Kabul River, Old Bridge, Bala Hissar in the Distance


This photograph of the Kabul River and one of five bridges that crossed the river at the time is from an album of rare historical photographs depicting people and places associated with the Second Anglo-Afghan War. The river, a tributary of the Indus, is seen running through the center of the photograph. Soldiers stand atop the bridge, while people walk along the road in the distance. In the right foreground people sit or squat on the bridge; behind them soldiers ride by on horseback. Bala Hissar (High Fort) is in the background, just visible through the heat haze and trees. The locus of power in Kabul for many centuries, the fort was the site of fierce fighting and was partly destroyed in October–December 1879 when Sir Frederick Roberts occupied the city at the head of the Kabul Field Force. 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.

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Subject Date


Title in Original Language

Cabul river, old bridge, Bala Hissar in the distance

Type of Item

Physical Description

1 photographic print in an album : albumen


  1. “Old Bridge, Kaubul River, Bala Hissar in distance,” British Library Online Gallery, March 2009, http://www.bl.uk/onlinegallery/onlineex/apac/photocoll/o/019pho0000430s3u00048000.html.

Last updated: September 30, 2016