Percy Sykes

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Sir Percy Molesworth Sykes
Percy Sykes.jpg
Brigadier Sir Percy Sykes with officers of original Mission Bandar Abbas, April 1916. (Standing) Major E Howell, Captain Durham, (Seated) Major G. Blair (Staff Officer) Brig General Sir Percy Sykes, Captain R.C. Ruck.
Birth name Percy Molesworth Sykes
Born 28 February 1867
Died 11 June 1945
Allegiance United Kingdom United Kingdom
Service/branch  British Indian Army
Rank Brigadier General
Unit 16th Lancers, 2nd Dragoon Guards (Queens Bays)
Commands held Consul-General Khuzestan,
Battles/wars Second Boer War
Awards Knight Commander of the Order of the Indian Empire
Companion of the Order of the Bath
Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George

Brigadier-General Sir Percy Molesworth Sykes KCIE CB CMG (28 February 1867 – 11 June 1945) was a soldier, diplomat, and scholar with a considerable literary output. He wrote historical, geographical, and biographical works, as well as describing his travels in Persia.


Percy 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.[1] 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.

Sykes was sent on a secret mission in November 1892 when he went to Uzbekistan on the Trans-Caspian Railway.[1] The Royal Geographical Society awarded him the Back grant in 1899 and the Patron's Gold Medal in 1902.[2] During the Second Boer War he served with the Intelligence Department[3] and was wounded in the leg.[4] 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.

In 1915 Sykes was knighted.[4] While stationed in Persia he was given the temporary rank of Brigadier-General, he was placed in command of the South Persia Rifles that he raised himself.[5] His forces, consisting of some four hundred and fifty men, supported the Russians at Isfahan against Bakhtiaras and restored some order to the country. Once stationed at Isfahan, Sykes used numerous excuses to remain, including a supposed Russian request that the South Persia rifles be used as a garrison for Isfahan.[5] By 1917 numerous British authorities were calling for his removal save Lord Curzon. Despite this, Sykes was finally recalled in 1918.[5]

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.[6]

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.


  • Sykes, Sir Percy (1902). Ten Thousand Miles in Persia. John Murray.  [1]
  • Sykes, Sir Percy (1910). The Glory of the Shia World. Macmillan Publishers. [1]
  • Sykes, Sir Percy (1914). Lectures delivered to the Persia Society, 1913-1914. Morrison & Gibb. 
  • Sykes, Sir Percy (1915). A History of Persia. MacMillan. [1]
  • "Through Deserts and Oases of Central Asia". MacMillan. 1920. 
  • Sykes, Sir Percy (1921). A History of Persia (2nd ed.). MacMillan. 
  • Sykes, Sir Percy (1922). Persia. Oxford University Press. 
  • Sykes, Sir Percy (1926). The Right Honourable Sir Mortimer Durand. Cassell & Co. 
  • Sykes, Sir Percy (1930). A History of Persia (3rd ed.). MacMillan. 
  • Sykes, Sir Percy (1934). A History of Exploration. George Routledge & Sons. 
  • Sykes, Sir Percy (1936). The Quest for Cathay. A. & C. Black. 
  • Sykes, Sir Percy (1938). À La Recherche du Cathay. Payot, Paris. 
  • Sykes, Sir Percy (1939). Explorers All, Famous Journeys in Asia. George Newnes. 
  • Sykes, Sir Percy (1939). Sir Percy Sykes, ed. The Story of Exploration and Adventure. George Newnes. 
  • Sykes, Sir Percy (1940). A History of Afghanistan. MacMillan. 
  • Sykes, Sir Percy (1949). A History of Exploration. Routledge & Kegan Paul. 
  • Sykes, Sir Percy (1958). A History of Persia (3rd edition, with supplementary essays ed.). MacMillan. 


  1. ^ a b c d e
  2. ^ "Royal Geographical Society" The Times (London). Saturday, 15 March 1902. (36716), p. 12.
  3. ^ Percy Molesworth Sykes, Y.M. Choueiri, A Global Encyclopedia of Historical Writing: A-J, ed. Daniel R. Woolf, (Routledge, 1998), 871.
  4. ^ a b Hugh Leach and Susan Marie Farrington, Strolling About on the Roof of the World: The First Hundred Years of the Royal Society for Asian Affairs, (Routledge, 2003), 185.
  5. ^ a b c Bureaucracies at War:The British in the Middle East in the First World War, John S. Galbraith and Robert A. Huttenback, National and International Politics in the Middle East: Essays in Honour of Elie Kedourie, ed. Edward Ingram, (Routledge, 2013), 117-119.
  6. ^ "RSAA Awards". RSAA. Retrieved 3 June 2013. 


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