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Edward Granville Browne

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Edward Granville Browne, portrait around 1912

Edward Granville Browne FBA (7 February 1862 – 5 January 1926) was a British Iranologist. He published numerous articles and books, mainly in the areas of history and literature.


Edward Granville Browne

Browne was born in Stouts Hill, Uley, Gloucestershire, England, the son of civil engineer Benjamin Chapman Browne and his wife, Annie. He was educated at Trinity College, Glenalmond, Burnside's School in Berkshire, Eton College, and the Newcastle College of Physical Science. He then read natural sciences at Pembroke College, Cambridge. He also studied Arabic with Edward Henry Palmer and William Wright, Persian with Edward Byles Cowell, and Turkish with Sir James Redhouse, motivated by an interest in the Turkish people.[1] After graduating in 1882 he travelled to Constantinople.[2][3]

Browne then spent a further two years at University of Cambridge studying the languages of India (defined then as Hindustani, Sanskrit, Persian, and Arabic) and also gained an M.B. in London.[4] In 1887 he was made a Fellow of Pembroke, and then paid an extended visit to Iran. He returned to become a university lecturer in Persian. In April 1902 he was elected Sir Thomas Adams's Professor of Arabic at the University of Cambridge.[2][5] Browne was mainly responsible for the creation at Cambridge of a school of living languages of Asia, in connection with the training of candidates for the Egyptian and Sudanese civil services, and the Lebanese consular service. He was on his sixtieth birthday the recipient of a large Festschrift.[6]

Browne was one of the original trustees of the E. J. W. Gibb Memorial, an organisation which since 1905 has published the Gibb Memorial Series.

Persian Title of Mazhar-e Ali


In London (1885), Browne met Haji Pirzadeh Naeini, a famous intellectual-mystic and world traveler of the Qajar dynasty period, through whom he broadened his interest and knowledge of Persian history, culture, and language. Naeini gave Browne a set of Soufi garb, and received the title of "Mazhar-e Ali" "Manifestation of Ali." Browne wore the garb in his meetings with Persians and used the title in signing all his Persian correspondence and writings.[7]

In return, Browne called Pirzadeh "the guide of the path" and "the repository of the secrets of truth" and "the sage seeker of the path". This relationship led Browne not only to broaden his knowledge and interest in Persia (Iran) but also to ask the British Foreign Office to be assigned consul at the British Embassy to Tehran, which eventually resulted in his publishing A Year Amongst The Persians in 1893.[8]



Browne married Alice Caroline (daughter of Francis Henry Blackburne Daniell) in 1906,[2] and had two sons,[9] including the judge Sir Patrick Browne.

He died in 1926 in Cambridge.


Letter by Browne to Snouck Hurgronje (1921)

Browne published in areas which few other Western scholars had explored. Many of his publications are related to Iran, either in the fields of history or Persian literature. He is perhaps best known for his documentation and historical narratives of Bábism as relayed by Arthur de Gobineau. He published two translations of Bábí histories, and wrote several of the few Western accounts of early Bábí and Baháʼí history.

Browne was not a Baháʼí, but rather an Orientalist. His interest in the Bábí movement was piqued by a book by de Gobineau found while he was looking for materials on tasawwuf. The history A Traveller's Narrative was written by `Abdu'l-Bahá and translated by Browne, who added a large introduction and appendices. Browne was fascinated by the development of the written historical perspectives of the Baháʼís regarding successorship after the Báb including their idea of an independent dispensation of Bahá'u'lláh. These Baháʼí-authored works emphasized Bahá'u'lláh to a greater extent than the Báb and took a critical view against Subh-i-Azal, whom Arthur de Gobineau listed as the Báb's successor. Browne expressed sympathy for Subh-i-Azal and surprise at the route the religion had taken.

About the Baháʼí teachings he says:

These teachings are in themselves admirable, though inferior, in my opinion, both in beauty and simplicity to the teachings of Christ.

— Materials for the Study of the Babi Religion, Introduction, p. xxi.

Browne was granted four successive interviews with Bahá'u'lláh during the five days he was a guest at Bahjí (April 15–20, 1890).[10]

In A Year Amongst the Persians (1893) he wrote a sympathetic portrayal of Persian society. After his death in 1926 it was reprinted and became a classic in English travel literature. He also published the first volume of A Literary History of Persia in 1902 with subsequent volumes in 1906, 1920, and 1924. It remains a standard authority.

Amongst Iranians, Browne is still well remembered today. A street named after him in Tehran, as well as a statue depicting him, remained in place even after the Iranian Revolution in 1979.



Works by Browne


  1. ^ Bosworth, C. Edmund (1995). "E. G. Browne and His "A Year Amongst the Persians"". Iran. 33: 115–122. doi:10.2307/4299929. JSTOR 4299929.
  2. ^ a b c Gurney, John. "Browne, Edward Granville". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/32120. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  3. ^ "Browne, Edward Granville (BRWN879EG)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  4. ^ Buck, Christopher. “Edward Granville Browne.” British Writers, Supplement XXI. Ed. Jay Parini. Farmington Hills, MI: Charles Scribner’s Sons/The Gale Group, 2014. Pp. 17–33.
  5. ^ "University intelligence - Cambridge". The Times. No. 36755. London. 30 April 1902. p. 11.
  6. ^ A Volume of Oriental Studies Presented to Edward G. Browne, M.A., M.B., F.B.A., F.R.C.P., Sir Thomas Adam's Professor of Arabic in the University of Cambridge on the 60th Birthday (7 February 1922), ed. by T. W. Arnold and Reynold A. Nicholson (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1922).
  7. ^ پیرزادهٔ نائینی، محمدعلی، سفرنامه، به کوشش حافظ فرمانفرماییان، ج۲، ص۱ به بعد، تهران، ۱۳۴۲ش
  8. ^ «ادوارد براون تاریخ نگاری ایران دوست»
  9. ^ Edward Granville Browne (1926). A Year Amongst the Persians: Impressions as to the Life, Character, & Thought of the People of Persia, Received During Twelve Months' Residence in that Country in the Years 1887-1888. CUP Archive. p. xviii. GGKEY:8LH412T7XR6.
  10. ^ Buck, Christopher (1995). Symbol and Secret: Qur'an Commentary in Bahá'u'lláh's Kitáb-i Íqán. Kalimát Press. pp. XLI. ISBN 978-0-933770-78-2.



Online texts