Copy of Hoondee in Payment of Moorcroft’s Ransom
This photograph of a hondee, or hundi, is from an album of rare historical photographs depicting people and places associated with the Second Anglo-Afghan War. A hundi is a Hindi word for a negotiable financial instrument, such as a bill of exchange or promissory note, by which the signer authorized the recipient to pay a specified sum of money to a third party. This document, in English and Persian, was a ransom payment for 11,000 rupees, signed by the English explorer William Moorcroft (1767–1825) on December 20, 1824. Moorcroft was a surgeon who was the first Englishman to complete a formal veterinary education. After working with horses in England, in 1808 he went into service of the East India Company. The search for quality stud horses for use by the company led him to remote parts of Central Asia. He was one of the earliest British travelers to the regions of the southwest Himalayas, the Hindu Kush, Samarkand, and Afghanistan. Where the photograph was taken and by whom is not known, but it clearly represents an attempt by a later photographer to record an important historical document relating to one of the early British explorers of Central Asia. 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.
Title in Original Language
Copy of Moorcroft-Hoondee in payment of ransom
Type of Item
1 photographic print in an album : albumen
- Elizabeth Baigent, “Moorcroft, William (bap. 1767, d. 1825),” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004).
- “Hundi/Hawala: The Problem of Definition,” Modern Asian Studies 43, number 4 (2009).
Last updated: September 30, 2016