This felicity of climate and fruitfulness of soil have, in most ages of the world, rendered the country along the Kohik the seat of very considerable kingdoms. The earliest inhabitants, at least, of the desert tracts, were probably the Scythians, who, in this quarter, appear to have been of the Tūrki race. When Alexander advanced to the Sirr, he marched by Marakanda, a name the termination of which, as has already been remarked, seems to speak a Tūrki origin. The Turanian monarchs, so long the rivals and terror of those of Irān, seem also to have been Tūrks. After the Arab conquest, in the first century of the Hijira, many Persians were probably induced, by the security of the government and fertility of the soil, to settle to the north of the Amu; though it is likely that long before, when Balkh was the chief seat of the Persian government, the rich lands of Māweralnaher were cultivated and the larger towns inhabited chiefly by men of Persian extraction, and speaking the Persian tongue. Down to the age of Chingiz Khan, when the grand desolation of the country began, the Persian was the common language all over the towns and cultivated lands from the Amu to the Sirr, as well as in the great and flourishing cities that then existed along the northern banks of that river, such as Tāshkend, Benāket, Jund, and Yangikent; the Tūrki being, however, understood and familiarly used in the bazars and markets of all these northern districts. The Persian language also crossed the Ala-tāgh hills, and was the language of the towns of eastern Tūrkestān, such as Kāshgar and Yārkand, as it continues to be at this day as far east as Terfān. A proof of the remote period from which the language of Persia was spoken in Māweralnaher is to be found in the present state of the hill country of Karatigīn. The language of that mountainous and sequestered tract is Persian; and as it has not been exposed to any conquest of Persians for many hundred years, it would seem that the Persian has been the language in familiar use ever since the age of the Khwārizmian kings, if not from a much more remote era. It is probable, therefore, that, in the days of Bābur, the Persian was the general language of the cultivated country of the districts of Balkh, Badakhshān, the greater part of Khutlān, Karatigīn, Hissār, Késh, Bokhāra, Uratippa, Ferghāna, and Tāshkend, while the surrounding deserts were the haunts of various roving tribes of Tūrki race, as in all ages, from the earliest dawn of history, they appear to have been.

While the Tūrks and Persians, the pastoral and agricul­tural races, thus from the earliest times divided the country north of the Amu, and considerable tracts to the south, the hills of Belūt-tāgh, towards the source of that river, extend­ing for a considerable extent to the north and north-west, as well as those of Hindū-kūsh, which stretch along its southern course, were occupied by men of a different language and extraction. The progress of the Arabian conquest through the mountains was extremely slow. Though all the low countries were in the possession of the Arabian Khalifs in the first century of the Hijira, yet in the fourth or fifth, when their power was beginning to wane, the Kāfers, or Infidels, still held the mountains of Ghor, and the lofty range of Hindū-kūsh.* Down to the time of Marco Polo, in the thirteenth century, the language of Badakhshān was different from that of the lower country, though we cannot ascertain whether it was the same as that of the Kāfers or Siāhposhes, whose country he calls Bascia, or that of Wakhān, which he denominates Vochan. It is not improbable that one radical tongue may have extended along the Hindū-kūsh and Belūt-tāgh mountains, though the continuity of territory was afterwards broken off by the interposition of the province of Badakhshān, which, being rich and fertile, was overrun earlier than the others. Indeed, Kāferistān, or the country of the Siāhposhes, is still a country untouched, except during one expedition of Taimūr Beg, who crossed the snowy tracts of their moun­tains with incredible labour, but was unable to reduce them under subjection to his yoke. Some correct specimens of the language of the Dards near Kashmīr, of Kāferistān, of Wakhān, of Wakhīka, of the Pashāi,* or any other of the barbarous dialects of these hills, would be of singular curiosity, and of very great value in the history of the originization of nations. The present Afghān language,* if I may judge of it from the specimen which I have seen, is certainly in a great degree composed of Hindu and Persian, with the usual sprinkling of Arabic terms. It would be desirable to ascertain what proportion of the unknown terms can be referred to any of the languages still spoken by the inhabitants of the hills to the north. The settlement of the Afghān tribes in the districts to the north of the road from Kābul to Peshāwer, is not of very ancient date. Their peculiar country has always been to the south of that line.

Besides the Tūrki tribes that have been mentioned, a body of Moghuls had taken up their residence for some years in the country of Hissār; and the whole of Tāsh­kend, with the desert tract around the Ala-tāgh mountains as far as Kāshgar, though chiefly inhabited by Tūrks, was subject to the principal tribes of the Western Moghuls, who were then ruled by two uncles of Bābur, the brothers of his mother, the elder of whom had fixed the seat of his government at Tāshkend. Where the Moghulistān,* so often mentioned by Bābur, may have lain, is not quite clear, though it probably extended round the site of Bish­bāligh, the place chosen by Chaghatāi Khan for the seat of his empire, on the banks of the Illi river, before it falls into the Balkash, or Palkati Nor. The eastern division of the tribe, which had remained in its deserts, was governed by the younger brother. They were probably the same race of Moghuls who are mentioned by Taimūr, in his Institutes, as inhabiting Jattah.

The Kazāks, frequently mentioned by Bābur, are the Kirghiz,* who to this day call themselves Sahrā-Kazāk, or robbers of the desert, a name which its etymology proves to be of later origin than the Arabian settlement on the Sirr. It is not clear what country they traversed with their flocks in his age, but they probably occupied their present range, and were dependent on the Moghuls.

The Uzbeks* lived far to the north in the desert, along the Jaik river, and on as far as Siberia, as will afterwards be mentioned; but they had more recently occupied the country called Turkestān, which lies below Seirām, and stretches north from the Sirr or Jaxartes, along the Tarās, and the other small rivers that flow into the Sirr, between Tāshkend and the Aral.

The general state of society which prevailed in the age of Bābur, within the countries that have been described, will be much better understood from a perusal of the following Memoirs, than from any prefatory observations that could be offered. It is evident that, in consequence of the protection which had been afforded to the people of Māweralnaher by their regular governments, a consider­able degree of comfort, and perhaps still more of elegance and civility, prevailed in the towns. The whole age of Bābur, however, was one of great confusion. Nothing con­tributed so much to produce the constant wars, and eventual devastation of the country, which the Memoirs exhibit, as the want of some fixed rule of succession to the throne. The ideas of regal descent, according to primogeniture, were very indistinct, as is the case in all oriental, and, in general, in all purely despotic kingdoms. When the succession to the crown, like everything else, is subject to the will of the prince, on his death it necessarily becomes the subject of contention; since the will of a dead king is of much less consequence than the intrigues of an able minister, or the sword of a successful commander. It is the privilege of liberty and of law alone to bestow equal security on the rights of the monarch and of the people. The death of the ablest sovereign was only the signal for a general war. The different parties at court, or in the haram of the prince, espoused the cause of different competitors, and every neighbouring potentate believed himself to be perfectly justified in marching to seize his portion of the spoil. In the course of the Memoirs, we shall find that the grandees of the court, while they take their place by the side of the candidate of their choice, do not appear to believe that fidelity to him is any very necessary virtue. They abandon, with little concern, the prince under whose banner they had ranged themselves, and are received and trusted by the prince to whom they revolt, as if the crime of what we should call treason was not regarded, either by the prince or the nobility, as one of a deep dye. While a government remains in the unsettled state in which it is often found in Asiatic countries, where the allegiance of a nobleman or a city, in the course of a few years, is transferred several times from one sovereign to another, the civil and political advantages of fidelity are not very obvious; and it is not easy for any high principles of honour or duty to be gener­ated. A man, in his choice of a party, having no law to follow, no duty to perform, is decided entirely by those ideas of temporary and personal convenience which he may happen to have adopted. There is no loyal or patriotic sentiment, no love of country condensed into the feeling of hereditary attachment to a particular line of princes, which in happier lands, even under misfortune and per­secution, in danger and in death, supports and rewards the sufferer with the proud or tranquil consciousness of a duty well performed. The nobility, unable to predict the events of one twelvemonth, degenerate into a set of selfish, calculating, though perhaps brave partisans. Rank, and wealth, and present enjoyment become their idols. The prince feels the influence of the general want of stability, and is himself educated in the loose principles of an adven­turer. In all about him he sees merely the instruments of his power. The subject, seeing the prince consult only his pleasure, learns on his part to consult only his private convenience. In such societies, the steadiness of principle that flows from the love of right and of our country can have no place. It may be questioned whether the prevalence of the Mahommedan religion, by swallowing up civil in religious distinctions, has not a tendency to increase this indifference to country, wherever it is estab­lished. A Musulman considers himself as in a certain degree at home, wherever the inhabitants are Musulmans. The ease with which one even of the highest rank abandons his native land, and wanders as a fugitive and almost a beggar in foreign parts, is only exceeded by the facility with which he takes root and educates a family wherever he can pro­cure a subsistence, though in a land of strangers, provided he be among those of the true faith. Unity of religion is the single bond which reconciles him to the neighbours among whom he may be, and religion fills up so much of the mind, and intermingles itself so much with the ordinary tenor of the habitual and almost mechanical conduct of persons of every rank, that of itself it serves to introduce the appearance of considerable uniformity of manners and of feeling in most Asiatic countries.