THE Emperor Bābur was of Tartar race, and the language in which his commentaries are written was that spoken by the tribes who inhabited the desert to the north and east of the Caspian. On the very edge of this desert he was born, but the changes of his fortune in the course of his eventful life carried him sometimes as a fugitive, and sometimes as a conqueror, into various provinces of Asia. Some correct general idea of the character of the race to which he belonged, and of the geography of the several countries which he visited, is absolutely necessary, to enable the reader to follow him with pleasure in his chequered career. But the geography of the provinces which form the scene of his early story, and in particular that of the countries beyond the great river Oxus or Amu, one of which was his native country and hereditary kingdom, is peculiarly obscure; insomuch, that by one of our latest and best-informed geographers, it has been justly characterized as being ‘chiefly conjectural’, and as ‘remaining, to the disgrace of science, in a wretched state of imperfection’.* Some of these imperfections Mr. Elphinstone’s valuable collections, and the Memoirs of Bābur themselves, may assist in removing. But the principal object of the following remarks is to give such an idea of the natural divisions of the country as may render the position and extent of the various provinces mentioned by Bābur, distinctly under­stood, as some of them are not to be found in the geographi­cal systems of the present day.

The whole of Asia may be considered as divided into two parts by the great chain of mountains which runs from China and the Burman Empire on the east, to the Black Sea and the Mediterranean on the west. From the east­ward, where it is of great breadth, it keeps a north-westerly course, rising in height as it advances, and forming the hill countries of Assām, Bootān, Nepāl, Sirinagar, Tibet, and Ladāk. It encloses the valley of Kashmīr, near which it seems to have gained its greatest height, and thence proceeds westward, passing to the north of Peshāwer and Kābul, after which it appears to break into a variety of smaller ranges of hills that proceed in a westerly and south-westerly direction, generally terminating in the province of Khorasān. Near Herāt, in that province, the mountains sink away, but the range appears to rise again near Meshhed, and is by some considered as resuming its course, running to the south of the Caspian and bounding Mazenderān, whence it pro­ceeds on through Armenia, and thence into Asia Minor, finding its termination in the mountains of ancient Lycia. This immense range, which some consider as terminating at Herāt, while it divides Bengal, Hindustān, the Panjāb, Afghanistān, Persia, and part of the Turkish territory, from the country of the Moghul and Tūrki tribes, which, with few exceptions, occupy the whole extent of country from the borders of China to the sea of Azof, may also be con­sidered as separating, in its whole course, nations of com­parative civilization from uncivilized tribes. To the south of this range, if we perhaps except some part of the Afghān territory, which, indeed, may rather be held as part of the range itself than as south of it, there is no nation which, at some period or other of its history, has not been the seat of a powerful empire, and of all those arts and refinements of life which attend a numerous and wealthy population, when protected by a government that permits the fancies and energies of the human mind to follow their natural bias. The degrees of civilization and of happiness possessed in these various regions may have been extremely different; but many of the comforts of wealth and abundance, and no small share of the higher treasures of cultivated judgement and imagination, must have been enjoyed by nations that could produce the various systems of Indian philosophy and science, a drama so polished as the Sakuntala, a poet like Ferdousi, or a moralist like Sadi. While to the south of this range we everywhere see flourishing cities, cultivated fields, and all the forms of a regular government and policy, to the north of it, if we except China and the countries to the south of the Sirr or Jaxartes, and along its banks, we find tribes who, down to the present day, wander over their extensive regions as their forefathers did, little if at all more refined than they appear to have been at the very dawn of history. Their flocks are still their wealth, their camp their city, and the same government exists of separate chiefs, who are not much exalted in luxury or information above the commonest of their subjects around them.

The belt of mountains that forms the boundary between the pastoral and civilized nations is inhabited, in all its extent, by hill-tribes who differ considerably from both of the others. The countries to the east of Kashmīr, at least those lying on the southern face of the range, are chiefly of Hindu origin, as appears from their languages; while the countries to the west of Kashmīr, including that of the Dards, Tibet-Balti or Little Tibet, Chītral and Kāferistān,* which speak an unknown tongue, with the Hazāras and Aimāks,* contain a series of nations who appear never to have attained the arts, the ease, or the civilization of the southern states; but who at the same time, unlike those to the north, have in general settled on some particular spot, built villages and towns, and cultivated the soil. No work of literature or genius has ever proceeded from this range. The inhabitants, justly jealous of their independence, have rarely encouraged any intercourse with the civilized salves to the south, and do not appear, till very recently, to have had much commerce with their northern neighbours. The labour of providing for subsistence, the remoteness of their scattered habitations, and the limited means of intercourse with each other, appear, in all ages, to have stifled among them the first seeds of improvement.* Yet even among these mountains, the powerful influence of a rich soil and happy climate, in promoting civilization, is strongly visible. The vale of Kashmīr is placed near their centre; and such has been the effect of the plenty and ease resulting from these circumstances, that that fortunate country has not only been always famous for the richness of its productions, and the skill of its manufacturers, but was, at one period, the seat of a considerable empire; and its historians furnish us with a long catalogue of its authors on every art and in every department of literature, some of whom are still held in deserved estimation.

Bābur was descended from one of the tribes that inhabited to the north of this range. That immense tract of country which is known by the general name of Tartary, extends over nearly all the north of Asia, and over a con­siderable part of the south-east of Europe. It corresponds very nearly with the ancient Scythia. The tribes that inhabit it differ from each other in manners, features, and language. Of these, the most powerful and numerous seem to belong to three races: first, the Mandshūrs, called also Manjūrs and Manchūs, to the east, who extend from the Eastern Ocean along the north of China. Secondly, the Mongols or Moghuls, who chiefly occupy the central regions between the other two: and thirdly, the people, by Europeans, and particularly the Russians and later travellers, exclusively called Tartars or Tatārs, and some­times Western Tartars, names not acknowledged by them­selves, but who may with more propriety receive their original name of Tūrks, by which their principal branches still designate themselves.*

The country of the Mānchūs, containing all that lies east of the Siolki Mountains, and north of the range of Kinchan,* may be neglected on the present occasion; the influence of its inhabitants having been confined chiefly to China, of which they are now the rulers.

The Moghul and Tūrki tribes have exercised a far more important influence on the nations around them. The Moghuls extend over all the country between the Siolki Mountains and China on the east; the mountainous country from China towards Leh or Ladāk on the south; a line from Leh through the desert of Cobi to the east of Terfān, and thence by the Ulugh Tāgh,* the Ghiū river, and the Kūchik Tāgh hills* on the west; and by a very indefinite line north of the Altaian chain on the north. The Tūrki nations have the western boundary of the Moghuls as their eastern frontier; on the south they have the Muz-Tāgh,* the Belūt-Tāgh,* the Hindū-kūsh, and the limits of the cultivated country of Khorasān down to the Caspian, a line drawn across that sea to the Caucasian range, the northern shore of the Euxine as far as the sea of Azof, including the Krim, and thence their western boundary extends along the eastern limits of Europe to the Ural and Altai mountains. Some Tūrki tribes, however, have settled even south of the Danube, and others far in Russian Siberia; and in like manner detached tribes of Kalmuks still inhabit along the Volga, and down to Astrakhān, and probably may be found insulated even in more remote situations.