Important acquisitions

Journal d' une residence en Circassie pendant les annees 1837, 1838, et 1839.

Author Bell, James Stanislaus.
Title Journal d' une residence en Circassie pendant les annees 1837, 1838, et 1839.
Imprint Paris: Arthus Bertrand.
Date of Publication 1841
Language French
Notes James Stanislaus Bell (1796-1858) was a Dundee-born trader who in the 1830s started trading in Circassia, a region of the North Caucasus on the north-eastern shore of the Black Sea. Circassia had long been a key strategic location for the ongoing power struggle between the Russian, Ottoman, British and French empires. Russia wanted to expand its territory along the Black Sea coastline, while Britain and France sought to reduce Russia's ability to take advantage of the declining Ottoman presence in the area in order to protect their own trading interests in the Middle and Far East. From the 1760s onwards the Russians and local tribes living in Circassia engaged in a series of battles and wars over the territory, which were only ended in 1864 when Circassian leaders finally swore loyalty to the Russian Czar. Bell was following in the footsteps of another Scot, the diplomat David Urquhart, who in 1834 was the first Briton to champion the Circassians' cause against the Russians. Bell chartered a vessel, the "Vixen", to trade with directly with the local people and landed on the Caucasian coast in late 1836. He declared his cargo as salt, but the Russian authorities were convinced that he in fact was smuggling weapons and confiscated his ship. The Russians' suspicions may have been well-founded, given Bell's links with Urquhart and the British government's anti-Russian stance. Bell made his second trip to Circassia in 1837, accompanied by "The Times" journalist J.A. Longworth, ostensibly to negotiate reparations for the capture of his ship as the British government had publicly declined to get involved in his dispute with the Russians. He may also however have been reporting in secret to the British government on the political and military situation. He ended up staying in the region until 1839. During these years he took time to study the language, customs and traditions of the Circassians, even accompanying them on raids behind the Russian lines. Both Bell and Longworth wrote books based on their time in Circassia. Bell's work was originally published in English in 1840 as 'Journal of a residence in Circassia' and is regarded as the most comprehensive first-hand account of the Russo-Circassian wars in the latter part of the 1830s. This French translation by Louis Vivien appeared in the following year, as did a German translation. Vivien supplied an historical and geographical introduction for the French edition, which contains the same plates as used in the English edition. Bell later worked as a government agent in Central America, where his daughter married the Prussian adventurer and author Gustavus von Tempsky.
Shelfmark AB.3.209.17
Acquired on 03/04/09
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