Scholar Moojan Moomen has identified the first account in the West as being January 8, 1845 as an exchange of British diplomatic reports not published in the newspapers. This was an account of the first Letter of the Living to be sent on a mission by the Báb, whom Bahá'ís accept as a precursor of their religion. He was the second Letter of the Living and first Babí martyr, Mullá `Alí-i-Bastámí. These exchanges were between Sir Henry Rawlinson who wrote first to Sir Stratford Canning. Follow-up exchanges continued through to April 1846 where diplomatic records of events end. Ottoman state archives affirm his arrival in Istanbul where he is then sentenced to serve in the naval ship yards at hard labor - the Ottoman ruler refusing to banish him as it would be "difficult to control his activities and prevent him spreading his false ideas."
The first newspaper/public reference to the religious movement began with coverage of the Báb which occurred in The Times on 1 November 1845 which relied on Muslim reactions to the new religion. This newspaper account was echoed many times in local and far distant newspapers into early 1846.
In 1853 there was an event with caused great suffering on Babís. The Babís were blamed for an attempted assassination of the Shah of Persia. Recent scholarship has identified a fringe element distinct from all the major aspects of the religion, its community and leadership at the time. Nevertheless, coverage in newspapers at the time often echoed the Persian government's view blaming the Babís and Babís in large numbers were in fact executed as a result.
There was then a British mission in Tehran, Persia, and it reported on the events regarding Bábism during that period and after Bahá'u'lláh's banishment to Baghdad. The British consul-general of Baghdad offered him British citizenship and offered to arrange for a residence for him in India or any place he wished. Bahá'u'lláh refused the offer. After being further banished from Baghdad, Bahá'u'lláh wrote a specific letter or "tablet" addressed to Queen Victoria commenting favourably on the British parliamentary system and commending the Queen for the fact that her government had ended slavery in the British Empire. She, in response to the tablet, is reported to have said, though the original record is lost, that "If this is of God, it will endure; if not, it can do no harm."
In 1879, on the developing trade relations Dutchman Johan Colligan entered into partnership with two Bahá'ís, Haji Siyyid Muhammad-Hasan and Haji Siyyid Muhammad-Husayn, who were known as the King and Beloved of Martyrs. These two Bahá'ís were arrested and executed because the Imám-Jum'ih at the time owed them a large sum of money for business relations and instead of paying them would confiscate their property. Their execution was committed despite Colligan's testifying to their innocence. He did manage to motivate Persian merchants to defend their innocence and there was a brief respite in their suffering which was witnessed by Edward Slack then serving in the British Bengal civil service, memoirs of which he published in 1882.
In addition to such coverage, Edward G. Browne of Cambridge University produced significant materials on the history of the religion and in April 1890 was granted four interviews with Bahá'u'lláh after he had arrived in the area of Akka and left the only detailed description by a Westerner.
After Mrs. Mary Thornburgh-Cropper became a Bahá'í in 1898, the second person and the first native person to become a Bahá'í was Miss Ethel Rosenberg (d.1930), in 1899. Dr. Frederick D'Evelyn was an Irishman from Belfast who moved to the United States and became a Bahá'í in 1901 and who served on the forerunner to the United States Bahá'í National Spiritual Assembly. Another distinguished Bahá'í was Lady Blomfield, second wife to architect Sir Arthur Blomfield. Lady Blomfield was a member of the National Spiritual Assembly of the British Isles for eight years, an accomplished author, and a humanitarian who assisted in founding the Save the Children Fund and the Geneva Declaration of the Rights of the Child and its adoption by the League of Nations; she joined the religion in 1907. Other noteworthy people who became early members of the religion included George Townshend (an Irishman, but Ireland was then part of the United Kingdom) and Scotsman John Esslemont.