English Memsahibs in Persia

After the appointment in 1811 of Britain's first Resident Ambassador in Persia, a number of English women braved the hazards of travel in that country and, according to Denis Wright, have left us invaluable accounts of their lives there.

Early British links with Persia were through the East India Company, which had established its first 'factory' or trading post at Jask on the torrid Makran coast in 1622. The lifestyle of the Honourable Company's servants in Persia tended to follow that of their colleagues in India. In both countries the English memsahib or wife was a rare phenomenon before the nineteenth century, an exception being the wife of Charles Harwell, who accompanied her husband when he was appointed factor at Isfahan in 1698. Since any relationship with Muslim Persian women was almost impossible, the lonely agents, if they wanted female company, either married or formed liaisons with Christian women from the Armenian communities then settled at New Julfa, outside Isfahan, Bushire and elsewhere.

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