Papers of Major General Sir Frederic John Goldsmid

Scope and Content

Personal Papers of Major General Sir Frederic John Goldsmid

Administrative / Biographical History

Frederic John Goldsmid was born in Milan on the 19th May 1818; during his early years living in France he was already considered a good linguist as he was proficient in Italian, French and English. He received his education from King's College School, Paris and partly at King's College School, London. In 1839 he entered the Madras Army, joining his regiment, the 37th Madras N.I. Preceding the treaty of Nankin, China, Goldsmid's regiment was ordered to proceed to China and take part in the actions at Canton after which Goldsmid was awarded the Chinese war medal. During his time in Canton, Goldsmid was also appointed as the Adjutant of his regiment which lead him to turn his attention to the study of Eastern languages, such as Persian, Arabic and Turkish in addition to Urdu, Sindhi and other Indian vernaculars. In 1845 he qualified as an interpreter in Hindustani.

Due to ill health Goldsmid returned to England. However in 1848 he travelled back to India and continued his studies in languages, passing the qualifying exams in 1849. He was appointed Interpreter for Persian and in 1851 for Arabic. It was during this year he took on the role of Assistant-Adjutant-General of the Nagpur Subsidiary. Through the influence of General John Jacob, Goldsmid entered civil employment and later went on to work as the Assistant Commissioner for Special Enquiry into 'the Settlement of Alienated Lands' in Sindh, India.

In 1855, after taking ill again, Goldsmid volunteered for active service in Crimea becoming the Assistant-Adjutant-General for the Turkish Contingent under General Vivian. During this time Goldsmid learnt Turkish, after which he was elected as the President for the Local Examining Committee at Kerch, Crimea. For his war efforts in Crimea he was honoured with the Turkish war medal, the order of the fourth class Medjidieh and the brevet rank of the Major in the Army.

In 1862 returning to India as Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel. Golsmid accompanied Colonel Patrick Stewart, as they were commissioned to establish overland telegraphic communication from Europe through Persia and Baluchistan to India. Following the death of Colonel Stewart, Goldsmid was appointed as the Director-General of the Indo-European Telegraph. After this post, Goldsmid was commissioned with the most difficult task of his career, in 1871, defining the boundary between Persia and Afghanistan for which he was honoured by Her Majesty's Government for his 'tact and good judgment under circumstances of no ordinary difficulty'.

After 35 years in service, Goldsmid retired from Government service but he was still considered indispensable and in 1880 he accepted the office of British Controller of the 'Daira Sanieh' (Crown lands) in Egypt. During his time in Egypt he was dispatched by Lord Granville on a mission to Constantinople. On his return to Alexandria, Goldsmid organised an Intelligence Department which resulted in the victory of Tel-el-Kebir. Leaving Egypt and travelling through the Congo, Goldsmid became severely ill and returned to London on the 31st December 1883.

However during the remaining years of his life he devoted his attention partly to literary work, newspapers reviews and works of reference like the 'Encyclopaedia Britannica'. His other literary achievements includes works such as, 'Telegraph and Travel' , 'Eastern Persia' , a paper on 'Preservation of National literature in the East' and the biography, 'Life of Outram' . He was an active member of the Royal Asiatic Society, serving on its Council, including acting as Vice-President from 1890-1905. On 12th January 1908, Goldsmid died and was buried at Hollingburne, Kent, where he once lived for many years.


The Papers of Sir Frederic John Goldsmid were found in no original order, and were thus arranged according to the type of material in the following order:

  • Official letters
  • Programmes for performances
  • Printed material

Access Information

Open. Please contact the archivist using the email address given here. The archive is open on Tuesdays and Fridays 10-5, and Thursdays 2-5. Access is to any researcher without appointment but it will help if an appointment is made via phone or email. Please bring photo ID

Acquisition Information

It is unknown when this material was donated to the Royal Asiatic Society. They were found with the papers of Reverend William Pettigrew, but as they do not appear connected and the information known about the William Pettigrew donation did not include them, it was decided to catalogue them separately.

Archivist's Note

These papers were arranged and catalogued in February 2017 by Ali Ahsan, RAS Volunteer, under the supervision of Nancy Charley, Archivist, Royal Asiatic Society.

Conditions Governing Use

Digital photography (without flash) for research purposes may be permitted upon completion of a copyright declaration form, and with respect to current UK copyright law.

Related Material

The books listed here by Sir Frederic John Goldsmid can be found in the Royal Asiatic Society Library Catalogue

  • James Outram: a biography, (Smith, Elder, London, 1880)
  • An historical memoir on Shikarpoor, prior and subsequent to its cession to the ameers of Sind : and, a memoir on the syuds of Roree and Bukkur (Bombay Education Society's Press, 1855)
  • The adventures of Hajjî Baba of Ispahan by James Morier with introduction by Goldsmid (Lawrence and Bullen, London, 1897)