The earliest studies on the Kurdish language and civilization, which date back to the late 18th century, were carried out by missionaries (first by Italian Catholics and later by Anglo-Saxon Protestants). The pioneer of European Kurdish studies was Maurizio Garzoni (1734-1804), a member of the Order of Black Friars, who reached the region of Mosul (Mowṣel) in 1762. Two years later he settled in ʿAmādiya, the capital of the principality of Bahdinān, to the northeast of Mosul. There he collected materials for his Grammatica e vocabolario della lingua Kurda, which was published in Rome in 1787. The first of its kind, it remained an important source of information on the Kurdish language until the end of the 19th century. His colleague, Giuseppe Campanile (1762-1835), was sent to Mosul in 1802 by the Roman Propaganda. Six years later, he was named Apostolic Prefect for Mesopotamia and Kurdistan. During that period he wrote his Storia della Regione del Kurdistan, published in Naples in 1818. This “History of the Region of Kurdistan,” the first overview of a Kurdish region, recounts the customs the author observed, the events he witnessed, and the people he met.
In 1836 Gottlieb Christian Hörnle (1804-82), a missionary from Basel, in collaboration with F. Schneider, published the first ethnographic and linguistic studies on the Kurdish region of Urmia (Hörnle and Schneider). According to Thomas Bois (personal communication), Hörnle was also the first to translate the Gospel of St. John into Mokri dialect of Kurdish. In the second half of the 19th century, evangelizing missionaries increased their presence in Kurdistan. The year 1872 saw the publication of Brief Grammar and Vocabulary of the Kurdish Language by Samuel A. Rhea (d. 1865), an American missionary who had spent fourteen years (1851-65) among the Hakkari Kurds. In Sauj Bulaq (Sāblāḵ in Kurdish), today known as Mahābād, another American missionary, Ludvig Olsen Fossum (1879-1920), who had translated the New Testament and the Lutheran Catechism into Kurdish, wrote A Practical Kurdish Grammar (published in Minneapolis in 1919), which still stands as a very good grammar of the Mokri dialect.