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website of Jelle Verheij, historian

geographical annotations to

Taylor, J.G.

'Journal of a tour in Armenia, Kurdistan and Upper Mesopotamia, with Notes of Researches in the Deyrsim Dagh, in 1866'

J.G. Taylor is not a well-known traveller. He was British "Consul for Kurdistan"* in the 1860s, alternately based in Erzurum and Diyarbakır. He made extensive travels in his consular area, which included large parts of the current eastern Turkish provinces. It seems that only three of his travel reports were published, all of them in the Journal of the Royal Geographical Society in London.

The lengthy report reproduced here is an account of a long route from Erzurum to Karahisar-ı Şarki (Şebinkarahisar, and then on to the eastern districts of Sivas vilayet. His description of Dersim (renamed Tunceli in the late 1930s) is undoubtedly the most interesting part of this travel report. Dersim was in this period almost independent and had rarely been visited by outsiders. According to his own saying only his predecessor Dalyell visited this area before him. After passing through Arapkir and Çemişgezek he entered the Dersim area from the southwest. Taylor made use of the services of a revered religious man to secure his safety on his passage through the tribal area.

In Dersim Taylor visited [with their current names] the districts of Çemişgezek, Ovacık, Hozat, Pertek, Mazgirt and the central district of Tunceli. He did not enter however what he calls "the proper Dersim", that is the northern part of Tunceli, and the districts of Pülümür and Nazımiye. Taylor passed over the Munzur mountains two times, and left Dersim for the south, travelling to Diyarbakır via Harput.

This report also contains some short reports on the consul's travels from Diyarbekır to districts of Mardin and Urfa provinces.

Taylor was a true discoverer. He rarely travelled over main routes, but preferred strange sideways. His interests seem unbounded, varying from antiquities, history, religion, ethnography, geography, politics, and geology to botany. His observations are moreover an important source for the local history of the period. Like many official British travellers before and after him he was also actively engaged in mapping the areas he visited, taking coordinates and correcting errors on previous maps.

Despite Taylor's detailed route map (not reproduced here), it is quite difficult to trace his routes on modern maps. Although he seems to have known some of the local languages, his spelling of place names is often quite weird.

Clicking on the province names mentioned will bring you to the corresponding page of the place name index.


*"Kurdistan" was the official Ottoman name for the province of Diyarbekir in Taylor's time. The British continued to use this name for their consular district until the mid 1890s, although the Ottomans by that time had already dropped it.