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Claudius James Rich (1786/1787–1821)

Photo credit: The Trustees of the British Museum

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A brilliant linguist, Rich joined the East India Company in 1804 and was appointed Resident at Baghdad in 1808. Here, in addition to his official duties, he collected coins, rare manuscripts and other material with the eventual aim of compiling a history of the area. He visited the site of Babylon on a number of occasions and published ‘Memoirs’ on the ruins. His account of time spent in Kurdistan was published in 1836. He had a promising career with the Company ahead of him but in 1821 he died of cholera at Shiraz. His collection of medals, coins, gems and engraved tablets was bought by the Museum from his widow, Mary, daughter of the governor of Bombay, Sir James Mackintosh, whom he had married in 1808. This laid the foundations of the British Museum’s Assyrian collections.

British Museum



Claudius James Rich (1786/1787–1821)




oil on canvas


H 76.5 x W 63.4 cm

Accession number


Acquisition method

gift from the sitter's widow, Mrs Mary Rich, 1825; on loan to the British Library, since 1990

Work type



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