Sir William Muir


This photograph of Sir William Muir (1819–1905) is from an album of rare historical photographs depicting people and places associated with the Second Anglo-Afghan War. Muir entered the Bengal Civil Service in 1837 but served in the North-Western Provinces for most of his career. After the 1857 Indian Rebellion, the North-Western Provinces were ruled by a lieutenant governor who reported directly to the British government; Muir served in that position from 1868–74. He became famous because of his extensive and controversial scholarship on Islam and the early Muslim empires. Muir’s four-volume Life of Mahomet and History of Islam to the Era of the Hegira was based on his original translations from the Arabic of the Qurʼan and hadith. His scholarship was much admired, but his opinions on Islam were polarizing. The Second Anglo-Afghan War began in November 1878 when Great Britain, fearful of what it saw as growing Russian influence in Afghanistan, invaded the country from British India. The first phase of the war ended in May 1879 with the Treaty of Gandamak, which permitted the Afghans to maintain internal sovereignty but forced them to cede control over their foreign policy to the British. Fighting resumed in September 1879, after an anti-British uprising in Kabul, and finally concluded in September 1880 with the decisive Battle of Kandahar. The album includes portraits of British and Afghan leaders and military personnel, portraits of ordinary Afghan people, and depictions of British military camps and activities, structures, landscapes, and cities and towns. The sites shown are all located within the borders of present-day Afghanistan or Pakistan (a part of British India at the time). About a third of the photographs were taken by John Burke (circa 1843–1900), another third by Sir Benjamin Simpson (1831–1923), and the remainder by several other photographers. Some of the photographs are unattributed. The album possibly was compiled by a member of the British Indian government, but this has not been confirmed. How it came to the Library of Congress is not known.

Date Created

Subject Date

Title in Original Language

Sir Wm. Muir

Type of Item

Physical Description

1 photographic print in an album : albumen


  1. Avril A.Powell, “Muir, Sir William (1819–1905),” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004).

Last updated: September 30, 2016