Edward Granville Browne (1862-1926) on the religion of the Bab.

`Edward Granville Browne (1862-1926) on the religion of the Bab, the Babi-Baha'i religions'.

Stephen Lambden UCMerced.

IN PROGRESS - last updated 29-05-2020

Edward Granville Browne (1862-1926) studied the relgion of the Bab and interacted with Babis and Baha'is  throughout his life. Yet, this British born orientalist and Cambridge professor, never exactly professed himself a Babi, Azali or  Baha'i. He became especially  close to the religion of the Bab in his early years having first come accross the Babi religion in Cambridge around July 30th 1886 in the course of reading the text of Les Religiones et les philosophies dans l'Asie centrale (1st ed. Paris 1865) of the French travellor, writer and orientalist  Gobineau (d. Turin, Italy, 13th Oct. 1882). Then, during his `Year Amongst the Persians' (1887-8), he sought out and became fascinated with the writings of the Bab and had numerous dealings with Babis-Azalis and Baha'is.

Edward Granville Browne [= EGB] was born in Uley (Gloucestershire) at his father's birthplace and grandfather's house on February 7th 1862 but was speedily returned to the home of his parents (Sir) Benjamin Chapman Browne (1839-1917) and Ann Browne (née, Atkinson, 1838-1929) in or near Newcastle upon Tyne (North East England). There he spent his formative years living at 2 Granville Road in Jesmond, Newcastle upon Tyne; in a large property now divided into several substantial flats. As a young teenager EGB became enamoured with Turkey, Turks and the Turkish language coming also to study Persian and other languages on his own or with private tutors. He loaned books and a Persian grammar from the Newcastle upon Tyne Literary and Philosophical Society Library located near the railway station in central Newcastle. 

It seems that EGBs first knowledge of the religion founded by Sayyid `Ali Muhammad Shirazi, the Bab (1819-1850) came about on July 30th 1886 when he checked out a French volume of the self-styled Comte Joseph Arthur de Gobineau (b. 14th July Ville-d’Avray 1814-d. Turin 13th Oct. 1882) entitled Les religions et les philosophies dans l'Asie centrale (1st ed. Paris 1865).

On reading this volume penned by the amateur scholar, diplomat and orientalist,  Gobineau, EGB became entralled and enraptured by the Bab later all but confessing his faith in this emergent religion. Though he never exactly became a Babi, Azali (patisan of Mirza Yahya Nuri c. 1813-1892, the one time succesor of the Bab) or a Baha'i (follower of Mirza Husayn `Ali Nuri, Baha'-Allah 1817-1892), he devoted much of his time from 1887 until his passing, to the collection of Babi and Baha'i scriptural and historical texts and to their study and analysis. During his `Year Amongst the Persians' (Sept. 1887-1888; 1st ed.1893) he spent much of his time with Babis or Baha'is and  avidly collected, analyzed and made preliminary study of such Persian and Arabic texts as became available to him. From the later 1880s he published papers and books in this field and gave public presentations about the Babi-Baha'i religion(s). In Cambridge and Newcastle upon Tyne in the late 1880s he delivered talks about matters Babi-Baha'i to the general public, to groups of friends and to academic colleagues.  

EGB met Baha'-Allah, the founder of the Baha'i religion, four or five times in Bahji (near Acre and Haifa, Palestine) around 1890 and left an eloquent and now very well-known pen portrait. He also met his half-brother Mirza Yahya Nuri in Cyprus and his eldest son and successor `Abbas Effendi, `Abd al-Baha' (d. 1921) on numerous occasions.  He wrote pen-portraints of the latter and for many years corresponded with and wrote an obituary of `Abd al-Baha' whom he met several times during his western traves (1912-3).

Having studied medicine at St. Bartholemew's Hospital (London) and taken the Indian Languages Tripos at the prestigious University of Cambridge, EBG ...

EGBs writings, personal contacts and huge correspondence greatly assisted in making the Babi-Baha'i religions known internationally. The study of his published books and papers contributed markedly to the emergence of academically informed Babi-Baha'i studies in the UK from the 1960s and to some extent earlier. 

Select Bibliography

Edward Granville Browne (1862-1926).

A year amongst the Persians

  • 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.
  • A year amongst the Persians... Introd. Denis MacEoin. London : Century ; New York : Hippocrene Books, 1984. xiv+650 PP. Rep. In the series, Century Travellers.

A Traveller's Narrative

  • A Traveller's Narrative written to illustrate the Episode of the Báb. [By 'Abd al-Bahā ibn Bahā Allāh.] Edited in the original Persian, and translated into English, with an introduction and explanatory notes, by E.G. Browne. 2 Vols. Cambridge : University Press: Cambridge, 1891.

`The Bab and Babism' ERE. PDfs+

  • `The Bab and Babism' from the Hastings Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, Vol.2 (1910), pp. 299-308.
  • PDf. EGB-ERDE02-1910.pdf 

Select Secondary Sources.

`Abbās Zaryāb; Īraj Afshār (ed. comp.)

Taqīʹzādah, Ḥasan (1878-1969), Correspondence.

  • Nāmahʹhā-yi, Idvārd Brāvn bih Sayyid Ḥasan Taqīzādah. Majmūʻah-ʼi manābiʻ va asnād-i tārīkhī-i dawrah-ʼi Qajār. IV. Tehran : Kitābhā-yi Jībī, 1354/1975. xiii+223 pp.

Arnold, T.W. Arnold ; Reynold A. Nicholson. eds.

  • A volume of Oriental studies presented to Edward G. Browne ... on his 60th birthday (7 February 1922). Cambridge : At the University Press, 1922. vii +499, pp.

Bayuzi, Hasan, M. 

  • Edward Granville Browne and the Bahá'i faith. London : George Ronald, 1970. x+142 pp.

Buck, Christopher,

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Gurney, John.

  • Add
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Momen, Moojan

  • Selections from the writings of E.G. Browne on the Bábí and Bahá'í religions. Oxford : G. Ronald, ©1987. 499pp. Extracts from select mss. and printed works of EGB  : A year amongst the Persians -- The Bábís of Persia -- A summary of the Persian Bayán -- Bábísm --The attitude of Bahá'ís towards Persian politics -- Bábí and Baháí poetry -- The papers and manuscripts of E.G. Browne relating to the Baháí faith.

Reynold A. Nicholson

  • A descriptive catalogue of the Oriental mss. belonging to the late E. G. Browne. Completed & edited with a memoir of the author and a bibliography of his writings, by Reynold A. Nicholson. Cambridge; Cambridge University Press, 1932. xxii+325 pp. Oriental mss. belonging to the late E. G. Browne