Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Borough, Christopher

BOROUGH, CHRISTOPHER (fl. 1579–1587), son of Stephen Borough [q. v.], was the chronicler of one of the most interesting journeys into Persia recorded in the pages of Hakluyt. This trading venture of the Muscovy Company left Gravesend on 19 June 1579 in charge of Arthur Edwards and others, with Borough as Russian interpreter. The fleet having arrived at St. Nicholas in the White Sea on 22 July, they unloaded into smaller barks suitable for the inland navigation and descended the Northern Dwina to Vologda. Proceeding thence overland to the left bank of the Volga, they once more reshipped in three barks at Yaroslaw on 14 Sept., terminating the first portion of their voyage down this great Russian water-way at Astrakhnn on 16 Oct., where they wintered. Borough and his party, leaving Edwards, the chief agent, in charge at Astrakhan, embarked on 1 May 1580 on board an English-built bark for Persia. After having cleared the intricate navigation of the mouths of the Volga, but not without damage and loss, they made for Derbend or some convenient port near it, Owing, however, to adverse winds, they were carried as far south as the Apsheron peninsula, where they anchored off Bildh (Biala). Here they were entertained by the captain or governor of Baku, who directed them to make once more for Derhend, the chief emporium for traffic in those parts. Here they trailed for silk and other goods from 22 June to 3 Oct. Borough's descriptions of Derbend and the neighbourhood of the ancient city of the fire-worshippers, Baku, are most interesting, as showing, on the one hand, the growth of the Turkish power, and, on the other, the decadence of the Persian power on the then little-known shores of the Caspian Sea. Borough's thorough nautical training, received at the hands of both his father and uncle, is shown in the series of carefully made observations for latitude which are to be found in his narrative, and which are probably the earliest made with any degree of accuracy for these parts. After plying on and off the coast between Derbend and Baku to pick up stragglers, including two Spaniards was had fled from the Goletta near Tunis, Borough’s party returned to Astrakhan after many perils at sea on 4 Dec., where they, once more wintered. On the return of the open weather in the following April the traders to Persia set out on their homeward journey, and arrived at Rose Island, near St. Nicholas, on 16 July. The ship (William and John), laden with proceeds of the Persian voyage, shortly afterwards sailed for England, and arrived in the Thames on 25 Sept. 1581.

Borough’s account of this journey reads as follows: ‘Aduertisements and reports of the 6th voyage into the parts of Persia and Media for the Company of Merchants for the discouerie of new trades, in the yeares 1579, 80, and 81, gathered out of sundrie letters written by Christopher Burrough, servant to the saide companie, and sent to his uncle, Master William Burrough' (Hakluyt, i. 419–431). From another series of observations for latitude appended to the advertisements, made between July and November 1581, it would appear that Borough did not return to England with the fleet in that year, but found employment in visiting the English houses between Archangel and Astrakhan, where many of the observations were made.

In November 1587 Borough addressed a letter to the governors of the Muscovy Company upon their affairs in Russia; this document, probably on account of its great length, has not yet received the attention it deserves. Among other things, it seems to expose in the strongest possible way the devious policy of Sir Jerome Horsey and his harsh treatment of J. Peacock and other agents sent out by the company in 1585 to look into these matters (cf. Russia of the Sixteenth Century, edit. by Dr. E. W. Bond, Hakluyt Soc., 1858, p. xciii). In Borough Horsey found an uncompromising opponent, who preferred, as Horsey did not, the luxury of fearless truth-telling to making a rapid fortune by private trading at the company’s expense. This letter also serves to determine the paternity of Borough, as in it he writes of 'my father`s discouerie of the countrie,’ which clearly points to Stephen Borough [q. v.] To this letter is appended a statement ‘comparyng of the decay and improvement of the Russia trade,' the idea of improvement being the abolition of all the company's houses in Moscow and elsewhere, and the transfer of all business and traffic to the seaside house at St. Nicholas, in order to prevent private trading and political intrigue, in which Horsey was an adept. Of the dates of the birth and decease of Christopher Borough we have no information, but it will be convenient to add here that the earliest mention of the family known to us is that of Stephen de Burgh, as witness to a deed relating to Stocdone, in the manor of Northam, Devonshire, 30 Edw. III, 1302.

[Hakluyt’s Navigations, Voyages, &c., 1559, vol. i.; Lansd. MS 52 (37), Hist. MSS. Comm. 4th Report, P. 376a.]

C. H. C.