-General. From 1932 until his death he was honorary secretary of the Royal Central Asian Society, now known as the Royal Society for Asian Affairs. The society has in its gift an award called The Sir Percy Sykes Memorial Medal.
In 1902 he married Evelyn Seton, eldest daughter of Colonel Bruce Seton of the Royal Engineers and they had six children. His daughter Rachel married Sir Patrick Reilly the diplomat. Sykes was the nephew of Richard Sykes the rugby player who founded towns in America and cousin of Sir Alan Sykes, 1st Baronet MP for Knutsford, Cheshire.
- Ten Thousand Miles in Persia (John Murray - 1902)
- The Glory of the Shia World (Macmillan Publishers - 1910)
- Lectures delivered to the Persia Society, 1913-1914. (Morrison & Gibb - 1914)
- A History of Persia (MacMillan - 1915)
- Through Deserts and Oases of Central Asia (MacMillan - 1920)
- A History of Persia - 2nd edition (MacMillan - 1921)
- Persia (Oxford University Press - 1922)
- The Right Honourable Sir Mortimer Durand -a biography (Cassell & Co. - 1926)
- A History of Persia - 3rd edition (MacMillan - 1930)
- A History of Exploration (George Routledge & Sons - 1934)
- The Quest for Cathay (A. & C. Black - 1936)
- À La Recherche du Cathay (Payot, Paris - 1938)
- Explorers All, Famous Journeys in Asia (George Newnes - 1939)
- The Story of Exploration and Adventure. Edited by Sir Percy Sykes. (George Newnes - 1939)
- A History of Afghanistan (MacMillan - 1940)
- A History of Exploration (Routledge & Kegan Paul - 1949)
- A History of Persia ... 3rd edition, with supplementary essays. . (MacMillan - 1958)
- Shapur I, Shapur Shahbazi, Encyclopaedia Iranica, (July 20, 2002).
- "A History of Persia". World Digital Library. 1921. Retrieved 2013-10-01.
- "RSAA Awards". RSAA. Retrieved 3 June 2013.
- Who’s Who
- Meyer, Karl E. and Shareen Blair Brysac, Kingmakers: the Invention of the Modern Middle East, W.W. Norton, 2008.
- Wynn Anthony, Persia in the Great Game – Sir Percy Sykes: Explorer, Consul, Soldier, John Murray, 2003
- SYKES, Sir Percy Molesworth, Encyclopædia Iranica
- Royal society for Asian Affairs
- A report on the mission of Percy Sykes in Kashghar in 1915, and his photos from there
- Works by Percy Molesworth Sykes at Project Gutenberg
- Works by or about Percy Sykes in libraries (WorldCat catalog)