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website of Jelle Verheij, historian

Ainsworth, William

'Notes on a journey from Kaïsaríyah, by Malátíyah, to Bir or Birehjik, in May and June, 1839'

with geographical annotations

William Ainsworth (1807-1896), a British surgeon, geographer and geologist, made in 1838-39 a number of journeys in Anatolia and Mesopotamia. This travel report is one of a number published in the Journal of the Royal Geographical Society, of which he was one of the founders.

This travel report starts as a quite dry account of geographical and geological exploration. Ainsworth was fully equipped with all the instruments available in his time to make measurements for map making.

The author travels from Kayseri to the southern part of the Sivas vilayet, and on to Malatya and Adıyaman. After that the character of his journey changed dramatically. The traveller and his companions were caught up in the final confrontation of the Ottoman army and the rebellious Muhammed Paşa of Egypt, near Nizip. The battle of Nizip ended disastrous for the Ottomans. The troops, for a large part irregulars from various parts of Anatolia, fled in disarray. Ainsworth and his companion escape with difficulty from the ensuing chaos in the area, travelling day and night. The second part of Ainsworth report is a first hand account of this dramatic episode.

Ainsworth, like most of the travellers of his time, has a keen interest in history and antiquities. His report contains some interesting descriptions of monuments and archeological sites on his route. His travel report is also interesting for those researching the centralization policies of the Ottoman government and the relation with the Kurds in this period.

Old Malatya (now named Battalgazi), Ainsworth p.320

© Jelle Verheij, 2009